- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 1, 2002

Baltimore Orioles vice chairman Joe Foss said yesterday he expected the team's attendance to drop the 13 percent it did to the lowest full-season mark in Camden Yards history.

The Orioles ended 2002 with attendance of 2,682,917, a total that barely beat the 2.54million posted in strike-shortened 1994. The team's turnstile counts have fallen for five straight years, matching its length of time without a winning season or playoff appearance.

"Yes, I'm disappointed we went below 3million for the first time [in a full season]," Foss said. "But when you look at what went through and where we stood relative to the rest of the league [10th overall], I'm pleased with that. We obviously had the strike date announced, though we were able to avoid a strike itself, and of course our tailspin down the stretch [32 losses in the last 36 games]. Those things certainly had a major impact."

The Orioles opened the season with nearly 2million tickets sold, and with the team's flirtations with the .500 mark for much of the season, the Orioles still had an outside shot of 3million in paid attendance through mid-August.

"Once we had the August30 strike date out there, that stopped everything," Foss said. "We usually sell three to four thousand seats a day at that point of the season. We went down to nothing. Nobody was going to take the chance."

Foss declined to say if the team will register a profit this year. Last year, according to Major League Baseball officials, Baltimore recorded a $1.46million operating profit before revenue sharing and interest charges.

The Orioles' malaise is similar to many other teams. MLB posted an average attendance of 28,168, down 6.1 percent from a year ago. The slide represents the third such fall in four years, and 20 of 30 teams experienced declines. The Seattle Mariners led the majors in average attendance, while the Montreal Expos again brought up the rear, but only after an unidentified fan in South Florida bought enough Florida Marlins tickets on the final day for the team to pass Montreal in attendance.

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