The 2012 Major League Baseball regular season concluded on Wednesday night with an unforgettable standing ovation, as Kansas City fans gave an appreciative salute to Detroit's Miguel Cabrera for winning the first Triple Crown since 1967.
A day later, the standing ovation should be given back to the game's fans.
Major League Baseball announced Thursday that the 30 clubs drew a combined 74,859,268 fans, representing the highest attendance since 2008 and the fifth-best single-season attendance in baseball history.
The increase of 2.0 percent -- a total of 1,443,909 more fans in 2012 than 2011 -- marks the largest year-to-year growth since the 2007 season total rose 4.6 percent over 2006. In addition, this is the second consecutive season that total attendance increased over the previous year.
"This was a year of great races down to the wire, outstanding competitive balance, compelling success stories, Miguel Cabrera's historic Triple Crown, exciting rookies, and record numbers of perfect games and no-hitters," Commissioner Bud Selig said.
"Our remarkable attendance numbers prove how much baseball fans embraced an extraordinary 2012 regular season. The enthusiasm for our sport has never been higher, and all of us at Major League Baseball are looking forward to a magnificent postseason."
The regular season concluded Wednesday night, and the postseason gets under way on Friday with the Wild Card games on TBS. St. Louis is at Atlanta starting at 5:07 p.m. ET and Baltimore at Texas begins at 8:37 p.m. The Division Series will get under way on Saturday.
If you want to see the remaining games in person, go to the special MLB.com postseason ticketing area that just launched and click any of the 10 team logos.
MLB's 2,423 dates this regular season drew an average of 30,895 fans per game, up from 30,362 per game in 2011. The 2012 attendance total ranks behind only the 2007 (first), 2008 (second), 2006 (third) and 2005 (fourth) seasons. Overall, the last nine years are now the nine best-attended seasons in the history of MLB, including the four successive record-breaking seasons from 2004-07.
Nine clubs drew more than three million fans this season, while 13 clubs eclipsed the 2.5-million mark. For the second straight year, the Phillies led MLB in overall attendance (3,565,718) and average attendance (44,021). The Yankees led the American League with 3,542,406 in attendance, followed by the Rangers, who set a franchise record with 3,460,280, including 38 sellouts.
The other clubs topping the three-million mark were the Giants, Dodgers, Cardinals, Angels, Red Sox and Tigers, who drew their third-highest total in their 112 years.
The Nationals finished with their best attendance since 2005, the franchise's inaugural season in the nation's capital. The Orioles saw their highest attendance total since 2007. The Red Sox have now had 793 consecutive sellouts at Fenway Park dating back to May 15, 2003, the longest regular-season sellout streak in the history of professional sports.
The Reds drew their best attendance since the debut season of Great American Ball Park in 2003, and the Pirates topped the two-million milestone for the first time since the opening season of PNC Park in 2001. That famous Yogi Berra-ism comes to mind: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." Indeed, it seemed more crowded in more places in 2012.
During a conference call on Tuesday to announce MLB's eight-year contract extensions with FOX and TBS, Selig cited baseball's ticket prices as a key reason for the strong numbers.
"My father always used to say, 'Nothing's ever good or bad except by comparison,'" Selig said. "We've held the line on ticket prices. Baseball doesn't get enough credit for that. We wouldn't be drawing these stunning numbers of fans if the ballpark experience and the price of tickets were not within the areas of what families want. We have to be sensitive to what families want, and I think we have been.
"We will continue to be."