When he says:
It was, of course, a different time; ticket prices were lower, and coming to the ballpark for an afternoon could be done for a family of four for less than $50, including food.
does he mean $50 in today's money? I hope so, because $50.00 in 1960 is $400.00 now.
Here's his premise: The Cubs drew well from 1946-1953 because, hey, they won 5 pennants from 1929-1945. They were one of the top three or four franchises in baseball and from '46 to '53, they managed to at least beat the hell out of the Braves, Pirates, Phillies and Reds enough to finish fourth and make things interesting.
Then they drew well and were interesting enough because they had Ernie Banks, and Ernie alone was enough until 1965 and particularly 1966 when they were dreadful. So there was that day in 1966 when 3,800 fans bothered to watch them play the Astros. Ricketts is headed in that direction and that will bring him a long era of fan apathy that lasted until 1967 when they were so competitive, they were even in first place for awhile. They then rolled off a few winning seasons in a row with a core of extremely popular players and Leo Durocher, a personality that should take no backseat to any Chicago coach in history. OK, so that era ended and the Cubs were bad again, but there were always reasons to come to the park. I'm not sure what those reasons were from 1974 until 1984, but I'll let it slide and suggest the Bill Madlocks, Rick Mondays, Dave Kingmans, Herman Franks, Rick Reuschels, Bruce Sutters and Bill Buckners of the world might have been enough to sustain the team into 1981 when they were dreadful, MLB went on strike and the Tribune Co. bought the team. In 1982, the Dallas Green overhaul began and people were willing to be patient to some degree. Also Harry Caray arrived to entertain the crowd. How much had the patience thinned by April of 1983? Ask Lee Elia, who was reduced to quoting leading economic indicators and attendance (5,000 cocksucking nickel-and-dime motherfuckers) by the end of the month as fans booed no-names like Lee Smith, Ryne Sandberg, Jody Davis and Keith Moreland off the field.
So in 1966, the Wrigleys and John Holland fucked up and no one showed up and Al had a sad and the Cubs were uncompetitive until the following year when they spent time in late June in first place in the 10-team National League. They sustained that competitiveness until 1973 when they finished no lower than third, so I suppose that shitty 1966 was kind of worth it.
In 1981, they might have hit rock bottom (as in 2011), but they got a reprieve with new management which completely transformed the front office and just about everything the franchise did. The Cubs organization in April 1981 would not recognize the April 1991 Cubs organization, which would find the April 2001 and April 2011 Cubs organization much the same. The May 2013 Cubs organization is miles away from the April 2011 Cubs organization, which explains the patience fans have showed last year. It's gotten thin this year, but if we look at the lessons of history, the Cubs could be challenging for the NL pennant next year. If we're doomed to repeat that, well that will really suck.