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Baseball Fandom Mapped

You baseball-zips2

The guys at the new New York Times blog Upworthy have done some data crunching and generated a bunch of maps showing which Major League Baseball teams are most popular throughout the country:

Steve Rushin of Sports Illustrated has called the line running through Connecticut that separates Yankee fans and Red Sox fans the Munson-Nixon line. Mr. Rushin came up with the name — in honor of the late Yankee catcher Thurman Munson and the retired Red Sox right fielder Trot Nixon — in 2003, and he had to guess where the line ran: “north of New Haven but south of Hartford, running the breadth of central Connecticut.”

We don’t have to guess anymore.

Fans may not list which team they favor on the census, but millions of them do make their preferences public on Facebook. Using aggregated data provided by the company, we were able to create an unprecedented look at the geography of baseball fandom, going down not only to the county level, as Facebook did in a nationwide map it released a few weeks ago, but also to ZIP codes. We can now clearly see that both Hartford and New Haven are in fact Yankee outposts. We can also determine theprecise Chicago neighborhoods where White Sox jerseys stop being welcome and the central California town where the Dodgers cede fan favorite status to the Giants.

We’ve created two features to help readers explore the data. First is an interactive map of the United States that allows you to explore not just the most popular team in your neighborhood but also a table of the top teams for any ZIP code in the country.

In addition to the interactive map, there are also a bunch of other maps based on the data, including this one that shows us that the border between Yankees fans and Red Sox Fans runs right through the middle of Connecticut:

Yankees Red Sox

 

And this one that shows that the Mets aren’t even the most loved team in the neighborhood of their home stadium (grey represents Yankees, there, ummm, is no color for the Mets)

Yankees Mets

 

And as Kevin Drum notes, the Mets aren’t the only team left out:

The Oakland A’s have it even worse. In 94501, the home of the Oakland Coliseum, fans prefer the San Francisco Giants by a whopping 59 to 18 percent. This is spectacularly embarrassing. The Mets, after all, are at least in the same city as the Yankees, so divided loyalties are natural. The A’s are in Oakland, a different city with a culture of its own. Sure, maybe there’s no there there, but that’s a culture! And yet, even the working-class East Bay has apparently been so taken over by yuppified San Franciscans escaping sky-high rents that the A’s can’t get any love even after being canonized by Michael Lewis and Brad Pitt as the champions of Moneyball. Sad.

(The Toronto Blue Jays aren’t on the map either, but I assume that’s because the map doesn’t include Canada. I draw no conclusions about Toronto’s fan base, though I suspect we can assume it’s pretty minimal too.)

A similar map of Canada would be interesting to see. While the Blue Jays no doubt have a lot of fans in the area around Toronto, I imagine that they compete for attention against the Red Sox, Yankees, Tigers, Twins, and Mariners, just to name teams located in areas bordering our neighbor to the North.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. PD Shaw says:

    What’s odd is that there are locations where the borders between fandoms meet, where the Yankees appear as the local favorite. Places like Memphis and New Orleans. I really doubt there are that many Yankees fans in the South.

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  2. CSK says:

    Some Connecticut fans are a bit fickle. If the Yankees are winning, they’re Yankee fans. If the Red Sox are winning, they’re Red Sox fans.

    I’d like to see a similar map for Connecticut showing who’s a Patriots fan, and who’s a Jets, Giants, or Bills fan. Probably not too many Bills fans.

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  3. CSK says:

    @PD Shaw:

    There’s an interesting story behind that. Back in the 1950s, when practically all television was broadcast out of New York, most of the games that were televised were Yankee games. And there weren’t as many mlb teams. So kids growing up in places like Iowa and even Louisiana became Yankees fans because that was what they knew. Probably a few southerners weren’t happy about having to cheer on a team named “Yankees,” though.

    Another sidelight: In the Italian section of Boston, back in the fifties, there were a lot of Yankee fans. The Yankees were considered “the Italian team,” and you had to root for the Italians. The guy who told me this was a deeply closeted Red Sox fan.

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  4. DrDaveT says:

    Basing this on Facebook means that it is necessarily biased toward younger fans, on average. (I know quite a few avid baseball fans who do not have Facebook accounts.)

    Think of this as a prediction of future fandom patterns, rather than a map of current fandom.

    It’s frustrating that they didn’t try harder to make distinct colors for each team; it’s impossible to tell what’s going on in the areas far from any home club. I was hoping to be able to tell if there were a residual “minor-league affiliate” effect — e.g. of Cardinals fans in Louisville KY, or Cleveland fans in Indianapolis…

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  5. Pinky says:

    @DrDaveT: Check the NYT link for greater detail.

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  6. DrDaveT says:

    @Pinky:

    Check the NYT link for greater detail.

    OK, I think I’m seeing the age bias I was talking about here.

    Example: this shows Douglas Co. Nebraska (i.e. Omaha) as 16% Cubs, 16% Yankees, 10% Cubs. But Omaha is the home of the KC Royals’ AAA affiliate, and has been for decades. Older fans in Omaha have always been Royals fans, because that was the ‘home’ team and that’s whose games were broadcast.

    For younger fans, of course, all games are ‘broadcast’ everywhere, and the Royals have sucked since they were in diapers.

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  7. aFloridian says:

    This is an interesting map. During my childhood, I liked baseball a lot, and played it, as many boys do. As I hit my teens I started paying a lot more attention to football and I have to admit the game of baseball doesn’t do a lot for me these days. Don’t get me wrong, I love the pageantry of the game and it’s always great fun to attend a game, but it’s just not something I follow. I find it a little boring.

    And it’s true, the Braves are the South’s team. Most old school Floridians I know, especially from Gainesville on north are Braves fans. The rest of the Deep South is completely dominated by the Braves. I think the Rays have made some inroads in their local area, no one cares about the Marlins, but the Braves are still king.

    I am amazed that Dixie County would be a place where the Yankees had the most supporters. That is not a transplant county. There is nothing there, and it is a straight throwback to the era of the Florida Cracker.

    Then again, that accounts for a phenomenon I thought of when I read this article’s title – while no doubt previous commenters are right that media availability made the Yankees a big name, there’s also an irritating tendency for the legions of Yankees fans, far afield from NYC, to be fair-weather poseurs who cheer for whoever wins. The Yankees are notorious for that. The last decade has seen the New England Patriots become the NFL’s version, following the decline of the last bandwagon team – the Dallas Cowboys in the 90s.

    This phenomenon also explains why every American soccer fan seems to be for Manchester United. You really want to convince me your a fan? Root for Westham or Cardiff City.

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  8. aFloridian says:

    @aFloridian: @DrDaveT:

    By the way, I also see the age bias inherent in this map, and that kind of ties in with the fair weather phenomenon I was referencing in my last post as far as the Yankees are concerned.

    I was also amazed to see my home zip code have a higher percentage of Yankees fans than Braves fan. I have never once seen a Yankee hat in my hometown community, a place full of trailers, trucks fresh back from muddin’, Confederate flags. I just have to think it’s some young kids at home clicking “like” for whatever reason.

    Not to be a negative Nancy – I really love maps like this and I thank Doug for sharing.

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  9. Pinky says:

    Fair-weather fans? Sure. You don’t have to know anything about baseball (and I don’t) to figure out that the Rangers have had a better record in recent years than the Astros. And looking at both population and radius of support, you’d have to figure that the Braves are pretty successful too, and/or their owner also owns a lot of cable channels.

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  10. Tyrell says:

    I would say that down here the Braves have been the leader since the ’60′s, but the Yankees have always been very popular. I remember the game that Braves ownerTed Turner put on the uniform, got in the dugout, and actually managed the team, for just one game as I recall. The Commisioner of Baseball, Kuhn I think, disapproved totally. Which I still don’t quite understand, since Turner was the owner of the team. One of baseball’s stranger games.
    One of my favorite times is opening day. When I was young we would listen to it on the radio in school. Usually it was the Cincinatti Reds playing . Now opening day has been confusing, convoluted, and no longer what it used to be.
    Baseball games are too long. I have looked at game summaries of the 1970′s: most games came in close or under two hours.
    Whatever happened to starting pitchers “going the length” and pitching a full nine innings ? Now they are on a “pitch count”. I remember some starters even pitched into extra innings.
    Does the manager have to wear a uniform? I have seen vintage photos of teams, and some of the managers are sitting in the dugout wearing a suit.

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  11. ernieyeball says:

    All I can say is that all the Stink Lewis Sh*tBird fans on the east side of the Mississippi River in Illinois are nothing but a bunch of squatters.

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  12. ernieyeball says:

    @Tyrell: Whatever happened to starting pitchers “going the length” and pitching a full nine innings ?

    So what do you want a rules change? Make all starting pitchers in MLB stay on the mound no matter how many runs they have given up? That sounds like a great idea!

    Baseball games are too long.

    No they aren’t. Summer is too short…
    Best game I ever saw (on TV) was Mets at Cardinals, April 17, 2010. 20 innings. Almost 7 hours. First run didn’t score until the top of the 19th inning.
    By god they should have left the starters in for “the length”.
    That would show somebody something!

    The teams used a combined 19 pitchers, including two St. Louis position players: IF Felipe Lopez (IP, 0 R) and OF Joe Mather (L, 2 IP, 2 R).

    http://scores.espn.go.com/mlb/recap?gameId=300417124

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  13. AL-aMEDA says:

    The Cardinal “zone” is impressive, and understated. Actually, once you get about 30 miles south of Chicago it quickly becomes Cardinal territory.

    I tend to think the Cub stuff is overstated somewhat. People don’t like the Cubs, they like Wrigley Field.

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