Is Apple more popular than baseball?

Four times as many people now visit Apple Stores as go to Major League Baseball games

A throw-away stat on Business Insider last month comparing the number of visitors to Apple's (aapl) retail stores last quarter (71.1 million, down from 74.5 million during the Christmas quarter) to Major League Baseball attendance figures for the entire 2010 season (73.6 million) got me thinking.

Could it be that Apple is more popular than America's national sport?

The company is certainly more profitable than professional baseball. Apple's revenue for fiscal year 2010 was $65.2 billion, $9.8 billion from the Apple stores alone, compared with the MLB's total revenue of $7 billion.

And as the chart above shows, visitors to the Apple stores -- which will celebrate their 10th anniversary next week -- overtook attendance at Major League Baseball stadiums in 2006 and never looked back.

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Baseball fans will argue that Apple is a business, while baseball is entertainment that most people enjoy remotely on radio or TV. But professional baseball is a business too, one with two major revenue streams -- from selling tickets to fans and fans to advertisers -- and both are in decline. MLB attendance last season was lower than it's been since 2004, and TV ratings for the Ranger-Giants World Series tied an all-time low.

People use Apple products for entertainment too -- more than ever, sometimes even to watch baseball -- and if you don't think some of them drop by their nearest Apple Store just for the fun of it, you probably haven't been to one lately.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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