PORTLAND, Ore. ( TheStreet) -- It may go on for three and a half to four hours at a clip and may include far more stoppages in play than most American sports, but a Major League Baseball game remains the best bargain among the top-tier sporting events.Beyond geographically exclusive NASCAR and still-growing Major League Soccer, the top shelf of U.S. professional sports still consists of MLB, the National Football League and the National Basketball Association. After its latest lockout and the loss of more than 2,300 games to lockouts and strikes in the past 20 years, the National Hockey League by rights should lose its place in the upper echelon, but fans and corporate partners keep paying big-ticket prices to see a sport that continues to come up small.
Baseball, meanwhile, hasn't had a strike since its World Series-canceling work stoppage in 1994 through 1995 and hasn't locked out players since 1990. Even the NBA (which locked out players in 1995, 1996, 1998-99 and 2011) and the NFL (which locked out players in 2011 and referees last year) can't say the same. Fans, meanwhile, have been rewarded with ticket prices that average $27.48 a game and a day at the ballpark that averages $208 for a family of four spending on food, drinks, souvenirs and parking, according to Team Marketing Report. That's a little more than half the price of an average NBA ticket ($50.99), slightly less than half the cost of a ticket to an NHL game ($61.01) and well below the price you'd spend on any given Sunday in the NFL ($78.38). That said, it's not all peanuts, Cracker Jacks and John Fogerty's Centerfield for baseball fans around the league. Ticket prices jumped 1.8% this year, though the full-game cost for a family of four remained relatively flat. The mileage tends to vary by city, too, so expect to spend an NBA-caliber $53.38 for a ticket to Fenway Park if you want to see a home game featuring a Boston Red Sox team that hasn't made the playoffs in the past two seasons. It's a similar situation in New York, where the Yankees' unceremonious exit from the American League Championship Series last year hasn't stopped the team from charging an average $51.55 a ticket to watch its aging roster hobble through the 2013 campaign.