The PJ Tatler

Riots Force Orioles, White Sox Game to be Played in Empty Stadium

For the first time in Major League Baseball history, a game that counts in the standings will be played in a stadium devoid of any fans.

The Baltimore Orioles, after consulting with the office of the commissioner and state and city officials, announced that Wednesday’s game with the Chicago White Sox will be closed to the public. The decision came as pockets of looting continued to break out in the city and most Baltimore residents remained indoors.


A Major League Baseball spokesman told ESPN’s Outside The Lines that the league is not aware of any other time that a major league game has been played, by design, without spectators allowed in to watch.

In addition, MLB spokesman Matt Bourne said the league office would not comment as to how, if at all, it would compensate the Orioles for the lost attendance.

The Orioles also announced that their upcoming weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays, which originally was scheduled to be played in Baltimore, instead will be played at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Orioles will play as the home team in the three-game series which begins Friday.

Two sources told ESPN’s Darren Rovell that it is already established that when a home team is forced to play on the road due to extenuating circumstances, it gets 100 percent of the revenues minus the costs.

Baltimore’s postponed games against the White Sox from Monday and Tuesday will be made up as a single-admission doubleheader on May 28. The White Sox were in town for a three-game series that had been slated to start Monday, and it was their only planned visit on the schedule

Was this the right decision? Some don’t think so. Nancy Armour, writing in USA Today:

At a time when a little show of faith could have gone a long way, Major League Baseball acted out of fear.

Commissioner Robert Manfred said the decision to have the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox play a game in an empty stadium, and move another series to Tampa, was in the “best interests of fan safety and the deployment of city resources.”

Really, though, it was a knee-jerk reaction that assumes the worst of Baltimore. Yes, there is fear that the city’s streets will erupt in rage and violence again Tuesday night, and no one wants baseball fans to be caught in the crossfire. But there were other options.

Better options.

Postpone the last game of the series with the White Sox, and the upcoming one with the Rays. Move the games to nearby Washington D.C., and play in Nationals Park, which happens to be open. If Orioles owner Peter Angelos and Nats owner Ted Lerner can’t make nice under these circumstances, there’s another open ballpark less than two hours away in Philadelphia.

Better yet, send a message to those folks in Baltimore – the ones cleaning up their neighborhoods and reclaiming their kids from the streets – that you believe in the inherent goodness of the city.

Play the games as they were originally scheduled, and give the people of Baltimore a chance to show the city is better than those who want to tear it down.

“A little show of faith” is fine. But there should be something to base that faith upon. The people of Baltimore are voting with their feet when it comes to faith by staying home from work and away from businesses. Many retail outlets are closed anyway. Why should MLB and the Orioles show any faith when the people of Baltimore aren’t showing any themselves?

This is the right call. If people want to see the game they can watch it on TV. Even if just a few thousand people attended the game, it would be a magnet drawing protestors and rioters to the ballpark. There’s no reason to take a chance that a tragic incident could occur.

I don’t envy the players having to go out tomorrow and play in a silent stadium with the events of the past couple of days hanging over their heads. A game designed to bring joy to players and fans will seem more like a funeral than a ballgame.