An eerie silence hung over Wednesday's Major League Baseball contest between the home team Baltimore Orioles and visiting Chicago White Sox - for the first time in the history of the sport, no fans were allowed into the stadium.
Major League Baseball decided to play the game in Baltimore, but to exclude all fans - regardless of whether they had tickets - in the interest of public safety, after looting and rioting in the city forced the postponement of games Monday and Tuesday nights.
A demonstrator, wearing the uniform of the Orioles baseball team on the street in Baltimore. (VOA photo - Victoria Macchi).
Although the seats at Camden Yards stadium were empty, the press box was full, with all 92 seats taken. Journalists accredited to cover the event said the voices of players on the field could be heard clearly as the game - which Baltimore won 8-2 - progressed.
"Attention media. For record-keeping purposes, today's official paid attendance is ... zero," said an announcement over the press box public address system.
The sounds of the game could be heard more clearly, too, for those lucky enough to be there - the crack of the bat, the "pop" of balls hitting gloves, the shouts of the umpires. But in the public seating area there was no one - no fans, no vendors selling hot dogs, peanuts and beer, no "Oriole Bird" team mascot trying to make people laugh.
In the more than 145-year history of professional baseball, this was the first time that fans were barred from attending a major league game. The previous low for attendance was in 1882, when a mere six spectators were on hand in the northeastern state of Massachusetts to watch a contest between the Worcester Ruby Legs and the Troy Trojans - two teams that have not existed since the 19th century.
Closed-door matches have been staged on a number occasions in world football (soccer) games, especially in Europe, where such measures are taken to prevent fan-inspired violence, but it is extremely rare for civil unrest to disrupt sporting events in the United States.
During riots in Los Angeles in 1992 that followed an unpopular verdict in a court case alleging police brutality, the Dodgers postponed a planned series against the Montreal Expos. And in 1967, the Orioles and the Detroit Tigers postponed a game because of riots in Detroit.
"We're doing the right thing,'' Orioles first baseman Chris Davis told reporters. "I'm not real happy about playing in an empty stadium. That's one of the reasons that we look forward to coming home so much, playing in front of our fans. But we also understand that there's a bigger picture here.''
"There are a lot more important issues going on outside the stadium,'' Orioles pitcher Zach Britton said. "It kind of makes you realize how small baseball is compared to some of the other issues in the U.S. and around the world.''
The game was broadcast on radio and television, and some lucky fans watched from a distance on the balcony of a nearby hotel. A small group of people gathered outside the gates at Camden Yards to protest the decision to close the stadium. There were sporadic chants of "Let us in; we'll be good" and "Open the gates!"
One of the spectators, Brendan Hurson, criticized the decision as a missed opportunity. Hurson, a lawyer who had taken the day off to see the game, said the city should have explored more creative alternatives to closing the stadium.
"It strikes me as though this would have been a great opportunity to welcome the community into a game where the proceeds could have been donated to local organizations that are going to help build the city back up. They could have invited the kids they've been calling 'thugs' all week to watch the game," Hurson said.