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A Baseball First: Game Without Fans

  • Don Benson

In this aerial photo, Oriole Park at Camden Yards sits empty in Baltimore, as unrest that occurred after Freddie Gray's funeral continues into a second day, April 28, 2015.

In this aerial photo, Oriole Park at Camden Yards sits empty in Baltimore, as unrest that occurred after Freddie Gray's funeral continues into a second day, April 28, 2015.

For the first time in the history of Major League Baseball, a regularly scheduled game will be played in an empty stadium.

The Baltimore Orioles have announced that their American League game with the visiting Chicago White Sox will be played Wednesday afternoon at Camden Yards in downtown Baltimore without any fans allowed in – a decision prompted by an explosion of violence in the city after the funeral of a black man who recently died while in police custody. That violence already has forced the postponement of the first two games in the teams' scheduled three-game series.

In a separate statement, Major League Baseball Commissioner Robert Manfred confirmed the historic move. He said, "After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of city resources."

Orioles manager Buck Showalter told the Associated Press, "It's all about what's best for the city and the safety of our people.... The last thing you want to do is put the fans in harm's way. You have to err on the side of safety.''

It is extremely rare for civil unrest to disrupt sporting events in the United States. During the 1992 Los Angeles riots triggered by the Rodney King police brutality case verdict, the Dodgers postponed a home series against the Montreal Expos. And in 1967, the Orioles and the Detroit Tigers postponed a game because of riots in Detroit.

Closed-door games are more common in soccer games, especially in Europe. There have been many instances of games played in empty stadiums prompted by fan-inspired violence.

According to John Thorn, official historian for Major League Baseball, this will be the first game with zero attendance. The previous low was six for a game Sept. 28, 1882, between the host Worcester Ruby Legs and Troy Trojans, two teams that have not existed since the late 1800s. In 2002, the minor league Charleston Riverdogs barred fans for five innings in an attempt to set a record for lowest attendance.

"It's definitely going to be unchartered territory,'' Showalter told AP.

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