Baltimore Orioles defeat White Sox with no fans in stands

Chris Davis hit a three-run home run and Manny Machado a solo shot in the Baltimore Orioles' 8-2 drubbing of the visiting Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in what is believed to be the first game played behind closed doors in the 145-year history of the major leagues.

Riots cause stadium to be closed to public

Baltimore Orioles Chris Davis scores Jimmy Paredes and Delmon Young in an empty stadium. 0:44

A first-pitch strike by Ubaldo Jimenez to Chicago White Sox leadoff hitter Adam Eaton to begin Wednesday afternoon's game in Baltimore drew the same reaction as a called third strike to Jose Abreu to complete a 1-2-3 top of the first inning.

The same sound after Orioles' slugger Chris Davis deposited a Jeff Samardzija pitch into the seats beyond the wall in centre-field and Camden Yards and later when teammate Jimmy Paredes grounded out to second base to end a six-run first for Baltimore.

The sound of crickets.

Well, there were claps from fans standing outside the stadium gates above and behind the outfield wall as well as cheering in the Baltimore dugout. Orioles fans could also be spotted lined up on the deck of a nearby hotel that overlooks the stadium.

That's because the game was closed to the public, believed to be the first game played behind closed doors in the 145-year history of the major leagues.

Evening games on Monday and Tuesday were postponed after rioting in Baltimore. Rioters looted stores and threw rocks and bricks at local police near the stadium in the wake of the mysterious death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died April 19 after he suffered a severe spinal injury in police custody.

Manny Machado added a solo homer in the fifth inning among his three hits Wednesday to help the Orioles to a 8-2 victory. Jimenez (2-1) continued his rebound from last season's struggles, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits with six strikeouts and just one walk over seven innings.

Samardzija (1-2) allowed a season-high eight runs (seven earned) on 10 hits, including two homers, over just five innings.

Besides the umpires and players on the field and others in the respective teams' dugouts, there were a few scouts sitting behind home plate.

Prior to first pitch, the public address announcer announced the playing of National Anthem, informing "ladies and gentlemen" what was to follow. A recorded version was played while the White Sox stood in a line outside their dugout and the Orioles stood at attention in their dugout.

A custom in Baltimore is shouting "O!" when the song reaches "Oh say can you see?"

No one did it, although one person in the press box carried on the tradition by saying it under his breath.

The Orioles organist played the ballpark staple "Take Me Out to the Ball Game" to an empty ballpark after the top of the seventh.

Later, the Orioles proceeded with another baseball tradition: announcing the attendance. For the first time in major league history it went, "Today's official paid attendance is zero."

Playing the game before no fans was an unusual move by Major League Baseball, which usually errs on the side of caution in the wake of tragedy.

Baseball games were cancelled after riots ignited in Los Angeles and terrorists attacked New York and Washington. Baseball put off the World Series in 1989 after an earthquake hit San Francisco.

In Baltimore, they played a game because this was the only planned visit by this season by the White Sox. The postponed games on Monday and Tuesday were to be made up as part of a doubleheader on May 28, but there was seemingly nowhere to go on the schedule with Wednesday's game.

So they moved up the starting time by five hours to 2:05 p.m. ET to beat the 10 p.m. curfew and had the teams go at it before 47,000 empty seats.

Before the game, Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph pretended to sign autographs for imaginary fans and thank them for their support.

At the end of an inning, Davis chose to flip a ball into the empty seats, which would usually attract a large crowd. But not on this day.

Playing the game without any fans in attendance was both a good and a bad thing. The team didn't divert any police from doing their job around the city, but the people of Baltimore didn't get a chance to turn the page by watching the home team play at Camden Yards.

"We're doing the right thing," Davis said. "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."

With files from The Associated Press


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.