July 23, 2018

Baseball’s Weirdest Game

April 30, 2015 by · 1 Comment 

April 29, 2015

The Weirdest Day

You could hear a pin drop. You could hear faraway laughter. Or whispers. You could hear the echo of a baseball smacking into a glove, off a bat or against an empty seat.

It was baseball in a vacuum, in the Twilight Zone, in the land that fans forgot.

It was Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore on April 29, 2015.

The Baltimore Orioles defeated the Chicago White Sox 8-2 in this game, the only recorded contest in Major League Baseball history in which, officially, the box score said the attendance was zero.

There were, what appeared to be, a few dozen O’s boosters looking through the locked gates of Camden Yards, cheering on the home team which normally draws 33,288 but those enthusiastic few were overtly covert boosters without tickets.

They wanted to be party crashers but never got past the front door.

It had to be this way. The social unrest and violence in Baltimore that forced the Orioles and White Sox to call off their games on Monday and Tuesday night had subsided significantly by Wednesday but the decision had already been made and playing on an empty stage for a day is certainly better than risking the safety of fans, players and others.

The result was a sea of empty seats on TV and endless echoes on the radio. None of us were there, but we will all remember it.

The Sox got trounced in this peculiar game but the real losers weren’t from Chicago. They were the hot dog vendors, beer sellers, parking lot attendants and so many others who make a living each day from fans pouring into ballparks and emptying their pockets.

Monday and Tuesday’s games will be played at the end of May so some of that lost income will be recouped but it’s pretty tough to tell your landlord, the gas station and the grocery store not to worry, you’ll get paid in a month.

As for the White Sox, a team that even in good times is usually not among the league’s biggest drawing cards and is rarely even the most popular team in its own city, they now, according to the Associated Press, have the ignominious distinction of having played in some of the least popular games in MLB history.

In a game in 1997 only 746 people showed up at New Comiskey Park when the Sox hosted the Blue Jays.

The attendance at Yankee Stadium to see the White Sox and the Bronx Bombers on a September day in 1966 was a bustling saloon of 413.

In 1924 the White Sox lost to the New York Giants in an exhibition game in Ireland, which, apparently due mostly to poor weather, only a handful of onlookers attended.

As strange and, from a monetary standpoint, disastrous as Wednesday’s game was it was also, perhaps, a glimpse into the future. Baseball has suffered dwindling attendance for many reasons including the expense, which inclines some of us to watch from home. Tickets to TV shows are free because they want the people to be there. But the event is made for TV.

It has also been pointed out that Wednesday’s Sox-Orioles game, despite the fact that a lot of runs were scored, lasted just two hours and three minutes. Maybe the fans are somehow the reason games take so long.

Maybe someday fans will just stop paying to go in person but games will continue to be played as TV programming and they’ll have to give tickets away.

Probably not, though.

And, as much as any fan would like to see ticket prices drop and certainly no one wants to see the potentially dangerous conditions that led to Wednesday’s weirdness, no one wants the fans to stay away. We’re willing to pay so long as the product is good.

Wednesday was a strange day. It was baseball on a pristine 73-degree afternoon against the backdrop of anger, fear, unrest and uncertainty.

It was the crack of a bat in an empty field. It was lonely.

Comments

One Response to “Baseball’s Weirdest Game”
  1. “It had to be that way”? When the Europeans closed their stadiums it was directly related to the players and the fans. They were getting killed on game day at those stadiums.

    This didn’t have to be that way. What did closing the stadium have to do with the attempt of some high school kids and community organizers trying to usurp the authority of legally empowered law enforcement officers? Does the system need to be overhauled? Probably. But by closing the stadium they denied workers, vendors, and fans their legal rights so now you don’t just have the kids and their enablers affected you’re also affecting 40,000 individuals who had nothing to do with the mess.

    Maybe the regular security measures that accompany most stadiums on game day, along with National Guardsmen strategically placed around the stadium, inside and out, might have been a better alternative. Just one suggestion. And I’m sure there are many others that are better than the decision to close the stadium on game day.

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