Orioles put on offensive show - in stadium with no fans

Apr 29, 2015 6:32 PM by CBS/AP, Photo: James G. Howes / MGN

BALTIMORE - There weren't any fans in the ballpark, but there was cheering from beyond the centerfield wall when Chris Davis hit a three-run homer to give Baltimore a 4-0 lead over the Chicago White Sox in the first inning.

The team went on to win 9-2 in a game that lasted only 2 hours, 3 minutes.

Fans watched from behind the iron gate that stands behind the flag court. When Davis' drive cleared the right-field wall, they yelled their approval.

CBS News producer Alana Anyse reports that the the cheers of fans standing outside the gates in left field could be heard all the way at home plate.

In addition, fans were lined up on the deck of a hotel that overlooks the stadium.

On another note, Davis' home run bounced around in front of the warehouse without any fan in pursuit. The same applied for foul balls, which remained in the stands without being retrieved.

Before the game started, the public address announcer at Camden Yards 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.

During the game, 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."

The timing of the game without fans worked for baseball, not so much for Baltimore. It was an unusual move by Major League Baseball, which usually errs on the side of caution in the wake of tragedy.

The decision came after riots broke out following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died April 19 of spinal cord and other injuries sustained while in police custody.

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, after drug stores were set on fire and the National Guard had to be called in to restore order, they played a game because this was Chicago's only planned visit to the city. 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. to beat the 10 o'clock curfew and had the teams go at it before 47,000 empty seats.

"We have a schedule so we've got to get games in," Chicago second baseman Gordon Beckham said. "We can't just miss all three games and expect to make them up down the line. I mean we'll have no off days for the rest of the year. So, we at least have to get this one in."

Just about everyone who put on a uniform understood the circumstances. The city was hurting, and here they were, playing a baseball game to preserve the integrity of the schedule.

On a scale of what was significant to Baltimore on this day, the Orioles' 20th game of the season wasn't exactly at the top of the list.

"It makes you realize how unimportant really in a lot of ways this is compared to some things that are going on," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You try to keep that mind and look at things realistically, where this fits in the scheme of things. You prioritize what's important and we tried to do that."

Their intentions may have been in the right place, but seemingly not much else.

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.

"Sports brings people together - black, white, or any different," Orioles center fielder Adam Jones said. "For those three hours, you can have beers, nachos and some Boog's (barbecue) and forget about our daily lives.

"But today, we're just going to have to play a Major League Baseball game without fans. I think that's first time in history."

Must the game go on?

"We've thought about that, and we've actually talked about that," Orioles first baseman Chris Davis said. "Obviously the decision was out of our hands. But the thing that makes it so tough is that this is an out-of-division opponent. We would have had to basically make up three games.

"We're doing the right thing. 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."

That's true, but the bigger question is whether they should have been playing at all.

''There are a lot more important issues going on outside the stadium," Orioles left-hander 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."

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