Apr 29, 2015 6:27 PM
Locked Out: Orioles fans booted from ballgame amid unrest
The Associated Press
BALTIMORE (AP) Chris Davis might have hit the quietest home run for the home team in Orioles history.
As the slugger pounded the ball deep onto Eutaw Street, just a few feet from where fans normally would have sprinted after a chance to catch a souvenir, there was almost nothing to hear.
The only muffled cheers came from a pocket of diehards locked out of Camden Yards yelling "Let's Go O's!"
On this day, 30,000 Orioles fans had been muted. The wild applause had been silenced. There were no fans to stand for a standing ovation.
Just Davis' teammates in the dugout coming over for high-fives.
"When you're rounding the bases, and the only cheers you hear were from outside the stadium," he said, "it's a weird feeling."
Baseball in Baltimore was closed to the public Wednesday. The shutout in the final score was in the attendance total: Orioles 8, White Sox 2, Fans 0.
MLB decided to play the game behind closed doors because of looting and rioting around Camden Yards that broke out amid tensions between residents and police. The turmoil prompted a citywide curfew and began hours after the funeral of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who sustained a fatal spinal cord injury while in police custody.
The game was one of the oddest in history, brought alive only by sounds that were unmasked by the absence of fans' voices.
No cheering for the Orioles, no jeering the umpires. Not an usher, a wave, or one last call for a cold beer.
The sounds of the game popped for the lucky hundreds of players, media or staff allowed inside, with each "whack!" ''crack!" and "pop!" echoing throughout empty Camden Yards. Behind the plate, a couple of scouts kept their eyes on the action.
The players were as audible as kids playing backyard wiffle ball.
When Chicago second baseman Micah Johnson got the relay throw from right fielder Avisail Garcia, those around him shouted "No!" as he turned to make a throw to the plate.
That's because Everth Cabrera had stopped at third base.
These are the things the fans don't usually hear at the game. That, and an infielder yelling, "I got it!" as the outfielder closes in.
The only place full besides the dugouts was the press box, where all 92 seats were taken. Beyond that, TV camera crews lined the field and stationed outside the ballpark, creating media buzz similar to that of a playoff game.
But the grandstands were as vacant as they are in the offseason.
The usually teeming concourse was barren and the concession stands selling $15 crabcakes, $6.50 crab soups and $8 canned beers were locked up.
And those signs cautioning fans to "Watch Out for Batted Balls" were pointless for a day.
It was believed to be the only time in Major League Baseball's 145-season history that the game went on without fans. Neither the Baseball Hall of Fame nor John Thorn, Major League Baseball's official historian, could find record of a major league game being played behind closed doors amid the worst outbreak of rioting in Baltimore since 1968.
One Orioles fan hollered during batting practice: "Let us in!"
No such luck.
But baseball fans are a pesky bunch, and just because they were locked out of Camden, they refused to be shooed away from a glimpse at history. Hundreds of fans peered through a fence beyond the bleacher seats in left-center field.
Some fans had a view from the upper, upper deck a hotel balcony across the street complete with an Orioles banner draped behind them. That's one way to avoid the kiss cam but it was dark for the day.
Other game routines were intact. Players and umpires still bowed their heads in silence during the national anthem and an organ played the tune of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh-inning stretch.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter he heard the bullpen phone ring from the dugout.
"I think everybody was real careful about what they said from the dugout because everybody on the field could hear it, the umpires and them," he said.
The empty stands would have been a foul ball collectors dream.
Perry Saurers was able to leave his left mitt at home. He didn't have to worry about dropping his popcorn or spilling a beer trying to catch a foul ball when it zipped his way, either.
Saurers, a police officer from Howard County who was helping the Orioles authenticate memorabilia from the historic game, leisurely walked after loose baseballs that had rolled under the green seats or were resting in the concrete walkways. He was collecting the souvenirs most fans dream of snagging at the ballpark.
The baseballs aren't going to be added to his collection, though. He had to turn them over to MLB's authentication program.
The Orioles' souvenir shop was closed. A sign on the door said, "Dear Loyal Orioles Fans Our store is closed today. We will reopen on tomorrow @10:00 AM."
The unrest from the past week wasn't forgotten. Outside Camden Yards, Brendan Hurson carried a sign that read, "Don't Forget Freddie Gray," with the O's in the shape of the Orioles' logo.
He wished the Orioles let fans into the park.
"It would have been a nice chance to show the world that we are a city that's going to move forward from this. Not move on, but move forward. And they blew it."
The fans who hunkered beyond the fence went wild when Davis went deep in the first inning because just like the ball, they were outta here.
"I'll take any home run I can get at any time I can get it," he said, "but it's definitely more fun where there are fans in the stands."