by Alex Poletti
In April of 2015, the White Sox and Orioles made history amid civil unrest in the state of Maryland. They played the first, and to date only, Major League Baseball game without a crowd as a result of the Baltimore Riots.
“That was a surreal experience,” then-Orioles outfielder Delmon Young recalls. “Nobody came to the game, there was no interaction from the fans and I don’t think anybody in the city cared. It was like playing at the Trop.”
Young should know better than anyone, coming up with the Rays organization in Tampa. On that day in Baltimore, though, things were so shitty that everyone felt like a member of the Rays.
“It was during such a terrible time, I don’t even know why we were playing baseball,” longtime Orioles star Adam Jones says. “I guess that must be what it feels like to play in Tampa Bay all the time.”
Despite the fact that the first two games of the series were postponed, the league decided to go ahead with the third game in the series. Whether it was too difficult to reschedule a third game or if the commissioner hoped playing baseball in front of no one would unite the city is still a contentious subject in the baseball community.
The decision to play had some consequences for both teams, with outfielder Adam Eaton crediting their loss to the absence of a crowd. However, most scholars today agree that their loss was due to them being the 2015 Chicago White Sox.
The effects of the riots lasted longer than those nine innings against Chicago, however; the next series, scheduled at home against the Rays, was played in St. Petersburg instead.
“I remember the next series after the crowdless game,” Buck Showalter, who was named Manager of the Year a season prior, says. “We went to Tropicana Field, and it was eerily silent. No one was there. Honestly, Camden Yards the series before was more welcoming.”
Due to the unexpected and tragic events that preceded the crowdless game, it seems unlikely that another occurrence will ever happen at the Major League Level. However, one team may challenge that assumption.
“No one comes to our games, and we’re actually good right now,” Rays manager Kevin Cash says. “Once we start sucking again in a few years, we’ll get crowdless games every night.”