Ori­oles fans are shut out

Base­ball game will be closed to the public be­cause of Bal­ti­more un­rest.

Los Angeles Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Zach Helfand

Usu­ally be­fore an Ori­oles game in Bal­ti­more, fans mill on Eutaw Street near the smoke that wafts from Boog ’s Bar-B-Q. They sip on Na­tional Bo­hemian dur­ing the game and dance to John Den­ver’s “Thank God I’m a Coun­try Boy” at the sev­enth-in­ning stretch.

It’s part of the nat­u­ral rhythm to a ball­game at Cam­den Yards, a flow that will be in­ter­rupted en­tirely Wed­nes­day. For the first time in Ma­jor League Base­ball, fans will be shut out of a game when the Ori­oles play the Chicago White Sox.

As protests and out­bursts of vi­o­lence con­tinue to roil Bal­ti­more af­ter the death of Fred­die Gray while in po­lice cus­tody, the Ori­oles

closed their se­ries fi­nale against the White Sox to the public, an un­prece­dented move in ma­jor Amer­i­can sports.

“It’s def­i­nitely go­ing to be un­char­tered ter­ri­tory,” Ori­oles Manager Buck Showalter said.

The Ori­oles had al­ready post­poned the first two games of the se­ries and re­lo­cated their week­end se­ries against the Tampa Bay Rays to the Rays’ ball­park. A third post­pone­ment would re­quire sched­ul­ing gym­nas­tics. The teams share only one off date, when they could play a dou­ble­header but not three games.

But of­fi­cials wor­ried about the safety of the fans and clashes be­tween fans and pro­test­ers. Cam­den Yards sits near the nexus of Bal­ti­more’s In­ner Har­bor, which has un­der­gone a re­newal start­ing in the 1990s, and the poorer neigh­bor­hoods of West Bal­ti­more, where much of the vi­o­lence has oc­curred.

The un­rest has at times spread to­ward the ball­park. Mayor Stephanie Rawl­ings-Blake asked the Ori­oles to keep fans in the sta­dium af­ter their game ended on Satur­day as pro­test­ers blocked an ad­ja­cent in­ter­sec­tion. Of­fi­cials hoped to avoid a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

“We were just try­ing to re­spond to the wishes of the public of­fi­cials and pro­tect the in­tegrity of the sched­ule,” said Dan Du­quette, the Ori­oles ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions.

This is be­lieved to be the first time a ma­jor league game has been played with­out pay­ing spec­ta­tors, ac­cord­ing to MLB his­to­rian John Thorn.

Mi­nor league games have been played in empty sta­di­ums be­fore, and fans aren’t es­sen­tial.

But the Ori­oles still must de­cide upon changes, big and small, not usu­ally an is­sue at a typ­i­cal game.

Of pri­mary con­cern is the trans­porta­tion of the play­ers, um­pires and other staffers to and from the sta­dium. And there are the smaller ques­tions that could make for an eerie set­ting.

Will some­one sing the na­tional an­them? Will the public-ad­dress sys­tem make an­nounce­ments or play walk-up mu­sic? What about the sev­enth-in­ning stretch and Den­ver’s coun­try an­them? Does the score­board stay on? The Ori­oles did not re­spond to mul­ti­ple re­quests for com­ment.

Closed-door games are more familiar in Europe to avoid ri­ots and clashes be­tween fans or to pun­ish fan bases for in­ci­dents stem­ming from racist acts.

Base­ball has re­sponded to sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions with post­pone­ments. In 1967, the Detroit Tigers post­poned three games as ri­ots en­gulfed the city. In 1968, base­ball can­celed all sched­uled games on the day of Martin Luther King Jr.’s fu­neral.

In Los An­ge­les, as ri­ots erupted af­ter the Rod­ney King ver­dict in 1992, the Dodgers post­poned four con­sec­u­tive games. They made up the games with four dou­ble­head­ers in six days.

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