The game played Wednesday (in the afternoon, rather than as originally scheduled in the evening) was the first game of this three-game set that the White Sox were able to get in against the Baltimore Orioles.
ALL OF THE riots had officials convinced they’d rather not risk having angered Baltimore protesters (upset over black abuse by police officers) attack fans trying to get to and from Camden Yards.
Plus, it also reduced the number of police officers who would have to be on detail to maintain order at the ballpark, thereby allowing them to be on patrol in other parts of Baltimore – although there was evidence Tuesday that the worst of the outbursts had passed.
So what we got was a White Sox/Orioles game in which no one was allowed to attend. Attendance was literally zero. People who showed up were locked out.
The teams still got in a ballgame to count toward their 162-game season count. But the other games that were meant for this week will be made up during a special trip to be made to Baltimore in mid-May (when the White Sox will be traveling from Toronto to Houston).
I WASN’T ANYWHERE near Baltimore on Wednesday, although I made a point of watching part of the WPWR-TV broadcast, listening to announcer Ken Harrelson tell us about what turned out to be dreadful activity on the field.
Cameras kept showing us a group of Orioles fans who converged outside a gate that sort of gave them a view of the game. Their “Let’s Go, O’s!” chants could be heard throughout the ballpark – while several panoramic television shots confirmed for us that there truly was no one sitting in the stands.
I’m sure at a time like this in Baltimore, this wasn’t the biggest concern. But it had to be a business blow to the Orioles, since ball clubs usually count on concessions stand sales from the people who attend the game for a significant part of their revenue.
If no one was on hand on Wednesday, they weren’t to buy overpriced beer and hot dogs, nor any barbecue from the stand named for one-time Orioles’ star Boog Powell.
I CAN THINK of one positive aspect of Wednesday’s circumstance – having a game played literally with zero attendance wipes out what I always thought was a stupid statistic cited by the Charleston Riverdogs of the South Atlantic League.
Back in 2002, they claimed to have played a game before zero fans – although it was really a stunt since the roughly 1,800 people who showed up for the game deliberately were locked out of the ball park until after the fifth inning; at which point the game became official.
Now, we have a real zero attendance statistic for a professional ballgame; even lower than the 413 people who attended a White Sox/New York Yankees game at Yankee Stadium in 1966, or the 653 who saw the Oakland A’s play the Seattle Mariners in a game in 1979. For the record, the ’66 Yankees and ’79 A’s (despite the presence of future Hall of Fame ballplayers Mickey Mantle and Rickey Henderson, respectively) were truly awful ball clubs.
The record for lack of fans in the stands now has some legitimacy.
ALTHOUGH ONE CAN argue that all of this is trivia, and that the only thing that matters about a sporting event is the on-field action.
If that is the regard, then “blech!” is the only reaction we should have, particularly since White Sox starting pitcher Jeff Samardzija seemed determined to do his best impersonation of a Chicago Cubs pitcher (which he once was).
Six runs given up in the first inning alone; the final score was 8-2. The White Sox’ incompetence level settled down, but it was also the kind of game one quickly wants to switch the channel on.
Even the WTTW Prime rebroadcast of the PBS “Last Days in Vietnam” documentary seemed more appealing to watch!
EDITOR’S NOTE: That “No attendance” minor league ballgame was plotted as a publicity stunt by Mike Veeck, team owner and son of the Hall of Fame baseball owner Bill Veeck. For the record, the younger Veeck’s ball team lost 4-2 to the Columbus (Ga.) Red Stixx in that game.