The unprecedented spectacle of a Major League Baseball game without fans played out in eerie silence on Wednesday as the Baltimore Orioles faced the Chicago White Sox after days of unrest in the city.
The iconic stands of Camden Yards stood empty as the Orioles ran out 8-2 winners over the White Sox in a game played behind closed doors as a result of violence stoked by anger over the death of a black man from injuries sustained while in police custody.
It was the first time in the history of professional baseball in the United States that fans had been effectively locked out of a game.
Among the few able to witness the game were those who had paid for balcony rooms in the nearby Hilton Hotel, which overlooks the stadium.
Journalists accredited to cover the game reported that the voices of players on the infield could be heard clearly as the game progressed.
“Attention media: For record-keeping purposes, today’s official paid attendance is … zero,” an announcement made over the press box public address system informed reporters.
Other reports said the stadium still played the traditional US baseball anthem “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” during the traditional 7th inning stretch.
The Orioles and Major League Baseball officials had said the decision to shut out fans had been taken for safety reasons.
But many in a gaggle of around 40 fans gathered by a fence near the ball park’s main gate cried foul at the decision.
One of the spectators, Brendan Hurson, criticised the decision as a missed opportunity.
Hurson held up a sign reading “Don’t forget Freddie Gray” — referring to the African-American man whose death triggered this week’s violence.
“I just wanted to make sure that everyone remembered that the reason we were not allowed into this game today is ultimately because the police killed Freddie Gray,” the 37-year-old Hurson said.
“The focus has to be on police brutality and Freddie Gray. I just wanted to make sure people didn’t forget that.”
Hurson, a public defender who’d taken the day off to see the game, said the city should have explored more creative alternatives than closing the stadium.