White Sox check out early on historic, ‘weird’ day
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BALTIMORE—Needless to say, the White Sox won’t want to do this again.
Play in an empty stadium? No thanks.
Play bad baseball?
Be out of it in the first inning — with one of their top pitchers going?
It just can’t happen.
After waiting around a hotel for three nights, through two postponed games because of rioting in Baltimore, the Sox finally got around to playing baseball again Wednesday afternoon. And before they even had a chance to soak in the eerie, strange feeling of playing in an empty stadium, they were down 6-0 in the first inning.
“Today started off bad and got worse,’’ manager Robin Ventura said.
“It was just a weird day.”
Major League Baseball decided to have this game played in the afternoon and, for security reasons, close Oriole Park at Camden Yards to the public. Media were allowed, and a few scouts watched from behind home plate.
When Chris Davis homered against Jeff Samardzija with two runners on to give the Orioles a 4-0 lead in the first, Orioles radio broadcaster Gary Thorne was heard yelling “outta here.” Fans outside the park peered in through a fence and cheered. Another group, with a Wrigley Field-like rooftop view, could be heard cheering from a hotel balcony.
The scene on a sunny, pleasant day was strange and highly unusual, of course, as foul balls landed harmlessly in the seats before being picked up by a stadium employee. Ballgirls picked up foul balls on the field and kept them in their possesson. Players were heard all the way up in a full press box cheering each other on and yelling “cut” and “got it” on defense.During the seventh inning stretch, “Take Me Out To The Ball Game” was played and “Thank God I’m a Country Boy,” an Orioles tradition, was blared on the speaker system. Before it started, plate umpire Jerry Layne waved to the media in the press box, and then to the empty seats.
Sox rookie Micah Johnson said he heard play-by-play announcers on the field. He said “weird” five times describing the experience.
“It’s quiet, there’s nothing going on,’’ Johnson said. “You hear everything. Obviously it was better for the Orioles than us today. The atmosphere, it’s not how baseball is supposed to be played.’’
The Orioles’ big first inning seemed to take the life out of the game, although it was hard to tell because of the eerie silence. In the pressbox, the paid attendance was announced as “zero.” It was the first time a game was played with no fans.
The only good thing about this one is that it passed in a 1960s-like two hours and three minutes, almost an hour faster than an average game.
And they can say they were part of history, for what that’s worth.
“I was talking to my friends and family last night, it’s going to be a part of history no matter what, playing a game with nobody here,’’ said right-hander Scott Carroll, who pitched two scoreless innings. “I think it’s cool to go into the history books but we wanted to win.’’
The Sox (8-10), who will return to Baltimore for a doubleheader on May 28 to make up for the two postponed games, left for Minneapolis, where they open a four-game series Thursday night. Samardzija wasn’t sharp, Jose Abreu made a key error in the first and Ubaldo Jimenez held them to three hits over seven innings. Ventura was clearly unhappy with his team’s performance.
“You give them opportunities,’’ Ventura said, “they take advantage of it. I don’t think we were all that selective offensively, either. It was just a weird day. You move on and get ready for the next one.’’