THE EMPTY SEATS GAME
by Douglas Black, April 29, 2015
History was made today in baseball. It was not a remarkably played game. It wasn’t a perfect game, nor even a no-hitter. Willy Mays was not pushing 5 home runs in one outing. The game was historic due to its silence.
This happened today in the same Baltimore Orioles stadium, the great Camden Yards, where, when new and pristine, this writer was sitting along the first base line during filming a scene or two of the movie “Major League” starring Charlie Sheen, and it was pandemonium.
Over the last several weeks America has been boiling over racial strife, arson, looting and the militarization of law enforcement within our cities. Riots this week in Baltimore have caused postponements of games in the Orioles home stand against the Chicago White Sox.
Listening to the radio play by play in todays game, one could not help but notice the obtuse silence that punctuated the spaces between a snap of the ball to catcher’s mitt, crack of the bat, and the clapping of encouragement from the O’s dugouts as they took a commanding 6-0 lead in the first inning. Every hit sounds like a home run.
There were in fact a few hundred spectators – those sports writers, news hounds, employees and opportunists outside the right field fence, not unlike the roof toppers beyond the fiscal enclosures of Wrigley Field.
Perhaps it was possible to relocate the game forty some miles away to the home of the Washington Nationals. But no, not to be, but not because of anything other than innocent cross town rivalry. I wonder if, 100 years ago, when the great Walter Johnson was pitching so unbelievably well for the Washington Senators, should they have needed to play a temporary venue such as the home of the Philadelphia Athletics, would Connie Mack have been so accommodating? Certainly not. Simply business.
When we think of historic games we think of Jackie Robinson or Satchel Page being allowed to show their dominance in the Great American Game. We think of Willy Mays and the amazing catch. We think of Hank Aaron and his home run that surpassed the Babe in career long balls. And we think of the great Rube Foster who took the Kansas City Monarchs to the first Negro National League World Series when he was a player and executive.
We should not be happy about a new historical mark in Major League Baseball being set by such unpleasantness. Our game, and our nation, should be past this.
There was another eerie thing about today’s game – there was no applause after the playing of our National Anthem.