How Major League Baseball Could Make a Difference in Baltimore Racial Unrest


The Baltimore Orioles should play their next game … without fans.

Dear John Angelos,

Here’s what I wrote on Facebook before I went to sleep last night.

On the tangential subject of tonight’s [Baltimore] Orioles game:

I know there are a million reasons this wouldn’t have worked, but I think it would have been really interesting if they’d said, “We’re closing the park to fans, but we’re here and the White Sox are here and the umps are here. We’re going to play the game.” To an empty, silent stadium. I know it would never happen, but wouldn’t it have made an interesting statement? I’m not sure what that statement would have been, but I kinda wish it had happened that way. I think. I don’t know. Time to go schluffie, I think.

Why? Why wouldn’t that have worked? Is it too late to send that kind of message as National Guard members line the streets of Baltimore after the outbreak of violence in reaction to Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody? I can think of all sorts of ways to make this happen. It involves people with tons of money loosening their pocketbooks a bit, and far be it from me to tell someone else how, when or where to give. However, wouldn’t it be amazing if:


1. First and foremost, close the park to fans and employees, other than medical personnel and the teams and the umpiring crew.

2. Say, “We will not risk the lives of our fans and non-essential employees, but we are professionals and will play our game.” (And of course, providing the players a safe way to get to the park.)

3. Give the people with tickets tonight the choice of a full refund, or “Orioles Bucks” (See what I did there, Buck Showalter?) in the amount of their ticket costs to spend anywhere at the park at the next game they attend.

4. Work with your business partners and affiliates to pay the non-essential employees who were scheduled tonight’s game, so that they don’t suffer because of the systemic problems in our city. Imagine. A paid night off for the people who sweat at the grill all night long. Perhaps even a player or two would be willing to donate their pay from tonight’s game to make that happen.

5. Broadcast the game, so those who couldn’t attend tonight can watch from home and cheer even harder for their beloved teams.

What kind of historic statement would that make, here?

Imagine millions of people watching a baseball game in their living rooms, hearing only the sounds of the game itself. Not the sounds of the fans in the crowd.

Imagine the players, playing the game with no fans – you know – like they used to do in high school. With only each other to talk and listen to.

Imagine the viewers actually being able to hear the center fielder yelling, “I got it! I got it!” and then hearing the banter between him and the left fielder after they almost collide.

It’s not ideal. It would be eerie. But in a good way, I think. In a way that cherishes their fans and respects the basis for unrest in our city.

What I’m suggesting is absolutely in keeping with the love the Orioles show Baltimore in so many, many ways. As COO of the Orioles, you stuck up for the protesters yesterday in the most poignant and inspiring way on your twitter feed:

The innocent working families of all backgrounds whose lives and dreams have been cut short by excessive violence, surveillance, and other abuses of the Bill of Rights by government pay the true price, and ultimate price, and one that far exceeds the importances [sic] of any kids’ game played tonight, or ever, at Camden Yards.

An empty stadium takes part of the fun away. I understand that. But these are flash points in Baltimore’s history. In America’s history. Turning points in the civil rights movements, if we do this right. The Orioles and Major League Baseball can be part of that, as they have so often in the past.

You’d be saying, MAKING money is not important enough to risk allowing an audience tonight. But playing the game, doing our job, is more important. It would be a gift. It would hearten our beloved city, I think. Perhaps the Bloods and Crips and BGF who were so eloquent in this video last night might grab a couple of protestors off the streets and into a pub to watch the game together.

You’d be honoring the more than one hundred faith leaders and elected officials who gathered at New Shiloh Baptist Church in West Baltimore to link arms and march towards the unrest to plead with the participants and reason and pray. Something that didn’t get NEARLY ENOUGH PLAY ON TV for it’s demonstration of strength and love that characterizes this town.

Imagine if today were remembered as the day more people were in line to hear the Supreme Court oral arguments for marriage equality than were in line to get into Camden Yards?

We can do this.

Updated to Add: At virtually the same time this post published, the Os announced they would be doing exactly what I suggested (in part, at least) by playing the game to an empty stadium. I’m sure they didn’t get the idea from me, but great minds? Parallel Universe? ESP? You decide. 🙂 Now, if they’d consider paying the employees at Camden Yards for their lost wages, and keeping the next series in Baltimore, too, (instead of us losing home field advantage and 3 more games of wages) – how awesome would that be??? I mean, not that I have any influence…if I did, we’d still have Markakis (*sob*) but hey – can’t hurt to ask!!!

Aliza Worthington grew up in Brooklyn, NY, and now lives in Baltimore. She began writing in 2009 at the age of 40. Sometimes her writing follows The Seinfeld Model of “no learning, no hugging.” Other times it involves lots of both. She blogs about Life, Liberty and Happiness at “The Worthington Post.” Her work also appears in Purple Clover, and before that, in Catonsville Patch and Kveller. She has been featured in the Community Spotlight section of Daily Kos under the username “Horque.” Her piece for The Broad Side, Leaving Gender at the Door, was chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year in 2013 and 2015. Follow her on Twitter at @AlizaWrites.

Image via Wikipedia/CC License

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