-- Today’s empty Orioles game is "truly unprecedented" for the league and team executives opted to play the game with no fans rather than postpone it because of the Baltimore riots, the official MLB historian told ABC News.
The only people inside Oriole Park at Camden Yards this afternoon are the players from the Orioles and Chicago White Sox, credentialed sports reporters, scouts and stadium staff. But the game will be televised as scheduled so viewers will get a full view of the nearly 46,000 empty seats.
League historian John Thorn said that has never happened in MLB’s history. In the past, after rioting in Detroit in 1967, Baltimore in 1968 and Los Angeles in 1992, those cities' respective games were rescheduled for later dates. The same applied for larger disasters like the California earthquakes and the September 11 attacks, but this time, Thorn believes, scheduling conflicts were behind the decision not to postpone.
"It’s a very tight schedule and ... when you know you’re going to have other conflicts like weather and unavoidable situations come up, you try to avoid it," he said.
The Orioles said ticket holders who miss either today's game or the games for this weekend will be able to exchange them for any later home game on a "dollar for dollar" basis. The May 1, 2 and 3 games against the Tampa Bay Rays will be played in Florida instead.
The first two games of the Orioles-White Sox series, which were scheduled for Monday and Tuesday but postponed, will be played in a single-admission double header on May 28.
“After conversations with the Orioles and local officials, we believe that these decisions are in the best interests of fan safety and the deployment of City resources," league commissioner Rob Manfred said in a statement released Tuesday afternoon.
Historian Thorn said the situation closest to this one, in terms of the absent fans, came only when attendance was just shockingly low. The lowest on record came in 1882 when two now-defunct teams, Troy and Worcester, faced off in front of six fans.
"In recent memory there was a game in 1966 at Yankees stadium where 413 fans showed up. It was just a really lousy team," Thorn said. "So it is unusual to play before a very sparse crowd, but to play before no crowd is truly unprecedented."
Thorn said a crowd ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 fans could easily have been expected at today’s 2:05 p.m. game, and with expected highs of 71 and mostly sunny skies, it would have likely been at the higher end.
Viewers aren’t going to be the only ones unnerved by the ghost-like stadium, because Thorn said it’s "going to be weird" for the players, who probably most recently saw empty stands when they were in college or in the minor leagues.
The game change comes after the city is in a state of emergency following violent protests that broke out on Monday, leading to a week-long citywide curfew.
"Baseball is, at best, a tertiary concern when public safety is a concern," Thorn said.