Four years ago this month, the Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox played a baseball game at Camden Yards with zero fans, the only time this has happened in Major League Baseball's 150-year history.
Freddie Gray, an African American resident of Baltimore, died April 19, 2015 after he sustained injuries to his neck and spine while in police custody. Following Gray's death, there were protests throughout the city that turned violent in the days leading up to the game between the Orioles and White Sox April 29, 2015.
Kevin Cowherd, the author of "When the Crowd Didn't Roar: How Baseball's Strangest Game Ever Gave a Broken City Hope," knew that time in Baltimore's history -- and Major League Baseball's history as well -- was something he needed to write about.
"[The city felt] like it could erupt all over again and with National Guard troops patrolling the streets and the smell of charred buildings and burned-out cars in the air and tanks rumbling through West Baltimore," Cowherd said on
The Bat Around with Stan "The Fan Charles"
April 6. "Well, in the middle of all that, the Orioles and Chicago White Sox played a baseball game in locked-down Camden Yards. ... To me, it made perfect sense to write a book about that incredible time in the city's history."
Even though the players and coaches went down in baseball history as being the only ones to have played a game in such a situation, the game was not something they enjoyed. Cowherd said some of the players had initially thought that it could be a cool experience, but they quickly realized that was not the case.
"Some members of both teams … were among a small group that said maybe playing a game without fans will be sort of like the old sandlot, where you throw out the bats and balls and gloves and you play ball, everybody has fun and you go home for dinner, but it wasn't anything like that," said Cowherd, a former
Baltimore Sun columnist. "Without anybody in the stands, the silence was eerie and it was unnerving and the players in both dugouts were practically whispering to each other throughout the game because it felt like you were playing ball in the chapel."
Despite the eerie setting, the Orioles won the game, 8-2, with Chris Davis and Manny Machado hitting home runs.
"It was so quiet in that ballpark that the players on the field couldn't get a handle on how hard balls were hit because every ball that came off the bat sounded like a rocket shot, like it would hit the warehouse on the fly instead of just being a routine single to right," Cowherd said. "... The crack of the bat for [Davis' homer] was so loud, it just seemed to reverberate around the stadium for five minutes so it was an eerie, uncomfortable setting for these guys."
Although the environment the players and coaches experienced that day was not one they would want to deal with again, the game made for a great story. It was a potential once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Cowherd began research and work on his book not long after.
"I would say within a couple of months," Cowherd said. "I've been telling people that I'm amazed, and still am amazed, that I'm the only guy who wrote a book about this because honestly I thought writers would be parachuting in from all over the place to write about this. There's never been in pro hockey, basketball, football, baseball, never been a game played without fans except for that game in Baltimore in April of 2015."
For more from Cowherd, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: Stan "The Fan" Charles/PressBox