#TBT in honor of Chris Davis
CHRIS DAVIS’ HOME RUN BALL FROM ‘NO FANS’ GAME IN 2015
On April 29, 2015 the Baltimore Orioles hosted the Chicago White Sox at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The game was played before no fans, a first in the 145-year history of Major League Baseball. The genesis of this most remarkable situation occurred 17 days earlier, on April 12, when 25-year-old Freddie Gray, an African-American man, was arrested by Baltimore police. He sustained life-threatening injuries in police custody that day, and succumbed to those injuries on April 19.
Over the next week Baltimore erupted in violence. On April 25th riots broke out around Oriole Park, and fans attending the Orioles/Red Sox game were locked in the stadium until police were able to secure the area. Games scheduled against the White Sox on April 27 and 28 were postponed, but the game on the 29th had to be played because of scheduling problems and provisions in MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.
The Orioles, working with city officials, determined to move the 7:05 start time to the afternoon for security reasons, and to play the game before no fans. National reporters in town to cover the Freddie Gray incident swelled the number of media in attendance that day to capacity, with the Baltimore Sun reporting that the press box was standing room only.
Members of the Babe Ruth Museum staff were among dozens of fans watching the game from Camden Street, just outside their Sports Legends Museum offices.
We could hear the players’ on-field chatter, the TV and radio play-by-play and commentary. We grasped the surreal nature of the spectacle from our perch just beyond Monument Park in right-centerfield.
In the bottom of the first Orioles first-baseman Chris Davis clouted a three-run homer onto Eutaw Street. The ball bounded to rest outside of a men’s restroom. I knew that Orioles’ staffer Bill Stetka was attending the game, and called him to see if he could retrieve the Davis ball. He did, and the ball became part of our collection, an important artifact from a dark, yet significant, day in the history of Baltimore…and its baseball team.
Written by Mike Gibbons, historian and Director Emeritus at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum