April 29, 2015 / 12:57 AM / 4 years ago

Baltimore Orioles to play in empty stadium as Baltimore reels from rioting

(Reuters) - In what will be a first for Major League Baseball, the Baltimore Orioles will host the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday in a stadium closed to fans as Baltimore copes with some of the worst U.S. urban rioting in years.

Baltimore police officers stand outside the stadium prior to the cancellation of the game between the Chicago White Sox and Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, April 27, 2015. Mandatory Credit: Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Orioles said Wednesday’s scheduled 7:05 p.m. game would be played at 2:05 p.m. before an empty Camden Yards ballpark.

The team’s games scheduled for Monday and Tuesday nights were postponed after Baltimore erupted in violence following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in a hospital a week after sustaining injuries in police custody.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake set a week-long curfew in the city beginning on Tuesday.

Major League Baseball has never played a game without fans, said MLB’s official historian, John Thorn. Some European soccer games have been closed to the public as punishment for unruly fan behavior at previous matches.

“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,” MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said.

“Our thoughts are with all those who have been affected by violence in Baltimore, and everyone in our game hopes for peace and the safety of a great American city.”

It is not the first time events outside the ballpark have disrupted baseball’s schedule. On the day of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral on April 9, 1968, Major League Baseball postponed all its scheduled season-opening games. Baltimore and other major U.S. cities experienced rioting after the civil rights leader’s assassination.

During the July 1967 riots in Detroit, the Tigers postponed one game and rescheduled two others to be played in Baltimore.

Major League Baseball shut down for a week after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon outside Washington.

The 1989 World Series between the Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants was put on hold for 12 days after an earthquake struck the Bay Area before Game 3 in San Francisco on Oct. 17.

The Orioles said on Tuesday that games scheduled at Camden Yard Friday through Sunday against the Tampa Bay Rays would be moved to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

This week’s postponed Orioles-White Sox games will be made up as part of a doubleheader at Camden Yards on May 28.

(This version of the story adds details about Freddie Gray’s death in the third paragraph)

Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Peter Cooney and Lisa Shumaker

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