Taking a look back at baseball's lowest attended game before today

Why did a major league baseball game between Troy (N.Y.) and Worcestor (Mass.) have just six fans in 1882?

History will be made today at Camden Yards when the Orioles play the White Sox in front of an empty ballpark.

The game will be closed to the public, meaning the there will be no fans in the stands.

Major League Baseball’s official historian John Thorn said that today’s game will be the first game in major league history to be played without a paying crowd.

So what was the lowest attended game before today?

It was a game between the Troy (N.Y.) Trojans and the Worcester (Mass.) Ruby Legs on Sept.28, 1882, when six fans attended the game at the Worcester Driving Park Grounds.

So why was the attendance to that game, which was won by Troy 4-1, so small? Here’s the way Thorn explains it.

Both teams were National League franchises and both had been recently informed that their franchises weren’t being renewed for the 1883 season. The NL was looking to get bigger and both teams would be replaced by teams awarded to larger markets.

Neither team was very good on the field. In the eight-team NL standings, Troy (35-48) and Worcester (18-66) finished seventh and eighth, respectively. In fact, Troy finished the season 37 games back of the first-place Chicago White Stockings.

How bad was the Worcester team? According to Baseball Reference, the team went through three managers over the course of an 84-game season.

The team’s best pitcher, left-hander Lee Richmond, actually owned a respectable 3.74 ERA. He had a record of 14-33, pitching 44 complete games in 411 innings.

Troy actually had a talented young group that included eventual Hall of Famers Roger Connor, Dan Brouthers, Buck Ewing, Tim Keefe and Mickey Welch

Connor, then a 24-year-old first baseman, was the team’s best player in 1882. He hit .330 with 22 doubles, 18 triples, four homers and 42 RBIs, all team highs, in 81 games.

Connor had a successful 18-year career, finishing up with the St. Louis Browns, which would eventually move to Baltimore and become the Orioles in 1954. He retired in 1897 with 138 homers and before Babe Ruth passed him, held the title of being baseball’s all-time home run king for 23 years. Connor was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1976, 45 years after his death.

But once the Troy and Worcester teams learned they weren’t being renewed, they both threatened to stop playing, and their forfeits would have affected a tight two-team pennant race between the White Stockings and the Providence Grays in September (The White Stockings won the NL by three games).

Both teams decided to play games, but with the fan bases knowing that the teams had no future, the attendance declined dramatically. So on Sept. 28, the second-to-last game of that season in both team’s existences, just six fans attended the game at the Agricultural County Fairgrounds.

Interestingly enough, the final game between the teams drew more than four times more fans an had an attendance of 25, watching the final game in Worcester’s three-year history in the NL as the team lost finished the season with eight losses in their last nine games.

The next year, the Philadelphia Quakers and New York Gothams replaced those two teams in the National League and both franchises still play to this day as the Phillies and the Giants.

eencina@baltsun.com

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