xml:space="preserve">
xml:space="preserve">
Advertisement
Advertisement

Orioles make right decision, but agitators should not win

The fate of one baseball game surely does not register as particularly significant against the backdrop of the civil unrest that rocked Baltimore again on Monday, but the decision to shut down Oriole Park and make sure everybody lives to play another day was the right one for the players, fans and stadium workers.

Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred, who was making a previously scheduled visit to Camden Yards, huddled with team and stadium officials and told reporters early Monday evening that there was little disagreement on an issue with such far-reaching security implications. Hard to argue, even if the outcome — in a sense — allowed the agitators and rioters to succeed in their attempt to shut down normal city life.

Advertisement

The tragic death of Freddie Gray while in police custody generated a wave of righteous anger in the African-American community, which led to the large demonstration on Saturday that devolved into violence and resulted in dozens of arrests and six injured police officers. It also prompted a temporary lockdown at Camden Yards, but there were no serious consequences related to the decision to play the game as scheduled.

Clearly, the Orioles and city officials decided not to press their luck on Monday night. Manfred said that was largely a local decision, but his presence at the ballpark might have served as a catalyst after the team opened the stadium gates and admitted a small number of fans.

Advertisement

Though the rioting was taking place well across town, there were reports that the mob was moving in the direction of the ballpark, as the violent demonstrators did on Saturday night. The difference this time was that there was no pretense of it being a peaceful demonstration, and that was obvious in plenty of time to postpone the game.

Some may wonder why the Orioles didn't do the same thing over weekend, but the circumstances were much different. Prominent community leaders had vowed that the demonstration on Saturday would be peaceful, and that appeared to be the case as local fans and the usual large contingent of tourists from Boston descended on the ballpark. By the time it became apparent that there might be danger nearby, it made more sense to keep everybody inside.

This time, the images of rioters near the Mondawmin Mall were all over local TV and national cable news by mid-afternoon. The seriousness of the situation became increasingly apparent and obviously discouraged thousands of Orioles fans from even attempting to come into town. There appeared to be only a few hundred fans in the lower bowl of Oriole Park when the game was canceled at about 6 p.m.

Orioles executive vice president John Angelos was correct when he tweeted on Saturday that what happens on a ball field pales in juxtaposition to the problems of the underclass in this country. The fact that game was not played at Camden Yards on Monday night, however, does nothing to help disadvantaged Americans or oppressed minority communities. Neither does trashing a pharmacy and stealing prescription medications meant for sick and needy residents.

Manfred, who was elected commissioner of baseball at an owners meeting in Baltimore last year, expressed disappointment that a city and team he has long had ties to is going through such a difficult period.

"I will always have a fond thought with respect to Baltimore,'' he said. "I was elected here. I was a season ticket holder here for a number of years. I have great memories of times I spent here, mostly with my family in this ballpark. Today, obviously a disturbing day, in terms of the activity going on out there and all of us have to hope it's short lived."

That remains to be seen, of course. No one wanted to speculate about what might happen if there are more violent demonstrations over the course of the week. The Orioles are scheduled to play the next two nights against the White Sox and then play a three-game weekend series against the Tampa Bay Rays.

If the Orioles and Major League Baseball are not satisfied those games can be played under secure conditions, there is the possibility that they could be moved to the home stadiums of the opposing teams or even to Nationals Park, which might be available since the Washington Nationals are playing on the road through Sunday.

Hopefully, it will not come to that. The threats by agitators to shut down the city have, to an extent, come to pass, which is a regrettable result for anyone who cares about Baltimore or, for that matter, finding real solutions to the problems that spawned the Freddie Gray tragedy.

twitter.com/SchmuckStop

Read more from columnist Peter Schmuck on his blog, "The Schmuck Stops Here," at baltimoresun.com/schmuckblog.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun

Advertisement
Advertisement