It counts


Baltimore Orioles: 8. Chicago White Sox: 2. Paid Attendance: 0.

It was an eerie scene in Baltimore’s Camden Yards yesterday when, except for a few reporters and three scouts, an official major league baseball game (it counted) was played in an empty stadium. With 162 games to be played throughout the summer, there was apparently no way to make up Baltimore’s fourth scheduled home game, and the police and city officials feared for the safety of the fans if 40,000 were to gather for a ballgame downtown only blocks away from where riots broke out two days ago over the death of a black man while under police custody.

Monday morning quarterbacks in newspaper and Internet articles around the country are not in agreement as to whether this move was absolutely necessary. There were other ways it could have been made up later with an audience, and it does seem wrong that a game which normally helps to bring communities together wouldn’t get to work its magic this time. At a time when normalcy was needed, there was none to be found. Nonetheless, it did make for an irresistible story.

They are already calling it the “ghost game.”

There was a player signing a fake autograph, other players tossing used balls to no one in the stands, deathly silence following spectacular catches, and the home plate umpire’s theatrical “S-t-r-i-k-e two!” call echoing like foul balls ricocheting somewhere in 46,000 empty seats. When Orioles manager Buck Showalter called on the dugout phone for a relief pitcher, he said you could hear the phone ring in the bullpen.

It was a big “0” where there should have been 42,286 noisy fans.

But it still counted. Home game #4 is in the books and schedules didn’t have to be interrupted.

How much of what we do is played to an empty stadium? How often does that good deed go unnoticed (as it should be)? How often is that sin hidden from view? How often do we think we can sneak in some selfish avoidance or waste time because there’s no one there? Well that’s a lie, because someone is always there.

I’m going to cut out that picture from the sports page today of players taking the field to a backdrop of empty green seats and stick it over my desk as a reminder that I am never alone. And that the thing I need to do is play on in spite of the silence around me, and know that whatever the outcome, the important thing to remember is: it counts.

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4 Responses to It counts

  1. Mark Seguin says:

    Dear Pastor John I think / believe another sad part you should remember as you look @ this pic of an empty ball stadium over your desk is the young black man’s name a not just as you wrote: “… the death of a black man while under police custody.”

    His name was Freddie Gray. Man oh man please allow yourself to think / feel as he was a person that God love and sent His Son to die for.
    PS and the other sad part on my behalf is I didn’t know his name either – so had to look it up, which took me all of 5 minutes to do… Yet God bless & His speed to his grieving family & friend – I’d be absolutely devastated if one of nephews, or nieces were killed w/ a broken back while in the custody of Police – and I’d be mad as hell too!!!

    • jwfisch says:

      Good point, Mark. Thanks for the correction.

      • Mark Seguin says:

        Thx and hopefully I wasn’t too self righteous, or being a Pharisee – for I am too am a recovering one… 🙂
        PS from reading your very good & insightful book: “12 Steps for the Recovering Pharisee (like me)”

  2. There’s something ironic — not to say sad — about this. when you consider that baseball continued through WW2, on the principle that the National Pastime was vital to citizen morale. Maybe the city elders could have taken a hard look at the documentary, “The Night James Brown Saved Boston”, about Brown’s concert at the Boston Garden the night after Martin Luther King was assassinated. The City was all set to cancel it, but one City Councillor convinced the mayor to let it go ahead and as a result (the documentary claims), while other big cities in the US were burning, Boston stayed relatively calm. An academic discussion now, to be sure, but are the conditions that different?

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