Open Letter To Baseball: How Dare You

To: MLB commissioner Rob Manfred

From: Rob Parker

Re: The Fan Ban

Dear Commissioner Manfred.

Please don’t ever do this again.

History will say there was a Major League Baseball game played in Baltimore with no fans present on April 29, 2015.

The game counts in the standings. The Orioles beat the Chicago White Sox, 8-2, at Camden Yards.

But in reality, there is no game without fans.

It will be the downfall of the sport if you ever believe the show can go on without us. You made a terrible mistake by doing so.

For sure, MLB was in a tough spot with the riots, protests and violence that took place in Baltimore.

In the wake of a string of injustices around the country – the latest in Baltimore with the death of Freddie Gray who died in police custody – young African Americans took to the streets of Baltimore, releasing their anger and frustration with violence toward the police.

The scenes were both ugly and scary.

Still, there was only one option in such a scenario.


There should NEVER, EVER be a game with no fans.

It really didn’t make any sense when you realize that kids in Baltimore went back to school Wednesday. Worse, fans were able to walk all the way up to the gates of Camden Yards and watch the game from the street.

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(Photo Credit: US News)

“(It was) unlike anything I’ve seen before,” Baltimore TV reporter Pete Gilbert – who covered the game – texted me during the game. “Watched from the press box early.

“You hear every little thing, every little comment. The crack of the bat is so loud. Now watching with fans outside the gate. Bizarre.”

And absurd. And uncalled for. It looked like a “Twilight Zone” episode.

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(Photo credit: Fox Sports)

“It was just a surreal environment,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said to the media there after the game. “I really don’t think we want to play in another one like this.”

Mr. Manfred, did you hear that.

More than any other sport on this planet, baseball has the biggest fan base and best fans. Every game is on TV. MLB sells 73 million tickets every year – more than the NFL, NBA and NHL combined.

Fans are the lifeline of the sport. It’s a package deal. One doesn’t go without the other.

Baseball cancelled the World Series in 1994. Hence, it could have easily cancelled the third game of this series if it feared for the safety of the fans, players and staff.

Yes, there’s a schedule to consider and readjust. Nonetheless, Mr. Manfred, you did the sport an injustice when you dismissed fans as not important to your sport.

Baseball fans, and you should know this, are resilient and keep coming no matter the ups and downs of the sport.

It’s an amazing marriage. It truly is.

The Black Sox scandal didn’t stop folks from coming. Neither did segregation or Pete Rose’s gambling scandal that compromised the integrity of the game. Fans have, somehow, looked past the warts. They simply love the game.

If the gates were open on Wednesday in Baltimore, fans would have come. If it was safe enough for players, umpires and media members to attend the game, it was safe enough for fans.

The old show biz saying that the show must go on doesn’t apply here. Not without the sport’s backbone, that is.

Hopefully, Mr. Manfred, you will look at this moment, a big one in your early tenure as commissioner, and realize you erred. The official scorer would have a ruled an E-C, error commissioner.

For sure, fans still care about the game and hold it to a higher standard than any sport in this country.

It tells you just one thing. Baseball is still king and never gave up its place as the American Pastime.

The true measure of any sport, show, performance or event has always been ticket sales.

The DVD sales are a nice bonus for a movie, but the success of a motion picture is based and how many people actually pay to come to the theater.

In baseball, fans just can’t get enough. In 2014, MLB recorded its seventh-best attendance mark in history with 73.7 million fans attending games. All 10 of the top attendance seasons in the sport’s history have come in the last decade.

It truly is a testament about the mass appeal of the sport and the desire to go out to the ballgame.

That’s why fans can NEVER be left out.


Rob, the biggest baseball fan of them all.

Rob Parker is a columnist for The Shadow League. He is also an analyst for Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles. He co-hosts The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California.