"'You're Out!': Extraordinary Presence and Absence at the Ballpark"

ABSTRACT: On April 27th and 28th, 2015, as public demonstrations in downtown Baltimore following the funeral of Freddie Gray intensified and city officials declared a state of emergency and imposed an evening curfew, Major League Baseball and the Baltimore Orioles cancelled two games between the Orioles and the Chicago White Sox. By the evening of April 28th, daunted by the proposition of rescheduling additional games, MLB and the Orioles announced a new solution: the next day’s game would be played in Camden Yards, the Orioles’ home stadium, just feet from the active protests, but would be closed to the public who had purchased tickets. Television and radio broadcasts transmitted the unusual scene to local audiences: MLB teams playing to a completely empty stadium.

This paper explores not just the phenomenon of the closed game and the trans-contextual reshaping of the stadium as performance space, but also the ways that highly theatrical conventions were surprisingly maintained. The Orioles’ “game presentation” staff kept not only the performances of the National Anthem and “God Bless America,” but also the introductions of players and promotional advertisements read by Public Address Announcer Ryan Wagner and the “walkup music” chosen by players to pump up the crowd. How might the shifting performance conditions move the stadium between Mike Pearson’s distinctions of “auditorium” and “site”?*  How do the homogenous conventions of this performance consider the immense variety of the absent fans and protestors just outside the gates? How might consideration of events like live sports contribute to current discourses on site-based performance?