Excerpt: When the Crowd Didn’t Roar

The following is an excerpt from When the Crowd Didn’t Roar: How Baseball’s Strangest Game Ever Gave a Broken City Hope (April 2019) by Kevin Cowherd

From the Prologue

Adam Jones awakens from a fitful sleep and gazes at the alarm clock.

Damn! Almost 7:30 already . . .

From the other room he can hear his thirteen-month-old son, August, stirring. This is Jones’s morning routine as a new dad: Drag himself out of bed in the early hours of a spring morning. Shuffle bleary-eyed to the little man’s crib before he goes into full meltdown mode. Bring him to his mama, Audie, who’s still sleeping peacefully.

Let her work her magic.

Yet even as the Baltimore Orioles’ All-Star center fielder throws off the covers, the worry that’s gnawed at him for days returns.

What’s going to happen to this city? he wonders.

He flashes back to when he was a little kid, seven years old, a black man named Rodney King arrested and beaten by white cops in Los Angeles, the whole thing captured on videotape. Then came a trial, a stunning acquittal, and folks pouring into the streets of South Central to vent their rage, beating people and burning buildings for days and days.

Is that going to happen here?

It’s a fair question right now. And Adam Jones is by no means the only one asking it.

Two days earlier Baltimore had exploded in a frightening spate of rioting following the death of a twenty-five-year-old African American named Freddie Gray from injuries suffered in police custody. Images of the looting and burning had been flashed all over the country—all over the world, for that matter—as Baltimore joined Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; Cleveland; and North Charleston, South Carolina, as a place of angry demonstrations following fatal encounters between young black men and law enforcement officials.

Yet now, less than thirty-six hours after the worst of the turmoil, with thousands of National Guard troops patrolling the streets to keep the uneasy peace, the Orioles are about to play the Chicago White Sox at Camden Yards in what Jones knows will be the strangest baseball game of his life.

Not only is the city still reeling, but, with dozens of police officers normally assigned to the stadium needed elsewhere to maintain order, the game will be held behind locked gates—the only one ever played without fans since the Major Leagues started in 1869.

Some way to make history, he thinks ruefully.


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