As the Baltimore Orioles took the field Wednesday in front of empty stands at Camden Yards, they also took a dubious distinction away from the Worcester Worcesters, a long-defunct franchise that for 133 years held the title for lowest paid attendance at a major league game.
It’s not that the Orioles couldn’t sell tickets for their tilt against the Chicago White Sox. The team decided that the game shouldn’t draw on public safety resources at a time when the city is facing violence and protests after the death of Freddie Gray.
The paid attendance for the game was announced at zero (though some media and staff were on hand to see it live).
According to the record books, the previous low for paid attendance at a baseball game was six at a game played in Worcester on Sept. 28, 1882.
John Thorn, Major League Baseball’s official historian, said there wasn’t much reason to attend the game: The weather was bad, both teams were bad, and the National League had just decided to disband them.
“When news of this came through, combined with fall cold ... there was very little incentive for fans to come out,” Thorn said.
In the end, the Worcesters lost, 4-1, to Troy, N.Y.
With Worcester and Troy gone the following year, the National League welcomed the Philadelphia and New York franchises that are now the Phillies and San Francisco Giants.
For all the time that Worcester held the low-attendance record, very few people realized the city was home to such a strange piece of history.
Brian Goslow, a local baseball historian who has written about the Worcesters, said he found out about the distinction only this week with the record at stake.
Even the city’s other Major League Baseball distinction — Worcester pitcher John Lee Richmond threw the first perfect game in 1880 — took a while to acquire its significance as fans became more interested in statistics.
At the time, that was just another well-pitched game.
And in the poorly attended 1882 game, the loss was just another obscure defeat for a moribund franchise.