Camden Yards was dark last night. So were all the other major-league ballparks in the aftermath of yesterday's horrific terrorist attack.
Baseball commissioner Bud Selig ordered the postponement of all 15 scheduled games, both for reasons of public safety and out of respect for the victims of the coordinated assault on four airliners, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. It was the first time in 57 years that a slate of regular-season games was postponed for reasons other than labor unrest.
"In the interest of security and out of a sense of deep mourning for the national tragedy that has occurred today, all major-league baseball games for today have been canceled," Selig said in a statement released soon after the attack.
The last time the majors called off a day of the regular season in the wake of a huge historical event was on June 6, 1944 - D-Day - when Allied troops invaded France and turned the tide of World War II. The schedule also was interrupted for one day on Aug. 2, 1923, after the death of President Warren G. Harding, and the exhibition schedule was canceled on April 14, 1945, two days after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
The baseball schedule also has been affected twice for lengthier periods. The 1918 season was cut short by a month during World War I by order of the U.S. War Department, and the 1989 "Bay Bridge" World Series was interrupted for 12 days after a major earthquake in the San Francisco Bay area.
"It's a horrible tragedy for our country," Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos said. "Certainly, the cancellation of the baseball schedule was in order. That's the appropriate move to make on this very tragic day."
The Orioles were scheduled to open a six-day, seven-game homestand at Oriole Park last night with a game against the Toronto Blue Jays. No decision has been made on today's major-league schedule, but Selig hinted the season could be interrupted for several days. He also postponed a quarterly owners meeting scheduled to begin yesterday in Milwaukee.
"I will continue to monitor the situation on a daily basis and make ongoing decisions accordingly," Selig said. "My deepest sympathy and prayers go out to the families and victims of this horrendous series of events."
Orioles officials said they had no idea when games may resume, and unlike the Howard Street tunnel train derailment in July that forced rescheduling of three games, there was no press for a decision, given the magnitude of yesterday's tragedy.
"It's such an enormous catastrophe," Angelos said, "trying to estimate how much time should elapse before everyone attempts to return to normal is almost impossible. It's so fresh."
Baseball officials, as well as those of other high-profile professional and college sports, have to consider the wisdom of reopening stadiums to thousands of fans so soon after a terrorist attack that clearly was intended to exact the highest possible human toll.
"Whenever it's deemed safe to hold large public gatherings again, we'll resume, but I'm sure we won't do it until then," Atlanta Braves president Stan Kasten said.
Yankee Stadium, located about 10 miles from the World Trade Center, was evacuated within 90 minutes of yesterday's attack. Club officials were sent home, and security was beefed up around the historic ballpark, which is one of the most recognizable symbols of America's national pastime.
Baseball sources indicated yesterday that certain franchises, especially those in New York, may experience more postponements than others. Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss said he had no idea whether Camden Yards' proximity to Washington might create potential for longer delay for the Orioles than other teams.
Angelos and Foss learned of the disaster while driving to Dulles International Airport to catch an 11:45 a.m. flight to Milwaukee, where the owners meeting was scheduled to begin yesterday afternoon. Shortly after hearing a commercial jet that had taken off from Dulles had slammed into the Pentagon, Foss and Angelos could see smoke rising from the south.
"It was a little bizarre," Foss said.
The Orioles closed their warehouse offices shortly after being notified by the commissioner's office of last night's postponement.
"I think right now everybody is reacting to the unfortunate tragedy that is affecting the country," Foss said. "It comes at an incredible time. We were told to cancel games today and play it on a day-to-day basis. My response would be to assess where the country is before Major League Baseball tries to determine what individual clubs are going to do.
"We have to wait until the president of the United States indicates the country is safe and secure before baseball resumes. I know Commissioner Selig will act appropriately. Baseball is recreation and entertainment for people. There's a time and a place for that."