Heckling was life. And we were good at it.
“Gregory! I hope your mommy packed you a lunch because it’s going to be a long day!”
Dollar tickets, dollar hot dogs, a quick BART ride were obvious incentives, but more important were the opportunities to skip school, sit front row in the Coliseum’s left field bleachers, and help out our team any way we could.
We’d discovered there was something special about Major League Baseball. The fact that there’s a level of interaction between fans and athletes you just don’t get in any of the other major sports.
Especially if you’re sitting in the cheap seats.
Think you could get Joakim Noah to wave at you after you yell “Who’s your hairstylist?” from the rafters of the American Airlines Arena? Or get Alex Ovechkin to translate the sign language for “dentist” through the glass at Madison Square Garden?
The NFL, NBA, NHL, PGA, NASCAR—none can compete with Major League Baseball in terms of getting their athletes within ear shot of their fans, coupled with the high probability that those athletes have an opportunity to turn around and engage them mid-game.
And while I’ve heard hundreds of knee-slappers spouted from the affluent seating sections, those within an arm’s reach of home plate, the most entertaining place for heckling players is from the outfield bleachers. That’s why I’ve been sitting there with my buddies since high school.
There’s a few key reasons. Strength in numbers—bleacher creatures feed off one another. Fans get away with more out there—it’s like the groundlings at The Globe, the outdoor smoking section at bars, the comment forum on Chris Chase articles. Outfielders are just standing there, by themselves—think you got bored in little league so you resorted to chasing butterflies? Try standing out there for 9 innings, 162 times a year. You’d be begging for someone—something—to interact with you.
And that’s where bleacher bums come in.
Despite new stadiums boasting more advanced seating arrangements and ever-increasing ticket prices, most of these baseball parks have continued to support the tradition of a bleacher-like environment over the outfield fences. It’s one aspect of the fan-experience Major League Baseball is continuing to get right.
But fans need to keep the heckling creative. Keep it away from players’ wives, kids, family members. Don’t be like the few Texas Rangers fans that threatened Hamilton’s wife and kids. Heckling is not threatening someone or using profanities. Heckling is creative banter meant to distract the other team. Like A’s fans throwing butterfingers at Josh Hamilton from the right field bleachers (pre-game, mind you), reminding him of the dropped fly ball that cost his team the Western division title last season. Even Hamilton couldn’t hold back a smile and a bite into one of them.
Take an example from these fans. Do your homework. Go in with some material, you can’t trust your smart phone to get a signal now that everyone’s sucking up bandwidth by keeping score on their iPads.
Keep in mind: the quieter the stadium, or the less fans in the seats, the easier it is for a player to hear the individual fan. So bide your time. Screaming a few words right before a pitch is my favorite. But find a time that works for you.
Learn phrases in other languages. The league is ripe with talent from all over the globe and if you think just using English is going to cut it, then you’re in for staring at the outfielders’ numbers all game. Spanish is the clear front runner. But don’t forget Japanese and Korean.
Don’t heckle your own team. I had a buddy who loved calling former A’s outfielder Nick Swisher, Dick Squisher. Problem was, he was on our team. As cool of a dude as Swish was and still is, let’s just say he’d turn around with his arms up, like, really, bro? Keep the heckling to the opposing team. You want your athletes’ heads in the game.
Know the opposition. Ten years ago all I had to yell at the Kansas City Royals outfielders was “You play for the Royals!” Nowadays that’s not going to get Alex Gordon to turn around. Find out a fact from his career that’s embarrassing, make a pun off of his name, tell him he’s on the bench on your fantasy team, find out his favorite bar and offer to take him there after the game. Find that one fact and you’re golden. Just one.
That’s why we’re here. I’ve compiled a few examples for fans this week–teams at home with at least two teams coming to town. You are the lucky ones.
Your Heckler’s Guide for May 14-May 19:
Miami Marlins fans
Reds – CF Shin Soo Choo – If your carnival game out in center field doesn’t distract Choo then try some good Korean phrases. My favorite? Shout “Dong chim!” at the top of your lungs, holding your hands together with interlocking fingers, making sure to keep your index fingers out, pointing at Choo. Last time I did this to Choo he went 0-4, got picked off first base, and had an error in right field.
DBacks – RF Cody Ross – Ross wanted to be a rodeo clown when he was a kid, no joke. That’s gotta be inspiration for something.
New York Yankees fans
Mariners – CF Michael Saunders – The Colonel. Ask him if he ate the bones. Plus he’s Canadian. That joke never ends, ay?
Blue Jays – LF Melky Cabrera – Wow. You really can’t go wrong with the Toronto outfield in town. But Cabrera winning an all-star MVP award while taking synthetic testosterone? “MelkMan? Juice Man!” Or “At least Reggie Bush gave his trophy back!” Or “Cabrera, can you send me the link to that website you made?”
Baltimore Orioles fans
Padres – LF Carlos Quentin – Dodgers fans are waiting for his return to LA, but the left field bleachers at Camden Yards can go the easy route, encouraging the batter hit by pitch the most over the last few years to lean in some more. Or you can take him back to 2008, when he broke his wrist after hitting his own bat, in frustration no less.
Rays – LF Matt Joyce – Dude has a .067 batting average against lefties this season. If that’s not a good stat to scream I don’t know what is.
Pittsburgh Pirates fans
Brewers- LF Ryan Braun – PNC Parkers could go the easy route and criticize the miracle that was his overturned PED suspension, but avoid it, instead head to Kinkos and make a few blow-ups of lemurs. Dude looks just like one.
Astros – CF Robbie Grossman – Don’t know if skipping college was such a good idea, especially with a batting average below the mendoza line. Teammate J.D. Martinez, too. LF Brandon Barnes is the only one above .200, at a whopping .259. Take your pick. Barnes came to Houston after speaking with his pastor. How’s that working out?
Oakland Athletics fans
Rangers – RF Nelson Cruz – Been to the World Series twice. Lost both times. How does it feel to come up short? Or start a chant. Clap, clap, clap-clap-clap. BIO-GENISIS!
Royals – RF Jeff Francouer – Francouer usually buys the right field bleachers pizza whenever he’s in town like he’s Obi Wan Kenobi trying to fool us. But A’s fans need to harness their inner immunity to the Jedi mind tricks and go after the -2.3WAR player last season. Or yell “Peanuts! Get your peanuts!” every time he grabs his junk. Try it as a drinking game. You’ll be drunk by the third frame. Trust me.
Philadelphia Phillies fans
Indians – RF Dick Squisher. For old times’ sake.
Reds – RF Shin Soo Choo – See Choo’s entry. Or try shouting the Korean Baseball chant he’s sure to recognize: “Dae Han-Mingook!” Then shout “My-Nah Lee-Ga!“
Minnesota Twins fans
White Sox – Twins fans better practice their Spanish this week if they’re looking to get into the heads of the White Sox starting outfield as they hail from Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. All I got is shouting Alexis! at Alex Rios. Why change the name, Alexis?
Red Sox – LF Daniel Nava – Hard to heckle Cinderella stories as awesome as this one, with Nava being cut from his high school baseball team, but he leaves a free ticket for Erin Andrews at his games hoping she’ll attend someday. Try something along the lines of “Hey Nava, Erin isn’t showing up. Can I have her ticket for tomorrow’s game?”
Los Angeles Angels fans
Royals – LF Alex Gordon – Gordon was a Nebraska Cornhusker in his college diamond days. I’ll leave this one to you, Angels fans. I’d go after Francouer.
White Sox – LF Dayan Viciedo – Viciedo is tearing through May thus far, so you SoCal bros are going to have to get into his head if you want to avoid falling behind the Astros in the AL West. He strained an oblique earlier in the season that left the Sox all-but crippled. Try to entice him to reach over the fence. Maybe try your hand at a Cuban recipe or two and offering him a piece. Reach Viciedo! Reach!