bradenton herald

Ya bum, ya!


Hecklers have own set of rules

Hilda Chester held a frying pan and an iron ladle and banged the two together from her seat in the Ebbets Field bleachers. What a racket. Annoying? Very. That’s why she’s a heckler hall of famer.

A Hall of Fame for yelling, jeering and needling from the stands? You betcha.

It exists in cyberspace, found at the Web site for the Heckle Depot.

You’d think there would be a corner at the Baseball Hall of Fame for Hilda Chester and her ilk. What’s more American then heckling at a baseball game?

Why, in 1888, Earnest L. Thayer penned the following:

” ‘Kill him! Kill the umpire!’ shouted someone in the stands;

And it’s likely they’d have killed him, had not Casey raised his hand.”

It’s good to quote from “Casey at the Bat,” every now and then.

Umpires and batters and pitchers and managers. They’ve all heard it.

Ya bum, ya!

Why hecklers? The Tampa Bay Devil Rays honored their very own Hilda Chester before Monday’s game against Boston. Rob Szasz, the guy who sits behind home plate and greets one opposing player per game with an endless stream of, what, heckles? You’ve heard him.

From inside your living room with the windows closed and the AC turned up, you can hear Szasz. And that’s with the TV off. With some of the crowds the Rays draw, it’s often like he’s the third man in the TV booth.

He wrote a book on heckling, Szasz did. Not the book on heckling, but a nice, cheery one. More polite than poison. It’s called, “The Happy Heckler.”

The first 5,000 people at the Trop on Monday received a Happy Heckler megaphone. Some used them to boo Szasz when he threw out the first pitch, invoking rule No. 6 of the Scientific Rules of Heckling published in The Sporting News in 1948 – what goes around can come around.

The author was none other than Pete Adelis, better known as the “Iron Lung of Shibe Park.”

His rules, scientific as they were, read as follows:

No. 1. No profanity.

No. 2. Nothing purely personal.

No. 3. Keep pouring it on.

No. 4. Know your players.

No. 5. Don’t be shouted down.

No. 6. Take it as well as give it.

No. 7. Give the old-timer a chance. He was a rookie once.

Doris Day could jeer with the best of them.

“Hey ump, shake your head. Your eyeballs are stuck,” she yelled during a scene in “That Touch of Mink.”

Lou Gehrig met his wife during an incident of heckle, if you can believe Hollywood.

Remember? “Hey tangle foot.”

Ty Cobb once went into the stands to confront a heckler. So did Babe Ruth.

So did 20 members of the Los Angeles Dodgers at Wrigley Field one spring day in 2000.

Hecklers come in all shapes and sizes, but usually the same volume. Loud.

The bad ones get shouted down or escorted from the stadium. They usually wake the next morning with a killer of a hangover.

The good ones? Well, they are beloved as Jackie and PeeWee and the Duke.

Some write books and are booed when tossing the first pitch.

But, hey, it wasn’t purely personal.

Roger Mooney, sports writer, can be reached at 745-7080, ext. 2112, or

Roger Mooney