Where did you get the idea for the site?
In 1996 a few friends and myself were at the SkyDome (we’d got tickets from Toronto’s FAN590) sitting behind the bullpen where Matt Walbeck among othere were sitting. We were giving it to the Twins bullpen. Very lame stuff. Anyway after a few innings Walbeck stands up all disgusted and says “you guys are the worse hecklers I have ever heard!”. So I thought there must be some good reference material out there somewhere so checked out the library etc, but found nothing. I wrote down some I’d seen from movies. Once I got a computer I posted in some newsgroups looking for the funniest thing anyone has heard at the park and the response was huge. I posted some of the best ones on a web page (had never built one before) and started collecting them.
Do you remember exactly what you said to Matt Walbeck?
There was a pitcher named Greg Hansell sitting next to Walbeck in the bullpen. I think the line was “Hey Hansel, where’s Grettel”
How frequently do you update the site with new barbs and other content?
Usually a dozen heckles are submitted each day. Now that the site has reached 2000 heckles, there are not too many original ones out there we haven’t already catalogued. “Hey Ump, if you had another eye you’d be a Cyclops!” has been submitted 100’s of times.
What are your favorite heckles?
My personal favorites:
I thought only horses slept standing up!
Flip over the plate and read the directions
How can you eat with those hands?
I’ve gotten better calls from my ex-wife!
You couldn’t save anything at a Walmart sale!
You couldn’t pitch a tent!
That balls going over your head, just like Sesame Street!
Nice play, Shakespeare!
Cinderella gets to the ball faster than you do!
You’ve had fewer hits than Vanilla Ice!
This guy couldn’t hit a shift key
How’s your Japanese?
I’ve got internet stocks in better shape than you!
I’ve seen snakes with better hands!
Is heckling an art? Why/why not?
Heckling is definitely an art that can affect the outcome of a game – if you rattle the opposing players. Any time you take their (opposing players) attention away from the game you’ve given your team an advantage. There are plenty of sent in stories posted on the site where the fans claim to have won the game for their team. Yelling profanity is not an art, it is not what the site is about at all. It’s not about being too personal, or insulting either. I try to post only heckles that are witty and original. I don’t post any heckle or story where I think it’s poor taste.
What has been your favorite aspect of the Web site?
I really enjoy the heckles and stories that are sent in, sometimes a dozen a day. I get a lot of mail saying how much they enjoy the site – one from an ump this week that said it had him in tears. Though there aren’t too many sent in anymore that I haven’t heard.
Why do fans heckle? They bought the right to heckle when they bought the tickets? Alcohol?
Baseball is such a slow sport, the fan is left with plenty of time to think up great lines – and plenty of opportunity to deliver them. Baseball more than any other sport creates this atmosphere that’s a combination of nothing happening (I read somewhere that the ball is in play for 5 minutes a game?), players who look deserted and friendless (i.e. outfielders), and fans who are there to enjoy themselves. The other major sports are either too fast, loud, or the action is too far away from the seats to be worth heckling.
Early on in my creating the website, a fan wrote in a story where his answer to someone telling him to stop his heckling was to say “Hey, baseball ain’t the Opera!”. I use that as a tag line for the site because it cuts through this idea that these athletes are somehow performing brain surgery on the field and we’ve all come to watch them “work”. Their reasoning is “How would you like it if they came to your workplace and heckled you?” Well if I my job included standing in a park shagging flies for 3 hours a day, you’re more than welcome to come and heckle me – as long as I can keep my job.
Hard-working people go to the park to forget about their day at work, and that is exactly what the game of baseball provides, a diversion. Heckling also shows that the crowd is into the game, and is enjoying themselves. Crowds that are enjoying themselves keep coming back, which is surely what MLB wants.
What reaction is the heckler trying to get from the player?
Home town fans are against the visitors and they do their part by rattling the opponent. Every time you divert their attention of the visiting teams player away from the game you’ve helped your team win. While on deck, on the way to the plate, in the batters box – we’re told these are times when the batter needs to concentrate fully. If Yogi was right, and baseball is 90% mental, then hecklers are a big part of any “home field advantage”. Any gesture, or look, or even a chuckle that you get from the player takes his mind out of the game.
What constitutes crossing the line, if anything?
Anything personal, racial, or obscene has no place at the ballpark. Neither does physical contact like pouring beer on people or throwing coins – both way over the line. You stay safely away from the line with lines that are topical, witty, and original. For example in Dodger Stadium shortly after the brawl in stands 4 years ago — a fan behind the Dodger dugout yelled at Chad Kreuter : “Hey Kreuter, I just bought your cap on eBay!” Which was a fantastic line meeting those 3 criteria.
Mentioned In the Press…
- Sports Illustrated Sept 17-2001
- ESPN Magazine Oct 11-2004
- Mens Health April – 2011
- Access Magazine
- Dallas News (6/27/01)
- Houston Chronicle
- LA Times
- National Post
- Net News Today (audio clip)
- Seattle Times
- USA Today (8/8/00)
- Yahoo POTW
- Jerusalem Post
- Fort-Worth StrTeleg (10/25/99)
- Bradenton Herald
- New Hampshire Gazette
- Wall Street Journal
- Kentucky New Era (2/12/03)
- The Globe & Mail (6/25/02)
- Dallas News (9/17/04)
- Fort-Worth StrTeleg (9/19/04)
- Sacramento Bee (9/30/04)
- Bradenton Herald (10/14/04)
- USA Today (11/17/04)
- Bradenton Herald (7/25/05)
- St. Louis Post-Dispatch (4/13/06)
- Seattle Times (4/14/06)
- MyrtleBeachOnline (4/18/06)
- LA Times (4/17/06)
- NorthEast Mississippi Daily Journal (4/20/06)
- North County Times (9/2/06)
- Cleveland – The Plain Dealer (9/20/06)