The Happy Heckler was back last night for the second time this season. It was his usual schtick*, sitting in his old seats, and heckling Brett Lawrie of the Blue Jays.
* If you are not familiar, the Happy Heckler sits behind home plate, picks one player from the opposing lineup, and heckles that players each time he bats. The heckles are typically good-natured, and never vulgar. However, they are very loud. Robert Szasz used to be a season-ticket holder, and attended most games. He even wrote a book. However, the real estate developer was sued for defaulting on millions of dollars in loans following the 2008 season, and hadn’t been heard again at The Trop until earlier this season
But then something hit us. The television and radio crews for the visiting teams mention the Heckler (Robert Szasz) all the time. But we don’t recall the Rays television crew ever mentioning the Rays’ second most famous fan. So we asked around, and nobody else seems to recall his antics being mentioned either, whether by the current crew or even back in the day.
This shunning has to be a conscious decision. Even if they are just used to the antics, you would think they would mention him occasionally.
As we asked around, we came across some interesting notes. Most interesting is that Szasz was not only recognized by the old ownership group, but was used in promotions. Here’s a video we had never seen before that was produced by the Wall Street Journal during the 2008 World Series (via @reverendmalibu)…
So what changed? It appears that the Rays started ignoring Szasz long before his financial troubles. Was this a decision made by the announcers (past and present)? Is it an order that comes from above? Is this like networks not showing a streaker, to keep from encouraging others? Is the Heckler a sore point with Rays players who may find the noise annoying and distracting? Or is the Heckler just a sad reminder of a time when 8,000 people in the Trop was the rule rather than the exception?
If anybody knows more, we would love to hear it in the comments.