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.

 
 

7 Comments

  1. Michael says:

    Well he’s obnoxious, so there’s that.

    Nobody who isn’t sloshed on seven Miller Lights enjoys dudes screaming at ballgames.

    It’s not so bad behind home plate I guess because his voice is mostly directed at the field, but if you sit anywhere beyond the dugouts, you get one of these champions sitting next to you, they’re right in your ear.

    I think they don’t want to promote or encourage people being jackasses at the stadium, and rightfully so. The Rays do not need bleacher creatures, no matter how family friendly.

  2. ali says:

    It’s strange, you never hear Dwayne talk about Robert, but a few weeks ago Dwayne did mention the old gentleman that sits behind home plate almost every game when a foul ball landed near him. I’ll ask Todd next time I see him

  3. SLMcgee says:

    Oh, so that’s the asshole who owns the voice that makes me want to smash my television when watching the game. Good to know. Someone yelling in your ear all night has never been a fun part of going to a game.

  4. miked78 says:

    I agree that when I hear his annoying voice it instantly reminds me of an old Devil Rays game with no one in the stands. I hate hearing him!!!

  5. Dre says:

    i know he was included in a few videos that used to run during games, in between innings. example: for 80′s night in 2007, they did a parody of “We Are the World” and replaced some words to make it “We Are The Rays”. They included some of their most notorious fans at the time, including Happy Heckler, the folks up in the Belfry, the Jonnies for Jonny just to name a few.
    i also know that for whatever reason (i can either assume complaints or just annoyance for the guys running the live show), they turn down the microphone in his area when they start hearing him. it was noticeable last night actually. they turn him down and that made some other background chatter elsewhere more audible.
    i personally think he’s great. i’m thinking he is more a thorn in the side of the tv crew than the organization itself. if you are the one blessed with the headset attached to the mic that picks him up it’s got to be annoying. but i dont know any official reason that he isnt talked about.

  6. Beth says:

    I find him unbelievably annoying and I’m glad they don’t encourage him.

    I’m all for quirky fans — let them wear blue wigs, or paint themselves green, or, like the two guys the TV cameras found this weekend, wear Luke Scott facial hair. I don’t even mind the cowbells, appropriately deployed.

    But that guy’s shrieks are like nails on a chalkboard. When I heard he’d suffered a financial setback and wasn’t attending games I cheered.

  7. Some actually say the Cowbell became a weapon to drown out his voice a bit. the high pitch from the Cowbell tends to mute his voice a bit. Maybe the Raysvision higher-ups, mandated a code of silence on his antics just like the camera crews used to try and avoid showing the Cowbell Kid after some of his own hijinks. Would be interesting to corner someone with the Rays and get the solid and full truth.

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