Heckling David Justice (with apologies to Halle Berry)
In every profession or hobby or activity of any kind, there is an elite class reserved for those who are truly the very best. However, “best” is an opinion based on relative quality, and, for the most part, isn’t particularly measurable. And people’s opinions can vary wildly because people’s personalities and interests vary wildly.
What one person thinks is the best, probably isn’t what another person thinks is the best. So, for the sake of not picking fights with each, we can say someone is “among the best.” That way your guy that’s the best and my guy that’s the best can co-exist in their best-ness.
Albert Pujols, Hanley Ramirez and Roy Halladay are considered “among the best” in baseball today. Tom Brady, LeBron James and Sidney Crosby are among the best in their respective sports. Dane Cook is among the best at douchebaggery. Donald Trump is among the best at having mesmerizingly terrible hair.
Conversely, in every profession or hobby or activity, there is a class of those considered to be the worst. I don’t want to get into naming names or pointing fingers – or even naming fingers – but the name Juan Uribe does come to mind.
At a live game, it’s great to be among the crowd, feeling the excitement and tension that makes baseball so great. And there are few things better than sitting near a really good heckler: “Hey, ump, you’re missing a great game.” “Yo, batter, maybe you’re a lefty!” “Hey, pitch, I’ve seen better arms on a beanbag chair!”
Some of the hecklers I’ve been near at games have been very good, maybe even among the best. And some have been awful, truly among the worst. But, I want to tell you about the absolutely worst heckler … of all time … Mike.
Again, “worst” is an opinion and everyone likely has a different measure for who or what is the worst. You may think you know or sat next to the worst heckler. But you are wrong. This is a fact — not an opinion. I’ll explain.
Back in the late ’90s, I used to go to games at Dodger Stadium with a wide variety of friends. And every now and then, we’d go as a big group. Back then, when you bought tickets to games, you could only get seats with the rest of the non-season ticket holders. That usually meant you were sitting among the other team’s fans.
This was especially true with the Braves. And this was the height of their success with Maddux, Glavine and Smoltz, so the fans come out in droves. There were five of us that night seated along the right field line — surrounded by Braves fans and that ridiculous, and borderline offensive, tomahawk chop.
The game got out of hand pretty quick, and the Braves took a sizable lead that they would not give up. After the third inning, it had become one of those games where it just felt like everyone knew it was over, from the players to the fans to the bat boys — even the peanut guy had lost his zeal.
Well, I’ve always fancied myself a pretty good heckler and I have a very loud voice, so it was time for me to get my money’s worth, on the ticket I had purchased, with some good-natured heckling.
My target was right fielder David Justice. He was the only player close enough to hear me and, most importantly, he had just separated from the lovely Halle Berry. I started in on a string of heckles:
“Hey, David, Halle says ‘hi.’”
“Hey, David, that Halle is one a heck of a cook.”
“Hey, David, Halle sure snores a lot, huh?”
“Hey, David, Halle let me wear one of your shirts.”
Sure it was petty, but we all thought it was funny. And “we all” includes most of the people sitting near us – Dodgers and Braves fans alike. Everyone knew I didn’t mean any harm to the star outfielder, and since it was a blowout, it provided some entertainment for a game that had very little. Until …
… my friend Mike stood up to join in the heckling.
Mike was one of my favorite people to go to games with. He loved baseball, but he was always looking at the game in ways that you and I would never even consider. He once asked me (seriously) what I would do if the team announced to the crowd that they needed me to report to the bullpen to pitch the next inning. Though I thought it was absurd, he explained the exact scenario wherein this could actually happen and would not relent until I had answered the question: “I would report to the bullpen.”
Anyway, Mike thought my heckles were pretty hilarious and he had to get involved. So, he stood up and then, as loud as he could, he said these exact words:
“Hey, David. Halle Berry is in my trunk.”
Yep. Go ahead, read it again.
The entire section went quiet. Mike sat down. No one said anything. I was certainly done heckling for the night.
Mike didn’t appear to know anything was weird.
My other friends and I tried not to make eye-contact with anyone. We kept expecting that security was going to escort us out or other fans would throw food and probably a restraining order was being drawn up as we sat there.
The Dodgers lost. And I think even the Braves fans felt like they lost a little piece of themselves that night. But we all will never forget the night we were sitting with, absolutely, the “worst” heckler of all time.