Up close and personal: MLB players on their best (or worst) fan heckles
A version of this story appears in the March 27, 2017 issue of SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. Subscribe to the magazine here.
The fan experience at a baseball game can be an odd one: Unlike with football or basketball, where screaming or waving can help cause a false start or a missed free throw, it’s hard to have an impact. Especially at older jewel-box ballparks, fans are practically on the field, and yet other than the occasional Steve Bartman, they exist in a separate world. But every once in a while, a voice emerges from the crowd with a particularly creative insult, and while you may not be the 12th man, the players do hear you. As Opening Day approaches, we asked some of them to share their favorite heckles with SI.
"When I was in rookie ball, someone yelled at me, 'You need a steak sandwich!'"
—Marlins 2B Dee Gordon, who weighed 150 lbs. at the time
"I was on deck and this guy was with his girlfriend, and he was like, 'Brandon, you can't hit! You swing like your mama!' And he goes, 'You can't get around on a fastball! You have a slow bat! You can't get around on nothing!' And I turned around and I said, 'I bet I can get around on your girl!' And everybody in the section was laughing, and he didn't say nothing for the rest of the game. I end up getting a hit, and I'm looking at him, blowing kisses at his girl, and she's laughing. I turned that one around a little bit, I guess."
—Braves 2B Brandon Phillips
"I wear my pants quite high, and I've been called Steve Urkel a lot. I have a high belly button and long legs! People don't realize that!"
—Braves 1B Freddie Freeman
"The one they'd get on me with all the time was, 'Trim those sideburns!' from The Simpsons episode. It's everywhere! We went to Australia a few years back, and it was everywhere."
—Marlins manager Don Mattingly
"The funniest one I can remember is a fan calling me Turtle, like from Entourage, in San Francisco when I was with the Dodgers. It got in my head! I was on deck. 'Hey, Turtle!' I knew exactly what he was talking about, because it was one of my favorite shows, and then the actor lost a little bit of weight and I was like, Hey, he doesn't look too bad! I'll take it!"
—Blue Jays C Russell Martin
"Publicly, I really can’t repeat what my best and worst one was, ‘cause it was quite vulgar, considering my last name. So you can put those pieces together."
—Astros OF Josh Reddick