Robert Szasz

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Robert Szasz, also known as The Happy Heckler, is a real estate developer and has been a well-known heckler at Tampa Bay Rays baseball games for several seasons.

A native of Toronto, Ontario, Szasz relocated to Florida in 1984 and resides in Clearwater, Florida. He held season tickets for the then-Devil Rays from 2000 until the end of the 2008 season, sitting in club seats behind home plate at Tropicana Field.[1] He would choose one player from the opposing team to insult during a game or series, waiting until the player stepped into the batter's box before shouting a barrage of insults regarding the player's playing ability. Between the typically small and quiet crowds at Devil Rays game during the early 2000s and his booming voice, Szasz's heckling was often heard on television and radio broadcasts of the team's games.

Szasz's heckling visibly rattled players on multiple occasions. He once heckled the Mariners' Bret Boone so viciously that when Boone struck out, he threw down his batting helmet and started yelling back at Szasz. In another instance, outfielder José Guillén offered Szasz an autographed baseball bat if he would stop heckling him in a game. Szasz says he didn't heckle with profanity, nor did he insult a player about a personal thing such as weight or height. He says he tried to only heckle a player on their baseball ability. Although rare, Szasz also heckled opposing pitchers.

Szasz became a controversial figure. Some fans, television viewers, and media that covered the Rays complained about his volume and abrasiveness, while others enjoyed his heckling. In any case, he became one of the more famous fans in Tampa Bay Rays baseball history, and was known throughout the American League.

In 2008, Szasz released a book entitled The Happy Heckler. In 2009, banks filed several lawsuits against him for defaulting on more than $9 million in loans that he personally signed for, and Wachovia Bank foreclosed on his 7,000-square-foot (650 m2) waterfront home on Snell Isle.[2] Szasz did not renew his Rays season tickets for 2009 and was not heard heckling in Tropicana Field again until April 30, 2012 during a game against the Seattle Mariners.[3]

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References[edit]

  1. ^ When shown occasionally on camera during games, he was located in Section 101, Row D, Seat 1. Example, Florida Marlins @ Tampa Bay Rays, Marlins broadcast on FSN Florida, 2008-06-13
  2. ^ Bank gives Tampa Bay Rays' high-profile heckler a Bronx cheer - St. Petersburg Times
  3. ^ Cork Gaines (April 30, 2012). "The Happy Heckler Is Back!". Rays Index. Retrieved 2012-04-30. 

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