SAN DIEGO — It was in the fourth inning that a lone voice broke through the music and artificial crowd noise at Petco Park.
“Attention: Members of the Houston Astros organization that participated in the sign-stealing scandal of 2017 and 2018,” a man’s voice said through what sounded like a megaphone. “You all are a bunch of cheaters. The global baseball community has not forgotten your transgressions against the game.”
Yes, fans are still going to great lengths to publicly chastise the Houston Astros for their cheating scheme, revealed last winter. With no fans at the stadium on Wednesday night for Game 4 of the American League Championship Series between the Astros and the Tampa Bay Rays, the voice coming from somewhere beyond the outfield could be heard loud and clear, listing each Houston player remaining on the roster from those seasons.
“Jose Altuve: You are a cheater, shame on you,” the man said. “Carlos Correa: You are a cheater, shame on you.”
For about 30 seconds in the Astros’ 4-3 win, Tim Kanter had done something many fans wished they could: Tell the players who won the 2017 World Series to their faces — or backs, to be more precise — how they felt.
“If this had been a normal year without Covid, then the Astros would have heard this hundreds of times by now,” Kanter said.
Kanter, 30, is a Chicago native and White Sox fan who has lived in San Diego for several years. He works at a software company in one of the buildings that overlook Petco Park, and the balcony has an enviable view of the field.
So when the Astros were on the verge of advancing to the A.L.C.S., Kanter concocted a plan and shared it with friends: He would find a megaphone loud enough to be heard on the field from the balcony and read a prepared statement to the Astros. His friends pitched in to help buy the $200 device.
“My math teacher would be proud of me,” Kanter said. “I used the Pythagorean theorem to calculate the distance from the balcony to home plate. It’s about 700 feet.”
With the Astros leading, 2-0, in the top of the fourth inning, Kanter calmly read his message. Altuve, the second baseman, turned to look briefly beyond the outfield, perhaps wondering where the voice was coming from. Houston outfielder George Springer said after the game that he had not heard a heckler, but others in the stadium certainly noticed.
After naming the Astros one by one, Kanter also had a message for Rob Manfred, the commissioner of Major League Baseball. Even though the Astros and three officials were penalized by M.L.B., Manfred granted players immunity to cooperate with the investigation — a move that was roundly criticized.
Kanter found this unsatisfactory, pointing to punishments for non-Astros players such as Joe Kelly, of the Los Angeles Dodgers, who fired a pitch behind Houston’s Alex Bregman and taunted Correa during a game earlier this year.
“We condemn Rob Manfred’s unwillingness to hold players accountable for bringing shame to our beautiful sport,” Kanter said over the megaphone. “Remember: Cheating is wrong. Please do not cheat.”
He added in a phone interview after the game: “I thought it was a big enough stage to get that point across and hopefully just drive home that point because the apologies that the Astros have offered up to this point have been unimpressive, and also about the lack of any sort of punishment to the players directly.”
Kanter said he wasn’t seeking attention for himself — which he admitted was odd for a man using a powerful megaphone during a nationally televised baseball game. He was initially hesitant to give his full name when a reporter first reached out.
But Kanter believed that those Astros players — and Manfred — needed to hear directly from a fan during a season in which that hasn’t happened much at the stadiums. “I was trying to speak for baseball fans,” he said.
Kanter’s address was short — “I didn’t want to go on a long soliloquy about ethics,” he said — and relatively early in the game, by design. He said he didn’t want to disrupt his neighbors or the action on the field.
Despite the Astros’ victory, the Rays lead the best-of-seven series, three games to one, and sit one win away from reaching the World Series. Like many fans outside Houston, Kanter has found himself pulling for the Rays partly because of the Astros’ transgressions.
Fans of rival teams also cheered the mysterious heckler for his actions on Wednesday night, some even labeling him a hero or deserving of an award. Told of this, Kanter laughed.
“This is going to sound really corny: We studied heroes in mythology classes, and they’re half-god and half-man,” he said. “I assure you that I’m 100 percent a man and totally flawed in the ways that we all are. I saw an opportunity to act in a way that I thought was right and just. And that is something we can do in every decision and every situation.”