Joc Pederson shows reporters the GIF he sent to a fantasy football group chat, which incensed Tommy Pham.
Joc Pederson shows reporters the GIF he sent to a fantasy football group chat, which incensed Tommy Pham.

Jewish Giant Joc Pederson gets slapped by an opposing player — over fantasy football

A pregame altercation between Jewish San Francisco Giants slugger Joc Pederson and an opposing player Friday actually had little to do with baseball — and everything to do with… fantasy football?

In one of the oddest sports beefs in memory, Cincinnati Reds outfielder Tommy Pham approached Pederson during warmups and, with seemingly no words exchanged, slapped him across the face. The two were then separated by teammates.

The story only gets stranger.

After the game, Pederson, seemingly mostly bemused by the whole thing, said the incident stemmed from a disagreement that arose more than a year ago about roster maneuvering in the fantasy league he and Pham played in with several other MLB pros. Pederson said Pham accused him of cheating in a group text.

Pederson said there was “no real argument” immediately preceding the slap, which earned Pham a three-game suspension.

“He kind of came up and said, I dunno, ‘You remember from last year?’” Pederson recalled. “And I was like, ‘Fantasy football?” And he was like, ‘Yeah.’”

He added, “I don’t think violence is the answer.”

Reminiscent of the Will Smith-Chris Rock slap at the Academy Awards earlier this year, the incident involved two of the sport’s most confident and colorful players, who took vastly different paths to the big leagues — which may help explain how each handled the dispute.

Pederson, the son of a former MLB player, was once one of the sport’s top prospects, and made the All-Star team as a 23-year-old rookie. He developed a reputation as a clutch home-run hitter on World Series runs with the Dodgers and Braves. And he’s famously one of the game’s quirkier characters — wearing a pearl necklace during last postseason, and choosing Abba’s “Dancing Queen” as his walkup song this year. When Pham smacked him, Pederson was sporting a mohawk and a thin blonde walrus mustache.

RELATED: Palo Alto-born Jewish slugger Joc Pederson returns home to play for Giants

On the other hand, Pham was mired in the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league system through his late-20s. When he finally broke out as a 30-year-old, he told Sports Illustrated that the team’s front office didn’t respect him. Not as high-profile — or as highly paid — as Pederson, Pham’s brash competitiveness is legion. He’s what people around baseball reverently refer to as a gamer.

Louis Keene
Louis Keene

Louis Keene is a staff reporter at the Forward. He can be reached at or on Twitter @thislouis.


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