John Rocker: Wikis

  
  

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John Rocker
Pitcher
Born: October 17, 1974 (1974-10-17) (age 35)
Statesboro, Georgia
Batted: Right Threw: Left 
MLB debut
May 5, 1998 for the Atlanta Braves
Last MLB appearance
May 14, 2003 for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Career statistics
Win–Loss record     13–22
Earned run average     3.42
Saves     88
Strikeouts     332
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • 4th in the NL in saves in 1999 with 38

John Loy Rocker (born October 17, 1974) is a retired American Major League Baseball relief pitcher who played for the Atlanta Braves, the Cleveland Indians, the Texas Rangers, and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays as well as the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. He threw left-handed and batted right-handed.

Rocker is a native of Macon, Georgia. He resides in Atlanta.

Contents

Early career

Rocker was a star pitcher for First Presbyterian Day School in Macon, Georgia.[1] Notably, Rocker threw three no-hitters during his high school career. He was soon drafted by the Atlanta Braves.

The next year, he was promoted to the major-league club and was named their closer after an injury to regular closer Kerry Ligtenberg. Rocker finished the 1998 season with an earned run average of 2.13 in 38 innings pitched. 1999 proved to be Rocker's best year statistically, and after becoming the Braves' full-time closer, he converted 38 saves and had an ERA of 2.49 in 74 games.

In June 2000, Rocker was demoted for threatening a reporter, and Jason Marquis was called up to the majors for the first time by the Braves.[2]

Controversy

For a story published in the January 2000 issue of Sports Illustrated, Rocker made a number of comments stemming from his experiences in New York City, and answered a question about whether he would ever play for the New York Yankees or the New York Mets. Rocker's response was accused of being racist, homophobic, and sexist:

I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?[3]

During the interview, he made his feelings about the New York Mets and their fans known:

Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, 'Hey, I did your mother last night — she's a whore.' I talked about what degenerates they were and they proved me right.

The interview was conducted while driving to a speaking engagement in Atlanta. The reporter wrote that during the interview session, Rocker spat on a Georgia 400 toll machine and mocked Asian women.

Although Rocker later apologized after speaking with Braves Hall of Famer Hank Aaron and former Atlanta mayor and congressman Andrew Young, he continued to make controversial remarks.[4] For his comments, he was suspended without pay for the remainder of spring training and the first 28 games of the 2000 season, which on appeal was reduced to 14 games (without a spring-training suspension).

During the debacle, on The Tonight Show, Jay Leno had guests take baseball bats and whack a Rocker dummy. Saturday Night Live lampooned the affair.

In June 2006, Rocker defended the right of free speech of former teammate Ozzie Guillén, at the time the manager of the Chicago White Sox, for comments deemed homophobic (Guillén had referred to Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Jay Mariotti as a "fag"). Guillén, a native of Venezuela, claimed it was not a derogatory term and that, in Venezuela, the term only questions another man's courage rather than his sexual orientation.

"This is a free country. If he wants to use a lewd term, he should be able to use a lewd term", Rocker told the Chicago Tribune. "Can't you use a lewd term in America if you want"?[5] Referring to sensitivity training, he was quoted as saying: "It was a farce, a way for the scared little man, Bud Selig, to get people off his ass". He claimed that when he attended mandatory sensitivity training he would seldom remain longer than 15 minutes. He claimed he never paid the $500 fine that was levied against him.

Return to New York City

On June 29, 2000, Rocker appeared in front of 46,987 fans at Shea Stadium for the first time since making the remarks. Over 700 police officers were summoned for the game (usually 60 are summoned) and 300 press passes were given out. A limit on beer sales was imposed. A special protective cover was erected over the Braves' bullpen in left field. During batting practice, fans were barred from sitting in the first four rows behind the Braves' dugout. A videotaped apology from Rocker was shown on Shea Stadium's 26-foot-tall screen in left-center field before the start of the game between the Mets and the Braves. The video was loudly booed and hostile signs could be seen throughout the stadium.

In the eighth inning, Rocker came in to replace Jason Marquis. He was loudly booed and some objects were thrown and a chant of "Asshole, Asshole" began. Rocker struck out Robin Ventura, retired Todd Zeile on a grounder to short, and got Jay Payton to ground out to third. The Braves won 6–4. Rocker left the stadium a half-hour after the rest of the team in a black van trailed by three security vehicles.

Post-controversy

At first, Atlanta Braves fans were willing to support him. As Rocker received intense taunting from opposing teams' fans, and continued to receive abuse from New York Mets fans, his pitching performance declined. In 2001, Rocker was traded to the Cleveland Indians, with whom he played in the 2001 ALDS against the Seattle Mariners. He was later traded to the Texas Rangers, where he refused designation to the minor leagues. In 2003, he played two games for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays before being released.

In 2002, while with the Texas Rangers, Rocker again made national headlines after directing slurs towards other patrons of a Dallas restaurant at which he was dining, located in the heavily LGBT-populated neighborhood of Oak Lawn in Uptown Dallas.[6][7]

Rocker made his acting debut in the 2002 horror comedy The Greenskeeper as the murderous title character.[8] He took the 2004 season off to recover from surgery on his left shoulder. In 2005, he signed with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League after training with the Chattahoochee High School Cougars in Alpharetta, Georgia. The Cougars later went on to win the AAAAA State Championship. In April 2005, he asked New Yorkers to "bury the hatchet." After going 0–2 with a 6.50 ERA in 23 games, he was released on June 27, 2005.

In 2006, Rocker appeared on the Spike TV network's Pros vs. Joes, a program that pits retired professional athletes against amateurs.

In late 2006, Rocker was interviewed by the popular sports blog, Deadspin along with girlfriend Alicia Marie. In the interview, Rocker discussed his "Speak English" campaign, as well as his upcoming book. Rocker stated that the book will not be used to try to repair his reputation, but will rather be "more conservative Republican rantings." Rocker lambasted John Schuerholz, his former general manager with the Braves, calling him, "a real asshole," "an imbecile," "a complete moron," and "a piece of shit," while claiming that "he has the worst case of Little Man Syndrome I've ever seen." Rocker went on to say that his antipathy for the GM came after he felt Schuerholz misrepresented him in an arbitration case that Schuerholz eventually won.[9]

In March 2007, Rocker was implicated in a steroid ring that included Applied Pharmacy of Mobile, Alabama. He was listed on the client list along with 1996 Olympic wrestling gold medalist Kurt Angle.[10]

Rocker's publicist, Debi Curzio said that Rocker admitted taking Human Growth Hormone, but only for medical reasons.

In April 2007, Rocker's father, Jake, died in a car accident in Warner Robins, Georgia.

As of 2008, Rocker sells real estate in Atlanta, Georgia.[11]

Career statistics

1998 was Rocker's first season in the majors. He was 1–3 but had a solid 2.13 ERA. The following year, an injury put Atlanta closer Kerry Ligtenberg on the DL, moving Rocker into the role, where he was 4–5 with 38 saves and another strong ERA, at 2.49. In 2000, he was 1–2 with 24 saves, again posting a low ERA, at 2.89.

During the 2001 season, Rocker was 2–2 with a 3.09 ERA and 19 saves, but after a bench clearing brawl that many people, including teammate Chipper Jones attributed to Rocker's actions, Atlanta sent Rocker, along with prospect Troy Cameron to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for pitchers Steve Karsay and Steve Reed. He struggled in Cleveland, going 3–7 with a 5.45 ERA and a mere 4 saves. The Indians chose not to retain him, and traded him to the Texas Rangers for pitcher David Elder

In 2002, he again struggled at 2–3 with a 6.66 ERA, and was released. In 2003, Rocker signed with Tampa Bay but was released after 2 appearances. He did not have a record and had an ERA of 9.00.

In 2005, he attempted a comeback with the Long Island Ducks, but after an unsuccessful tenure, he retired.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Call this school Rockerville: BATTLE OF THE DECADE: BRAVES VS. YANKEES , The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, October 26, 1999. Accessed November 8, 2007. "In Jim Turner's worn leather wallet is a ticket stub from John Rocker's first game in a Braves uniform, from spring training on March 1, 1998. "I carry it around just to remind me that dreams can happen," says Turner, Rocker's old high school baseball coach at First Presbyterian Day School."
  2. ^ Horvitz, Joachim (2001). "The Big Book of Jewish Baseball, p. 277". SP Books. http://books.google.com/books?id=9ZzxydPInwgC&pg=PA277&lpg=PA277&dq=%22jason+marquis%22+%22danville%22&source=bl&ots=tOpS5UzMSP&sig=DU2gp3PO0fTT3zXlDitGxfoVzGU&hl=en&ei=5_cdSvnQFozKMvaVgPUF&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=22. Retrieved 2009-05-27. 
  3. ^ Rocker spews hate in this week's SI - Thursday December 23, 1999
  4. ^ ESPN.com: "Rocker rankles fans, retires Mets."
  5. ^ ESPN.com: "Report: Rocker calls sensitivity training a 'farce'"
  6. ^ LA Times: "Rocker Sorry for Remarks"
  7. ^ CBS News: "Rocker Rocks The Boat Again"
  8. ^ The Greenskeeper (2002)
  9. ^ Deadspin: "John Rocker interview"
  10. ^ ESPN.com: "Two more arraigned in nationwide steroids probe"
  11. ^ This was revealed during his interview in the sixth season episode of the American cable TV series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! devoted to the topic of sensitivity training.

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