the new yorker
big mouth
The sporting scene
June 12, 2000
Kevin Conley
Mary Ellen Mark


“I never really thought somebody would take a backwoods ballplayer from South Georgia so seriously,” John Rocker said to the press back in January, while he was still scrambling to apologize for his Tourette-ish outburst in Sports Illustrated. But has the pitcher been forgiven for his diatribe against New York’s teen-age mothers, Russians, gays, jailbirds, and purple-haired kids? Dee Snider, of Twisted Sister, asked the Braves to stop blasting his band’s “I Wanna Rock” anthem whenever Rocker enters the game. Mayor Giuliani, on his radio show, lapsed into thick Freudian accents: “John, I vant to talk to you about your deep psychological problems.”

On the field, at least, Rocker appears to be back in form, currently ranking fifth in his league in saves, despite having served a two-week suspension. His big problem so far is control—he has walked the bases loaded four times in nineteen appearances. The Braves pitching coach, Leo Mazzone, suggests that this problem may be mental, a fair diagnosis but one that’s now impossible to verify, because Rocker has stopped talking—wisely but too late.

Rocker’s comments last winter have set off a nyah-nyah on-line version of the Civil War, waged in sports speak. For example, is riddled with Yankee-redneck back-and-forth that may, to paraphrase Rocker’s own apology, go too far in its competitive zeal. On June 29th, he and the Braves return to ground zero, for four games with the Mets at Shea Stadium. Although Rocker has worried about snipers in the light towers, a source at Major League Baseball spoke confidently of sufficient security. Last year, these were not problems faced by the Ku Klux Kloser—as bleacher placards have dubbed him—when he posed with Minnie Mouse.