Magazine article Newsweek

Rocker's Wild Pitch

Magazine article Newsweek

Rocker's Wild Pitch

Article excerpt

Jeff Pearlman knew a confrontation was inevitable. The Sports Illustrated writer hadn't seen Braves pitcher John Rocker since his story had appeared last December, detailing Rocker's vituperative rant against immigrants, gays and other New Yorkers. Last week at Atlanta's Turner Field, Rocker, who has a couple of inches and at least 30 pounds on Pearlman, saw the baseball writer heading toward the Braves clubhouse --and erupted. "You didn't have to do that to my family," Rocker said, jowl to jowl, wagging a finger in Pearlman's face. Pearlman tried to explain that he hadn't set out to write a negative piece. "Bull ---t!" Rocker shouted. "This isn't over between us," he said as he walked away. "Do you know what I can do to you?"

But Rocker forgot where the real power lies. The very next day the Braves showed him, demoting the 25-year-old closer to the AAA Richmond Braves. Management fined Rocker $5,000 for the confrontation, but insisted that he had earned the trip to the minors with his poor pitching. And so he had. Just two days earlier, he had entered the game against the Yankees in the ninth inning with a four-run lead, then proceeded to load the bases with two walks and a hit batsman. Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone was seen angrily slamming down the bullpen phone, and Rocker was bailed out only when his outfielder caught a long drive against the left field wall.

Rocker believes he has been miscast as sports' most prominent racist, xenophobe and homophobe. But now he has lost any semblance of support, public or private, from his teammates. …

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