At Full Blast
When the Atlanta team hit New York City for a series of pennant playoff games, Rocker found a partisan crowd of Mets fans greeting his appearance at Shea Stadium with boos, insults, and even thrown objects. This didn't sit well with the emotional left-hander, and he made his feelings known in the Sports Illustrated piece titled "At Full Blast."
First, he talked to Pearlman about the likelihood that he would ever accept a position on a New York team. "I would retire first," Rocker said. "It's the most hectic, nerve-wracking city." That was a benign comment compared to what came next. On the city's residents: "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners." Then there's the experience of riding a New York City subway: "Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark … 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." He was no more charitable to his Atlanta teammates, calling one black player a "fat monkey."
But, according to Pearlman, "Rocker reserves a special place in his heart for Mets fans, whom he began badmouthing during the regular season." Said Rocker: "Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you.… I talked about what degenerates they were, and they proved me right."
But in the court of media opinion, it was Rocker who was found guilty of being degenerate. Talk-show hosts, politicians, and sports columnists took him to task, some calling for his dismissal from the game; Rocker responded by quickly issuing a public apology, though in the view of New York Times Upfront writer George Vecsey, the prepared statement's "coherence and maturity make it impossible to have been written by [Rocker]. The ghostwritten mea culpa will not work." Indeed, Rocker—who told ESPN television "The last thing I wanted to do was offend people"—was fined $20,000 and suspended from play until May 2000.
His union, the players' association, filed a grievance to overturn the suspension, calling the act "without just cause," as union representative Shaym Das noted in an Associated Press wire story, which also pointed out that Rocker's punishment was more typical of a player who used drugs or engaged in similar malfeasance. Rocker's New York-based insults "[were] crude, stupid, and could've been left unsaid," wrote Baseball Digest's John Kuenster, "but it was hardly deserving of a lengthy suspension from the Braves. Take a subway train in most any big city in this diverse land of ours, and you're going to see some unusual creatures sitting right across from you. So what else is new?"