While baseball is largely seen as a gentlemanly sport, there have been some less than gentlemanly players who have played it. Among them is John Rocker. In fact, Rocker is probably better known for his various controversial acts than he actually is for being a baseball player. Here I will take a look at all of these controversial things this man has done throughout his short MLB career, but will begin by looking at his actual playing career.
In high school, Rocker was actually a star pitcher for his hometown high school in Macon, Georgia. Throughout his high school career he threw three no-hitters and attracted the eyes of major league scouts. As a result, he was drafted in the 18th round of the 1993 draft by the Atlanta Braves as a reliever. For the next five years, Rocker played in the minors until finally getting the call up to the major leagues to play for the Braves.
His first few years in the majors were actually fairly decent for him as a reliever and fill-in closer as he has an ERA of barely over 2 and never over 3 in any of those years. However, his problems began in the year 2000. In 2000, despite playing fairly well as I mentioned before, he was demoted back to the minor leagues for threatening a reporter. After eventually returning, he took a lot of taunting from opponents and his play began to decline, and in 2001, he was traded to the Cleveland Indians. His career there was awful with season ERA’s of over 5 and 6 and after that awful play along with some injuries, his MLB career fizzled out.
Now that you know a bit about his playing history, let’s take a look at his various controversies. His biggest controversy was without a doubt the Sports Illustrated story published about him in the December 27th 1999 issue of the magazine. This story featured Rocker making a number of allegations about New Yorker’s stemming from his experiences playing and being in New York. He even claimed he’d rather retire than play for a New York baseball team. Also, he made numerous homophobic and racist comments in the story.
In terms of homophobic comments, Rocker said that he hated going on the 7 Train to the ballpark as you would have to sit next to “some queer with AIDS”, a clearly horrible comment. His racist comments were perhaps even more offensive as he actually said the biggest thing he doesn’t like about New York is the foreigners. He was racist towards everyone from Asians to Spanish people to Indians and more. He also voiced his disdain for New York sports fans in general and even called them degenerates.
It was after this interview in which Rocker was demoted as the man who interviewed him was the one that Rocker actually threatened. You would think he would’ve learned his lesson, but he did not. In 2002, in a Dallas restaurant in a heavily LGBT-populated environment, he directed numerous homophobic slurs towards others in the restaurant. Even long after retirement, in 2013, Rocker said in an interview that the holocaust could have been prevented if there weren’t gun control laws in Germany. The guy just doesn’t know when enough is enough.