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John Rocker Was Rolling Until His Suspension Exactly Twenty Years Ago

Updated on January 30, 2020

Baseball Had Little Tolerance For This Talented Left Hander


"It was January 30, and everybody was feeling fine."
Bob Dylan sang those words on a track from The Basement Tapes, the double album of outtakes he recorded with Robbie Robertson and the Band . That particular day may indeed have been fine in "Clothes Line Saga", but thirty years and one day after it turned out to be a pretty rotten one for a former Major League Baseball Player.

Atlanta reliever John Rocker, after making some controversial comments in a Sports Illustrated article, was suspended on January 31 in 2000. Bud Selig, the commissioner of MLB, handed down a ruling that would prevent Rocker from pitching until May 1.

"The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners," Rocker had said in the December 27, 1999 issue of Sports Illustrated. "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?"

Rocker had prefaced that quote with disparaging remarks about single mothers, homosexuals, and those of German heritage. One month later, those remarks led to his suspension from baseball.

Although it was appealed and reduced to just fourteen games, the suspension must have adversely affected his on field performance. His save total that season was barely half of what it has been in 1999, and his earned run average rose nearly half a run.

His numbers plummeted even further in 2001, so much so that the Braves shipped him to Cleveland for pitcher Steve Karsay. His tenure with the Indians, which saw his ERA soar to 5.45 and his saves cut to a mere four, brought another trade.

His ineffectiveness led to Cleveland shipping him to Texas on the last day of 2001, where his unpleasant commentary as well as his poor stats followed him. Rocker, instead of losing his unwelcome outspokenness, had lost his ability to get out hitters.

Along with the suspension and a $500 fine, Rocker had been required to attend sensitivity sessions. Even though he had released a public apology, Rocker proved to have received little benefit from the diversity training.

Not much than a month after joining Texas, Rocker once again stirred controversy with his outspoken prejudices. While dining at a Dallas restaurant, he spouted slurs toward LGBT patrons. One year later he was released, and his brief career in the Major Leagues was over.


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