A fan shows a sign as Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker throws a pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning against the New York Mets on June 29, 2000 at Shea Stadium in New York. // John Rocker (AP Photo/Ron Frehm)

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A fan shows a sign as Atlanta Braves reliever John Rocker throws a pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning against the New York Mets on June 29, 2000 at Shea Stadium in New York.

Perhaps no athlete has offended so many groups of people with so few words as pitcher John Rocker. The hard-throwing closer for the Atlanta Braves sounded off about his distaste for New York City in a January, 2000, interview with Sports Illustrated. Asked whether he'd consider playing for the Yankees or Mets, Rocker said he'd sooner retire, saying the Big Apple was too hectic and nerve-racking. Then he turned on the charm. "Imagine having to take the 7-train to (Shea Stadium) looking like you're riding through Beirut, 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." Baseball handed Rocker a 28-game ban, which he managed to cut in half on appeal. When Rocker returned to New York the following season, Shea Stadium beefed up its police presence more than tenfold, limited beer sales and added a protective cover to the visiting bullpen. A videotaped apology that ran on the stadium scoreboard did little to calm fans, who booed lustily when Rocker took the mound. Rocker was never the same pitcher, bouncing from Atlanta to Cleveland and later Texas, then getting released by lowly Tampa Bay in 2003.