SI Vault
At Full Blast
Jeff Pearlman
December 27, 1999
Shooting outrageously from the lip, Braves closer John Rocker bangs away at his favorite targets: the Mets, their fans, their city and just about everyone in it
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December 27, 1999

At Full Blast

Shooting outrageously from the lip, Braves closer John Rocker bangs away at his favorite targets: the Mets, their fans, their city and just about everyone in it

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Fast Company
With 104 strikeouts in 72⅓ innings John Rocker (left) was among the elite group of flamethrowing National League closers who earned their keep last season by blowing away batters. Here are the five league leaders in strikeouts per nine innings pitched (minimum 15 save opportunities).


K'S/9 IP

Billy Wagner, Astros


Armando Benitez, Mets


Matt Mantei, Diamondbacks


John Rocker, Braves


Ugueth Urbina, Expos


You are a disgrace to the game of baseball. Maybe you should think before you shoot off your big fat mouth. You are an immature punk who is lucky to be in the majors. Get some class!"
—A posting by "Metsfan4Life" on

A minivan is rolling slowly down Atlanta's Route 400, and John Rocker, driving directly behind it in his blue Chevy Tahoe, is pissed. "Stupid bitch! Learn to f—-ing drive!" he yells. Rocker honks his horn. Once. Twice. He swerves a lane to the left. There is a toll booth with a tariff of 50 cents. Rocker tosses in two quarters. The gate doesn't rise. He tosses in another quarter. The gate still doesn't rise. From behind, a horn blasts. "F—- you!" Rocker yells, flashing his left middle finger out the window. Finally, after Rocker has thrown in two dimes and a nickel, the gate rises. Rocker brings up a thick wad of phlegm. Puuuh! He spits at the machine. "Hate this damn toll."

With one hand on the wheel, the other gripping a cell phone, Rocker tears down the highway, weaving through traffic. In 10 minutes he is due to speak at Lockhart Academy, a school for learning-disabled children. Does Rocker enjoy speaking to children? "No," he says, "not really." But of all things big and small he hates—New York Mets fans, sore arms, jock itch—the thing he hates most is traffic. "I have no patience," he says. The speedometer reads 72. Rocker, in blue-tinted sunglasses and a backward baseball cap, is seething. "So many dumb asses don't know how to drive in this town," he says, Billy Joel's New York State of Mind humming softly from the radio. "They turn from the wrong lane. They go 20 miles per hour. It makes me want—Look! Look at this idiot! I guarantee you she's a Japanese woman." A beige Toyota is jerking from lane to lane. The woman at the wheel is white. "How bad are Asian women at driving?"

Two months have passed since the madness of John Rocker was introduced to the world. In the ninth inning of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series, Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox called for his closer—Rocker, a hard-throwing 6'4", 225-pound lefthander who would turn 25 two days later and who had 38 regular-season saves, a 95-mph fastball and an unhittable slider—to seal a 1-0 win over the Mets. The Shea Stadium bullpen gate opened. A smattering of boos. Louder. Louder. Then, on the fourth or fifth stride of Rocker's dash toward the mound, it started: "A-hole! A-hole! A—hole!" Fifty-five thousand nine hundred eleven fans—black, white, brown, whatever—united by a common bond: hatred of John Rocker.

"You are a low-class, ignorant piece of scum who doesn't care about anything or anybody. You are the Neanderthal. Maybe this upcoming season Mike Piazza or any other Mets player will hit you in the head with a line drive."
—A posting by "Ed" on

John Rocker has opinions, and there's no way to sugarcoat them. They are politically incorrect, to say the least, and he likes to express them.

•On ever playing for a New York team: "I would retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the [Number] 7 train to the ballpark, 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."

•On New York City itself: "The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. I'm not a very big fan of foreigners. 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?"

But Rocker reserves a special place in his heart for Mets fans, whom he began bad-mouthing during the regular season when the Braves were battling the Mets for the National League East title eventually won by Atlanta. Although the Braves beat the Mets in a grueling six-game Championship Series (and thus reached the World Series, in which they were swept by the other New York team, the Yankees), Rocker has not allowed himself to let go of the bitterness. You try to find different topics—hunting, women, family—but it always comes back to three cold nights at Shea, when bottles whizzed past his head, beer was dumped on his girlfriend and 2,007 sexual positions involving him and a sheep were suggested.

Like many Americans nowadays, Rocker is not one to look on the bright side. He likes to bitch and moan and shred things, and his voice—deep, intimidating—is naturally suited for the task. So are the thick eyebrows, the killing-spree scowl. Want to know how Atlanta will play in 2000? Ask later. Want to know why he has Manson-like feelings toward the Mets and everything remotely blue and orange? Heeeeere's Johnny....

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