John rocker must know that no matter how far he travels he won't escape his past. Pitching in a winter league game in Venezuela--in the same league as Randall Simon, the former Braves teammate he once referred to as a "monkey" (SI, Dec. 27, 1999)--Rocker was mercilessly booed by the crowd, which chanted, "Out! Out! Racist, out!" Rocker lasted just three batters that night, giving up two walks and a hit, and threw only 22/3 innings in Venezuela before returning to the United States.
Last week Rocker, 30, returned to the area where his troubles began: New York. It was there that he notoriously jawed with Mets fans and ripped the city's inhabitants. Trying to get back to the majors, where he hasn't pitched since 2003, Rocker signed with the independent Long Island Ducks, who play about 40 miles east of Shea Stadium. Frank Boulton, who owns the Ducks (with ex-Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson), says he wants to give Rocker a shot at redemption. "I took all of this in and I asked myself: Does he deserve another chance?" Boulton told Newsday. "I'm a Catholic. I was watching all those people lining up this week to see the Pope and I wondered, 'What would the Pope do?' He would give him another chance."