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The Uncollectibles: John Rocker

We all have our sports heroes. Those who garner must see moments for the fans in us. They can go yard or drain a three for the win. They can knock you out with one punch or break away from a defense to seal the game. We know them. We love them. We want to be them. However, sometimes those heroes fall from grace in such a spectacular way that we have to question our fandom. What was it about them that made us cheer? What was it that drew us in and pulled us closer before the monster devoured us. Sometimes, you never know someone until it’s too late. Welcome to The Uncollectibles: John Rocker edition. 


The Career

You would have been hard pressed to find a more dominant closer in Major League Baseball than John Rocker in 1999. His sprint from the bullpen to the mound was electric and his stuff when he got there was what legends are made of. That added up  to a win/loss record of 4 and 5, with a 2.49 ERA and 38 saves. It was his intensity that carried him from a work in progress to a top tier pitcher for the Atlanta Braves. When their full-time closer Kerry Ligtenberg went down with an injury, Rocker got the call and did not look back. Over the next three seasons, his hard work and grit kept him towards the top of the list of most feared pitchers in baseball. However, he was also one of the most controversial as well. 


The Crime

In 1999, while Rocker seemed to be at the top of his craft, he sat down for an interview with SI’s Jeff Pearlamn while on his way to a speaking engagement that was published in the December issue. All was going well, until the matter of New York came up. Suddenly, things got, um, dicey. 


When asked if he would ever play for the Yankees or Mets, Rocker said:


“I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-wracking city. Imagine having to take the 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... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the 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?


Rocker then went on to explain what it was like playing in front of Mets fans:


“Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you, throw batteries at you and say, "Hey, I did your mother last night—she's a whore." I talked about what degenerates they were and they proved me right.”

After speaking with Braves icon Hank Aaron, Rocker did apologize, but the damage was done. Commissioner Bud Selig had little choice other than to suspend him without pay for the remainder of the 2000 Spring Training, and the first 28 games of the regular season. However, that was appealed down to 14 games total, without missing any Spring Training games. 


Then, all was quiet on the Rocker front for a while. Then, in 2002, while Rocker was with the Texas Rangers, he found himself in hot water again. He made similar derogatory comments while dining at a Dallas restaurant in Oak Lawn, a predominantly homosexual neighborhood.   


By this time, Rocker's career was all but over. He had just one save for Texas in 2002, with a 2 and 3 record and ballooning 6.66 ERA. Whatever electricity and intensity he had in 1999 was gone. His MLB career ended in 2003 after just two appearances for Tampa Bay in which he posted a 9.00 ERA with a total of one inning pitched. 


The Collectibles

While Rocker did not commit an actual crime per say, one can easily see why collectors would steer clear of him. With that being said, his autographs typically sell in the $50 to $75 range. Of course, that is going to depend on authentication and item. 8x10 photos can be had for around $25 to $40, and his most sought after baseball card seems to be his 2001 Fleer Showcase Autographics


Now, if you want to dig real deep though, you can always pick up a copy of his book Scars and Strikes, but the asking price can be a bit high for a book.


Do you have any Rocker items in your collection?


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