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Are the Indians off their Rocker?



Published: Mon, June 25, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



The Cleveland Indians organization has made an interesting choice in picking up controversial pitcher John Rocker from the Atlanta Braves. Obviously, if Rocker delivers on the mound, his infamous comments about minorities and gays may be relegated to distant memory. After all, Indians fans put up with a lot from Albert Belle as long as he was hitting. But the first time Rocker mouths off on anything but baseball, he may find a chilly reception at the Jake that has nothing to do with the wind off Lake Erie.

Rocker, it may be remembered, endeared himself to those elements of the American population who believe this nation should only be the home of whites who practice the "right" kind of religion. In a now infamous interview with Sports Illustrated reporter Jeff Pearlman, the then-Atlanta Brave let it be known that he would never want to play on a New York team: & quot;I would retire first. ... Imagine having to take the ... train to the ballpark, ... 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."

What's really depressing is Rocker's attitude and the number of Americans who think just like him.

How did they get in? The other aspect of New York Rocker told Sports Illustrated he didn't like was the foreigners. Questioning "How the hell they got into this country," he said "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."

We wonder how he's been getting along with his Spanish-speaking teammates like Bartolo Colon, who managed to get into this country from the Dominican Republic by playing baseball, just like Rocker; or Omar Vizquel from Vene zuela; Einar Diaz from Panama; Jolbert Cabrera from Colombia; or the Puerto Rican contingent, Roberto Alomar, Wilfredo Cordero and bullpen coach Luis Isaac.

Rocker, of course, has a right to free speech. However, no one would really care what an ignorant Georgian had to say about much of anything were it not for his baseball fame and fortune.

Perhaps before his arm wears out and he returns to anonymity, he will understand that his fame derives from being a member of a team -- a team that comprises players of various backgrounds and creeds. And his fortune derives from the support of fans who also represent the wide diversity of America. They all deserve respect.

So far, Rocker has done what Indians Manager Charlie Manuel has asked him to do on the pitcher's mound and has apparently kept his slurs to himself.

We'll all get along fine -- if he keeps it that way.




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