Originally created 06/30/00

Comeback quiet for Rocker



NEW YORK -- New York Mets fan Mike Adler had waited since October to ask -- actually scream -- a question for John Rocker. So when Atlanta's lefty went out to run wind sprints Thursday night, Mr. Adler was ready.

"Why don't you show us respect?" shouted Adler, proudly wearing a Mets shirt.

Mr. Rocker answered semi-pleasantly, autographed two baseballs, then issued a public apology. But it did little to lower the level of bile directed at the man Mets fans, among others, love to despise.

Mr. Rocker's apology, shown on Shea Stadium's giant screen in the outfield before the start of the game between the Mets and the Atlanta Braves, was greeted with lusty boos by the crowd.

Earlier in the day, Mr. Rocker had taken a circuitous route to the ballpark. With a quick wave and dead silence, he backed off his pledge to mingle with the denizens of the No. 7 subway.

He instead climbed into a black van to meet with representatives of the players' union, who encouraged him to stay off the train. He returned to his hotel before heading out to Shea in another van with tinted windows.

At a sparsely attended anti-Rocker rally beneath the subway, demonstrators held signs proclaiming "NYC Says No to RocKKKer" and the less-imaginative "Rocker's A Bigot." Among the demonstrators were a half-dozen Queens Little Leaguers.

The fastballer was dubbed "The Ku Klux Kloser" after his racist, homophobic and xenophobic comments in Sports Illustrated in December. This trip was his first to Shea since last fall's playoffs.

Although Mr. Rocker had promised to ride the subway to the ballpark, wiser heads -- and there are plenty -- prevailed on the hurler to choose a less-public form of transportation.

There were already hints that the crowd could turn ugly, as some fans recently handed out fliers on the No. 7 platform advertising "John Rocker Battery Night." Fans were encouraged to bring and fling their AAs to greet Mr. Rocker.