Politics & Policy

Rocker’s Forebear

A good postgame agenda.

The madness of John Rocker, the Atlanta Braves pitcher, was apparent long before he gave irrefutable evidence — his announced intention to ride the New York City subway to Shea Stadium when the Braves play the Mets. But there is a kind of precedent for what he proposed.

During a pregame radio interview at Chicago’s Comiskey Park, Jake Powell, an outfielder on some of the great Yankees teams of the late 1930s, said that in the offseason he was a policeman in Dayton (yes, back then players needed offseason jobs) who kept in shape by “cracking niggers’ heads.”

This caused considerable controversy, and Powell was suspended. There was talk about blacks boycotting Yankee games.

Let Oxford’s Baseball Anecdotes, by Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf, pick up the story:

“When Powell returned to New York, he went up to the top of Harlem, alone and after dark. Working southward, he stopped in every saloon he came across, introducing himself as Jake Powell, apologizing for his foolish words, and buying everyone a round of drinks.”

Perhaps that can be Rocker’s postgame agenda.


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