When we lived in Florida, we lived near the Brevard County Manatees’ stadium. Several professional teams used the stadium for Spring training. On this occasion, the Atlanta Braves were having an exposition game. My neighbor, Gene, asked if he could take my seven-year-old son along with his sons to watch the game.
I said, “Sure.”
After the game, my son came home and told me what a good time he had. He showed me a baseball he had bought, and told me about eating hot dogs and peanuts. Then he went to bed.
The next day, Gene was over.
“Did you see the baseball your son bought?” Gene asked.
“I did.” I answered.
“We stood in line over an hour to get John Rocker’s autograph,” Gene said.
The pitcher for Atlanta at the time was John Rocker. He was quite a controversial figure. In a January 2000 Sports Illustrated interview, Rocker had made some disparaging comments about New Yorkers. When asked whether he would ever play for the New York Yankees or the New York Mets, Rocker’s response was:
“I’d retire first… Imagine… you’re riding through [a city like] 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.” Later he said, “Nowhere else in the country do people spit at you, throw bottles at you, throw quarters at you… I talked about what degenerates they were and they proved me right.”
“What?” I asked. “You all stood in line over an hour for John Rocker’s autograph? There was no autograph on the ball.”
“Oh yeah,” said Gene. “We got John Rocker’s autograph on your son’s baseball,” he repeated.
“I don’t think so,” I told him, and went to get the ball.
Turning the ball over and over, I saw no evidence of a signature. I handed it to Gene.
“That’s the ball,” he said, “but there’s no signature!”
So I called my son over. “Son, did John Rocker sign his autograph on your baseball the other night?”
“Yeah, Dad, some guy wrote his name on it.” he replied.
“Well, where’s the signature?”
“I didn’t like it,” he said. “It just looked like a bunch of scribble-scrabble to me so I wiped it off.”