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CNN Today

Rocker Return to Cheers in Atlanta

Aired April 19, 2000 - 1:27 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Now appearing for the Atlanta Braves: John Rocker. Baseball's most controversial relief pitcher has returned to the mound after completing a suspension for making derogatory remarks about minorities and many others. How did the fans react?

CNN's Brian Cabell has our report.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): John Rocker's return to the Braves began as his gray Corvette pulled into the players' parking lot. No demonstrators, no picket signs, just admiring fans.

So far, so good for the young pitcher, whose remarks four months ago in "Sports Illustrated" outraged so many across the nation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tonight is the night, ladies and gentlemen! It's the return of John Rocker!

CABELL: Many fans came specifically to see Rocker return following his 14-day suspension.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: John Rocker for president.

CABELL: He looked like the old Rocker in pregame warm-ups: a 98- mile-per-hour fastball, and still no protests or even anger from the fans.

TONY VAZQUEZ, BRAVES FAN: All the people, they need a second chance, you know.

CABELL: Little sign of Rocker during most of the game, but then late, with the score tied, there he was in the bullpen, warming up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, that's the whole reason we came here, me and my friends right here. Rocker!

CABELL: They and the rest of the crowd of 35,000 weren't disappointed. He sprinted in from the bullpen, all the derogatory comments about minorities, immigrants and gays forgotten, or at least put aside. Hardly a boo could be heard for this man, who describes himself as a redneck, but not a racist. He struck out the first batter he faced, and retired the side without giving up a run. Rocker was back. He even tipped his cap to the embracing crowd, almost all of whom seemed to have forgiven him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's young, you know, he has got a whole lot of talent. I believe he can make it.

CABELL: The Braves certainly hope so. They need a good relief pitcher, a closer, but they don't need any more controversy.

Oh, by the way, the Braves won, on a 12th-inning home run, long after Rocker and many of the fans had left the game.

Brian Cabell, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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