Jeff Pearlman commemorated the 14th anniversary of his epic Sports Illustrated evisceration of former Braves closer John Rocker last week and essentially concluded — occasional pangs of guilt aside — he’d done the right thing. Amazingly enough, in his most recent World Net Daily column Rocker, though quick to call Pearlman a “gossip whore trash journalist”, pretty much agrees, insisting, “the things I’ve been able to do; the doors that have opened; the places I’ve been able to go and the famous/influential people I now consider friends in large part stem from the notoriety created by that SI piece.”
Because of Sports Illustrated and the recognition that has come along with it, I still have a voice that people listen to 14 years later. I still get interview requests from names like Geraldo Rivera, Neil Cavuto and Michael Savage where I proudly spread the word about Save Homeless Veterans. I don’t know too many Big Leaguers who haven’t seen action in 11 years that can still do that. I receive requests on a regular basis to speak inspirationally at various charity events as well as a variety of adult and adolescent groups. And the slate of invitations to simply attend and/or sign at charity functions is always full. I truly believe that my time in a Big League uniform in conjunction with the notoriety of SI has allowed me to do more things in my personal life and, more importantly, in the lives of others than I can ever accurately assess.
For several years, though, I took the gross misperception of me by Pearlman personally. I know I’m a good person, and the dozens of individuals from all races and nationalities that came to my defense know it, too. Yet in their rapid lust for the sensational, media largely refused to acknowledge what former teammates like Javier Lopez, CC Sabathia or Eddie Perez had to say about me and our friendship. For years they have refused to observe my life and such aspects of it as my very public three-year relationship with a black woman or my relationship with the daughter of (should be Hall of Famer) Denis Martinez. To publicize any of that would be for media to second guess a member of their own fraternity, which is why the Pearlman description of me is still fact to many.