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October 15-16, 1999: the Mets vs. the Braves, Game Three

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Bobby Valentine never shuts up, but you can see how far the Mets are down in Valentine's sentence fragments. He sits alone behind the desk in hisoffice, World Series souvenirs framed on the wall behind him. "We're playing a team that's been a thorn in our side all year," Valentine saysquietly, then pauses. "And they're sticking it to us . . . ." Another pause. "We're playing with them . . . but . . . our pitching's been great . . . when was the last time anyone won a game without scoring?"

This night only builds the anti-hero stature of the Braves' wild-eyed relief pitcher, John Rocker. Earlier, he'd called Mets fans stupid; they respond tonight by chucking plastic water bottles at Rocker as he does TV interviews on the field. Rocker disappears, supposedly to do his post-game workout, as 50 reporters stand waiting in front of his locker. We wait for 45 minutes. When Rocker appears, he's nearly drowned out by some kind of stadium air-conditioning unit throbbing over his head, but Rocker loves allthis negative attention, and he won't shut up, declaring he won't talk about the Mets fans anymore, then going on for a half-hour about thevulgarity, about how it's an insult to women, children, the national pastime . . . .

Outside, in an empty hallway, Rocker's tall blonde girlfriend waits. Was Susan Hudson scared for Rocker tonight? "No," she says with a smile. "It really wasn't all that bad. But I hear it's worse at Yankee Stadium." Looks like she and Rocker will find out next week.

--1:00 a.m., October 16, 1999


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