Legends of Yesteryear
Legends Of YesterYear: Mike Piazza’s Hall Call Finally Arrives
All-Time leader in home runs as a catcher.
The date was September 21, 2001, just ten days after the worst attack on American soil since Pearl Harbor and as baseball returned to action in the city, it was trying to take the attention away from all the heartache around New York and the world.
New York especially needed something good to smile about again, and on a night when emotions were high, Mike Piazza did something that he will always be remembered for in Mets history.
With the Mets down 2-1 in the bottom of the eight inning against the Atlanta Braves, Piazza launched a drive over the left center field fence to put New York up for good as Shea Stadium erupted and fans all around the city had reason once again to be happy and just drown themselves in a history making moment.
During the 1988 amateur draft, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed Michael Joseph Piazza in the 62nd round beginning his professional career.
On September 1, 1992, the future legend would make his major league debut, going 3 for 3 with a double, and a walk.
In 1993, the star shined even brighter as Piazza hit 35 home runs, while driving in 112 runs and winning the National League Rookie of the Year honors. He also played in his first all-star game, and finished in the top 10 for the Major League MVP.
Nobody wanted me. Scouts told me to go to school, to forget baseball. Coaches said, ‘You’re never going to make it.’ I appreciated their honesty, because I think when someone tells you something you may not like, you have to use that as a fuel for Motivation. ~ Mike Piazza
Piazza spent seven seasons with the Dodgers, appearing in six all-star games, while hitting .331, with 177 home runs and 563 RBI’s. The Italian-American had his best season in Dodger blue in 1997, when he batted .362, reaching a career high 201 hits, with 40 home runs, and 124 RBI’s.
On May 14, 1998, the Dodgers traded Piazza along with Todd Zeile to the Florida Marlins for Bobby Bonilla, Manuel Barrios, Jim Eisenreich, Charles Johnson and Gary Sheffield. But Piazza would only last in a Marlins uniform for five games before the fish traded him to the Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnell and minor leaguer Geoff Goetz.
You almost got the idea that his ego was bigger than his game, as media outlets reported that Piazza would most likely demand a major contract in his walk year, which prompted the Dodgers to make a devastating decision to trade him away.
But LA’s loss was New York’s gain, as Piazza became the greatest hitting catcher not only for the Mets but all of baseball.
In his first season in Queens, Piazza hit .348, with 23 home runs, and 76 RBI’s in 109 games. In 1999, he regained his star power, hitting .303, launching 40 home runs, and driving in a career tying 124 RBI’s, while earning his seventh all-star selection. He also led the team to their first postseason appearance in 11 years, finishing with 97 wins and earning the Wild Card spot.
In 2000, the team earned another spot in the postseason via the Wild Card as Piazza continued his dominance at the plate hitting .324, with 38 home runs and 113 RBI’s in 136 regular season games. During the postseason, New York won their first pennant since the 1986 World Championship season, earning a spot against the cross-town rivals, the New York Yankees, in the city’s first and only Subway Series.
In the end, the Mets would not win back the city, but Piazza still owned their hearts.
To add to his Mets and major league legacy, Piazza became the all-time home run leader as a catcher with his 352 dinger on May 5, 2004.
Mike Piazza will always be remembered for his days donning the orange and blue and in eight Mets seasons, he amassed a .296 batting average, with 220 home runs, and 655 RBI’s.
On October 28, 2005, Piazza was granted free agency, halting his time in Queens, and even though he may not have finished his career in New York, there is little doubt that he will enter the hall with a Mets cap on his head.
For his amazing 16 years in baseball, Piazza won the NL Rookie of the Year, appeared in 12 all-star games, finished in the top 10 for the league MVP seven different times, and hit .308, with 2127 hits, 344 doubles, 427 home runs, while driving in 1335 runs.
Now the greatest hitting catcher in the game, will join Ken Griffey Jr., when they are both enshrined in the hall this summer. What a great honor to have had the opportunity to watch such a great career and being a Mets fan just makes it even sweeter.
Congrats Mike, and thanks for all the great memories and for making us smile at the right moments. A true legend in this amazing game.
Congratulations to @mikepiazza31, an outstanding ballplayer and a great man. #HOF2016pic.twitter.com/kLqzBONSsE
— Tommy Lasorda (@TommyLasorda) January 6, 2016
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