Today marks the 21st anniversary of the Mets trade for Hall-of-Famer Mike Piazza (cheers!). While the debate between Keith in ’83, Carter in ’85 and Cespedes in ’15 would be an entertaining one, I believe the Piazza acquisition had the biggest impact on the franchise because of his sustained offensive prowess, flair for the dramatic and (star) power. And I am convinced if it wasn’t for Benitez or Timo Perez’s running blunder in Game 1 of the 2000 WS, Piazza would have brought a championship home to Flushing.
At-A-Glance: Piazza Moments
There are plenty of Piazza memories that absolutely stand-out in my mind. I hope to share some of the memories in more depth down the road on this blog, but in the interest in time, here’s a quick and dirty list.
- Post 9/11 HR vs. ATL (9/21/01): I still get chills thinking back on that Friday night. I was a sophomore at Quinnipiac and I remember watching the pre-game ceremonies and game in my dorm suite’s common area. Most of my roommates were either Red Sox fans or more interested in hockey. As the night went on and friends came over to start “pre-gaming,” I was still glued to the TV. Mets-Braves, first night at Shea post-9/11, AND I was still holding on to a belief that if we could sweep this series, that maybe, just maybe the Mets could make an improbable run to the playoffs. Down by one in the 8th, with a runner on 1st (I think it was Alfonso via a walk), and Piazza coming up. When he hit the ball and Howie Rose started screaming “that ball has a chance…HOME RUN,” I remember jumping from my seat and letting out a scream that the entire floor heard.
- Mets-Expos @ Shea (7/11/98): This was a memorable game personally for several reasons. It’s the first time I ever saw Piazza play live and can remember how different the ball sounded coming off his bat. Also, it was pretty awesome hearing him come up to bat to Hollywood Hulk Hogan’s entrance music — it wasn’t until much later that I learned it was a Jimmy Hendrix song (hey, I was 15!). The other reason this game was memorable was because I sat in a suite with my entire family – aunts, uncles, cousins included – courtesy of a charity auction my uncle won. It was an “Amazin” night — capped by the sight of seeing Ralph Kiner smoking a cigarette in the press box. That wholesome childhood image of Ralph was ruined for a split-second!
- Piazza’s first game (5/23/98): It was a Saturday afternoon game against the Brewers. I don’t recall being this amped up for a new player to join the team. One thing that gets lost in the shuffle of this game is that Al Leiter pitched a complete game, despite shaking off Piazza what felt like a 1,000 times in the game. I am also pretty sure this was the first time I learned that Jerry Seinfeld was a Mets fan — I can still remember the replays of him clapping and jumping from his field level seats as Piazza recorded his first hit and rounded second for third.
- NLCS Game 6 vs. ATL (10/19/99): As the clip shows, this was as dramatic as you could get in a playoff game. I remember watching the later innings on my living room floor (it was my spot), with my dad. As soon as that ball went over the fence, my dad screamed “F-Yeah” and I gave him the hardest high-five I could. After being down six in the early innings, and coming back to tie it 7-7 on the road, I was convinced we were going to win this game. Alas, the heartbreak, thanks to Kenny Rodgers. I’ll stop right there before I get angry thinking about it more, but at least I’ll always have this home run to remember.
The Bottom Line
Do you have any memories or tidbits from these games to share? Or what are your favorite Piazza moments?