Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

From ESPN.COM - Sept. 21, 2001: The night Mike Piazza became a Hall of Famer

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • From ESPN.COM - Sept. 21, 2001: The night Mike Piazza became a Hall of Famer

    I thought this was a great story - having been a life long NYer and Mets fan, as well as being personally touched by the events of 9/11, it really hit home.



    Javy Lopez set up on the outside corner of the plate, the first-base side, and Steve Karsay fired the 0-1 fastball that drifted a few fateful inches to the right. Mike Piazza had taken the first pitch he saw from Karsay in the bottom of the eighth inning. He had no intention of taking the second.

    It was late Friday night, Sept. 21, 2001, and Shea Stadium had already established itself as the scene of a community revival. People say that sports cannot heal or unite in a time of tragedy, that they can only serve as a temporary sanctuary from the grief and pain. But if you were among the 41,235 fans in the building for the first major sporting event played in New York after the Twin Towers fell on 9/11, you understood this was not just a baseball game providing a distraction for a heartbroken city.

    This was a symbol of strength and resilience for thousands of New Yorkers in dire need of one.

    Long before Piazza sized up that second pitch from Karsay in the eighth, Shea had delivered one gripping drama after another. Diana Ross sang a version of "God Bless America" that was in the same emotional ballpark as Whitney Houston's national anthem at the Gulf War Super Bowl, and a Marine guard fired a 21-gun salute, bagpipers played and fans chanted "USA ... USA."


    American flags were everywhere in Shea Stadium, and inside the lighted replica of the Manhattan skyline above the scoreboard, the darkened Twin Towers were graced by a red, white and blue ribbon. The Mets and Atlanta Braves, bitter rivals, hugged each other in the pregame, and the crowd would chant for a Yankees fan, Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Later on, during the seventh-inning stretch, Liza Minnelli blew the lid off the place with a rendition of "New York, New York" that included a kick line of cops and firefighters, and a punctuating hug and a kiss for Jay Payton, the Mets batter waiting on deck.

    Bobby Valentine, the Mets manager, was having a hard time focusing on the base-to-base particulars of the game, and for good reason. He had lost a close friend in the attacks, and Valentine had led a procession of his players to the smoldering Ground Zero site, where they visited devastated ladder companies and comforted rescue workers and relatives of the victims. When Shea became a staging area for the recovery effort, the manager was seen loading supplies in the parking lot deep into the night.

    Nearly everyone the Mets came across at Ground Zero told them to keep wearing those caps honoring the cops, firefighters, Port Authority police and emergency services personnel. When some tone-deaf suits in the MLB properties division pressed for the Mets to go back to wearing their official team caps, Todd Zeile said, "As far as we're concerned, they're going to have to tear the hats off of us."

    The Mets donated their game checks -- some $450,000 in all -- to Rusty Staub's fund for the widows and children of fallen heroes, and did the city proud with their commitment to the cause. But something else was needed on the night of Sept. 21, 2001 -- a victory. This was a baseball game, after all, and the Mets had won 20 of 25 to finally get over .500 and stood 5 1/2 back of the first-place Braves, who had seized a 2-1 lead in the top of the eighth on Brian Jordan's double.

    Karsay was an appropriate man to take the ball in the bottom of the inning; he grew up 10 minutes from Shea. He got Matt Lawton on a groundout before walking Edgardo Alfonzo, who was replaced by a pinch runner, Desi Relaford. Despite the fact he was working on his third consecutive season of at least 35 home runs, and that he'd led the Mets to the World Series the previous fall (a five-game loss to the dynastic Yankees), Piazza stepped to the plate as a most improbable representative of his adopted town.


    Piazza arrived in New York in 1998 as an accidental tourist. In the field, in the dugout, around the batting cage, Piazza wore the look of a man heading to the proctologist's office. He didn't smile. Ever. Raised as a rich kid in the suburbs of Philadelphia, molded into a big box-office star as a Dodger in Hollywood, Piazza needed a little time and a lot of money ($91 million over seven years) to make the adjustment.

    By the time he faced off against Karsay, Piazza was no less comfortable in the big city than the megastar next door, Derek Jeter. Piazza left New Jersey for a $2 million condo in Gramercy Park, right in the shadows of the Twin Towers. The same fans who initially jeered him had grown to adore him, and Piazza assumed the role of good company man, too, refusing to criticize Mets owners for failing to acquire Alex Rodriguez or Gary Sheffield after the World Series loss to the Yanks.

    So in every way, he was the right man for the moment, the right Met to get that 96-mph Karsay fastball on the 0-1 count. Piazza had choked back tears during the pregame ceremony, and he later admitted fighting to contain his emotions during this at-bat.

    He'd already doubled and scored in the fourth to make up for an error that allowed Chipper Jones to score, but the fans were appealing for more in this eighth-inning encounter, a lot more. And just as the pitch crossed into his hitting zone, Piazza unlocked his hands and extended his powerful arms toward the ball and created that singular sound of his on contact.

    "A bellowing sound," Valentine recalled the other day. "Mike's sound. When I saw and heard the ball hit the bat, I looked down the dugout and it seemed as though everyone had the exact same look on their faces. Their mouths had opened, their hands were ready to go up, and it was almost suspended, almost in slow motion for me, like bubbles waiting to come out of the Champagne bottle."


    For Mike [Piazza] to do what he did when his team needed him, his city needed him, and baseball and the country needed him ... I mean, I don't want to make it bigger than a game. But it was bigger than a game.

    ”- Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine
    On contact, Karsay didn't turn to follow the flight of the ball; he yanked his head toward the Mets' dugout. He knew. Everyone knew. Piazza's shot took a high, majestic path toward the left-center wall as the crowd exploded, as some Mets jumped over the dugout rail.

    "Just the fact that we played the game was a minor miracle," Valentine said, "because many people didn't think New York should be having a baseball game. Many felt the mourning was so real and present that sports should take the rest of the season off.

    "And Mike was front and center. He was right downtown and couldn't get back to his apartment, and he was confused and angry. I don't know if he had any fear, but a lot of families associated with the Mets were still dealing with their fears. For Mike to do what he did when his team needed him, his city needed him, and baseball and the country needed him ... I mean, I don't want to make it bigger than a game. But it was bigger than a game."

    The ball landed in a camera stand 420 feet from the plate, and the Mets held a 3-2 lead. Piazza's teammates mobbed him on his return to the dugout, and the standing, stomping fans waved the small American flags they were given on the way in. "I'm so happy I was able to come through in that situation," Piazza said that night, "and give people something to cheer about."

    The crowd demanded a curtain call from Piazza, who emerged from the dugout to lift his helmet and blow a kiss to the fans. After Mets closer Armando Benitez ended the game on a double-play ball, fans sang along to a Ray Charles' recording of "America the Beautiful."


    Zeile said the victory was more important than any that could be earned in a World Series, and Robin Ventura said he'd never heard Shea as loud as it was after Piazza's homer. "I felt like we were spectators tonight as everyone saluted fallen brothers and sisters," Piazza said. "I'm very sad for the loss of life but felt good we gave them something to cheer about."

    Piazza would add that the comeback victory "told the rest of the world what New York is about."

    The game featured a number of prominent figures who grew up in the greater New York metropolitan area -- Karsay of Queens (who was later ejected after charging plate ump Wally Bell over the ball four call on Alfonzo), John Franco of Brooklyn, Al Leiter of New Jersey, Jason Marquis of Staten Island, and Valentine of Connecticut -- and yet Piazza was the one who spoke for the city.

    "The whole night's still a blur to me," Valentine said more than 14 years later, "except the one clear moment of that ball going over the fence, and the roar of the crowd, and the change of emotions of everyone around me. It was the most incredible moment I've ever experienced. Mike stepped forward and did exactly what the script told him to do, and there's never been a win that's felt as good as that one."

    Wednesday evening, Mike Piazza, once the 1,390th pick in the 1988 draft, is projected to win induction into the Hall of Fame on the strength of his 427 home runs -- a record 396 of them as a catcher. There will be superior players in Cooperstown, players who won the World Series titles Piazza didn't win, and players who didn't have to face the scrutiny of performance-enhancing drug suspicion Piazza had to face.

    But there won't be any players in the Hall with a more profound signature moment than the night of Sept. 21, 2001, when Mike Piazza proved how much a simple ballgame can mean to people who need far more than a distraction.
    Last edited by stkjock; 01-06-2016, 09:02 AM.

  • #2
    "Bobby Valentine, the Mets manager, was having a hard time focusing on the base-to-base particulars of the game, and for good reason. He had lost a close friend in the attacks, and Valentine had led a procession of his players to the smoldering Ground Zero site, where they visited devastated ladder companies and comforted rescue workers and relatives of the victims. When Shea became a staging area for the recovery effort, the manager was seen loading supplies in the parking lot deep into the night."

    I hadn't heard that before. I never cared much for Valentine, but I have a little more respect for him after reading that.
    They call me Mr. Baseball. Not because of my love for the game; because of all the stitches in my head.

    Comment


    • #3
      Mike Piazza was headed to the Hall of Fame long before 9/21/01. It was a great moment for NYC, for sure, but it did not put him into Cooperstown.

      Many of us were personally affected by that day's events. I was actually in the WTC lobby at 8:46 am. I was with 2 co workers who exited on the south east side with me. A coworker exited on the north side towards Barclay Street and was promptly beheaded by a piece of the landing gear.

      My dad's former ladder company , 101 from Red hook lost all 7 men. Thousands of NY ers had similar stories. Besides Valentine's nice story, there were stories where he berated the Yankees for being AWOL. http://nypost.com/2013/09/11/bobby-v...es-didnt-help/

      “I was dealing with players who were dealing with this fear factor, and even some of them dealing with a little bit of a guilt factor. Then there was the situation with the Yankees across town. Because let it be said, that during the time from 9-11 to 9-21, the Yankees were AWOL,” Valentine said. “You couldn’t find a Yankee on the streets of New York City. You couldn’t find a Yankee down at Ground Zero talking to guys who were working 24-7.

      I never liked Valentine, and these idiotic remarks made me dislike him more.

      Mike Piazza was always a class act. He was a hall of famer before 9/21/01. Bobby Valentine was and still is an @$$ clown.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by mandrake View Post
        Mike Piazza was headed to the Hall of Fame long before 9/21/01. It was a great moment for NYC, for sure, but it did not put him into Cooperstown.

        Many of us were personally affected by that day's events. I was actually in the WTC lobby at 8:46 am. I was with 2 co workers who exited on the south east side with me. A coworker exited on the north side towards Barclay Street and was promptly beheaded by a piece of the landing gear.

        My dad's former ladder company , 101 from Red hook lost all 7 men. Thousands of NY ers had similar stories. Besides Valentine's nice story, there were stories where he berated the Yankees for being AWOL. http://nypost.com/2013/09/11/bobby-v...es-didnt-help/

        “I was dealing with players who were dealing with this fear factor, and even some of them dealing with a little bit of a guilt factor. Then there was the situation with the Yankees across town. Because let it be said, that during the time from 9-11 to 9-21, the Yankees were AWOL,” Valentine said. “You couldn’t find a Yankee on the streets of New York City. You couldn’t find a Yankee down at Ground Zero talking to guys who were working 24-7.

        I never liked Valentine, and these idiotic remarks made me dislike him more.

        Mike Piazza was always a class act. He was a hall of famer before 9/21/01. Bobby Valentine was and still is an @$$ clown.
        Fully agree on Piazza.

        He could have been a HOF earlier if he put that bat handle through Roger Clemens' face but thats another story.
        Last edited by Paulypal; 01-07-2016, 11:35 AM.

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Paulypal View Post
          Fully agree on Piazza.

          He could have been a HOF earlier if you put that bat handle through Roger Clemens' face but thats another story.
          lol, I hope the thought police don't come and get us now.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by PVNICK View Post
            lol, I hope the thought police don't come and get us now.
            Nah - we are ok. Piazza lost HOF points from me for not going to the mound with murderous intentions that night. Clemens deserved and should have received a street beating.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Paulypal View Post
              Nah - we are ok. Piazza lost HOF points from me for not going to the mound with murderous intentions that night. Clemens deserved and should have received a street beating.
              It was a weird moment. The last thing Piazza probably expected was a lunatic throwing a broken bat at him. Reminds me of the time Hagler got beaten up in a restaurant. Some guy asked him for an autograph, Hagler was in the middle of a meal and declined, the guy assaulted him while he was seated. Perhaps if the moment hadn't been so outlandish Piazza would have reacted as we wish. Adrenalin is a strange thing. Piazza should have made it work for him. He probably wasn't thinking clearly. If he was he'd have realized the whole Mets dugout had his back.

              After the beaning though Piazza should have been ready for anything. He's expressed regret at not charging the mound.

              Baseball was the least of my concerns after the attack. I've always thought the importance of that home run was overstated.


              "The Fightin' Met With Two Heads" - Mike Tyson/Ray Knight!

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by Mongoose View Post
                It was a weird moment. The last thing Piazza probably expected was a lunatic throwing a broken bat at him. Reminds me of the time Hagler got beaten up in a restaurant. Some guy asked him for an autograph, Hagler was in the middle of a meal and declined, the guy assaulted him while he was seated. Perhaps if the moment hadn't been so outlandish Piazza would have reacted as we wish. Adrenalin is a strange thing. Piazza should have made it work for him. He probably wasn't thinking clearly. If he was he'd have realized the whole Mets dugout had his back.

                After the beaning though Piazza should have been ready for anything. He's expressed regret at not charging the mound.

                Baseball was the least of my concerns after the attack. I've always thought the importance of that home run was overstated.
                I couldnt agree more. Piazza going after Clemens would have been more important. Maybe the series doesnt change but the Mets were dead already.

                Mike Hampton on the incident: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/...ticle-1.884249
                I remember Hampton being very outspoken about it.

                Piazza later admitted he was a little afraid of Clemens and is the reason why he took Karate later on. A fairly strange admission but whatever. Clemens put Piazza in the hospital in July and then throws a bat at him with the ridiculous explanation that he thought it was the ball. If it were the ball would you throw that into the dugout also? Weird scene.

                Either way without charging the mound the Mets let the big bad Yankees continue to be the big bad Yankees.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Paulypal View Post
                  I couldnt agree more. Piazza going after Clemens would have been more important. Maybe the series doesnt change but the Mets were dead already.

                  Mike Hampton on the incident: http://www.nydailynews.com/archives/...ticle-1.884249
                  I remember Hampton being very outspoken about it.

                  Piazza later admitted he was a little afraid of Clemens and is the reason why he took Karate later on. A fairly strange admission but whatever. Clemens put Piazza in the hospital in July and then throws a bat at him with the ridiculous explanation that he thought it was the ball. If it were the ball would you throw that into the dugout also? Weird scene.

                  Either way without charging the mound the Mets let the big bad Yankees continue to be the big bad Yankees.
                  Well, Clemens isn't going into the Hall of Fame anytime soon. I think that incident is part of the package of character issues that's keeping him out. People talk about steroids but if Bonds and Clemens weren't generally disliked I think it wouldn't be as big a deal. McGwire was Dave Kingman on steroids and Palmiero was sort of mediocre too. They racked up their numbers in a horrendous era for MLB talent. Nothing about them screams Hall of Fame. I think part of the reason steroids was made a giant issue was it was a justifiable way to take away Bonds' legitimacy.

                  As humans Bonds and Clemens are lousy ambassadors for the sport. Ruth was jolly and gregarious, Aaron was quiet and dignified. Nobody wanted Bonds as heir to the throne. Cobb was a lunatic but his personality off the field was an extension of it on the field. It was acceptable to the public of that era; he was a national hero. Bonds and Clemens were never liked and never cared when they had a chance to change perception. Stuff like the Hall of Fame is a popularity contest.

                  Not that steroids was a non-issue but blaming them makes it easy to argue PED use wasn't thoroughly pervasive. It might not be fair but nobody really cares about them. So Piazza, Griffy, Frank Thomas etc. are in and they're not.

                  Funny thing is Piazza never seemed to play with physical fear. I recall him being tough. Maybe he grew up in a civilized environment and didn't have to deal with bullies.


                  "The Fightin' Met With Two Heads" - Mike Tyson/Ray Knight!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Mongoose View Post
                    Well, Clemens isn't going into the Hall of Fame anytime soon. I think that incident is part of the package of character issues that's keeping him out. People talk about steroids but if Bonds and Clemens weren't generally disliked I think it wouldn't be as big a deal. McGwire was Dave Kingman on steroids and Palmiero was sort of mediocre too. They racked up their numbers in a horrendous era for MLB talent. Nothing about them screams Hall of Fame. I think part of the reason steroids was made a giant issue was it was a justifiable way to take away Bonds' legitimacy.

                    As humans Bonds and Clemens are lousy ambassadors for the sport. Ruth was jolly and gregarious, Aaron was quiet and dignified. Nobody wanted Bonds as heir to the throne. Cobb was a lunatic but his personality off the field was an extension of it on the field. It was acceptable to the public of that era; he was a national hero. Bonds and Clemens were never liked and never cared when they had a chance to change perception. Stuff like the Hall of Fame is a popularity contest.

                    Not that steroids was a non-issue but blaming them makes it easy to argue PED use wasn't thoroughly pervasive. It might not be fair but nobody really cares about them. So Piazza, Griffy, Frank Thomas etc. are in and they're not.

                    Funny thing is Piazza never seemed to play with physical fear. I recall him being tough. Maybe he grew up in a civilized environment and didn't have to deal with bullies.
                    I dont fully disagree but I cant wait for the day that Bonds gets elected. Well at least he should be.

                    He is by far the best player I ever saw and I believed he was better than Griffey before roids were involved. On roids Bonds became a player of another world. I thoroughly enjoyed watching him play. I dont actually care how he was as human as long as he was hurting or beating anyone. So big deal he was a prick..... the world is full of them. Jeff Kent was at least as big a prick...hence the dugout brawls.

                    Clemens on the other hand ...... well lets just say I cant type what I would like.

                    Blowing off what Cobb was because it was an extension of how he was on the field is really looking through rose colored glasses. The man was hated in a huge way by any player or person that knew him. He made Bonds look like scared kitten. Cobb was a disgrace as a human being. I read his book and he was nothing short of disgusting. Cobb jumped in the stands to beat a heckler that had no hands by the way......then got physical with the guys wife for trying to protect her husband. Yet Cobb resides in the HOF. He was as big a bigot as there was...are we suppose to say well in it was 1920 and he grew up in Georgia so that was more acceptable? I dont.

                    I wont even get into the game fixing Cobb was involved in before and after the Black Sox scandal. Yet Cobb is in the HOF.
                    Last edited by Paulypal; 01-07-2016, 06:03 PM.

                    Comment


                    • #11

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by stkjock View Post
                        Ok lets put it back on track. Of all of Mike Piazza's 427 homers the homer he hit on 9/21/2001 (#312) is THEE one that put him in the HOF because before that he wasnt really headed to the HOF.

                        It was an emotional time and it was a great moment. Mike Piazza is a HOF'er with or without this homer.

                        Thread - Un-Hijacked

                        I apologize if we were discussing other steroid users besides Piazza in the Mike Piazza HOF thread.
                        Last edited by Paulypal; 01-11-2016, 11:56 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Paulypal View Post
                          Ok lets put it back on track. Of all of Mike Piazza's 427 homers the homer he hit on 9/21/2001 (#312) is THEE one that put him in the HOF because before that he wasnt really headed to the HOF.

                          It was an emotional time and it was a great moment. Mike Piazza is a HOF'er with or without this homer.

                          Thread - Un-Hijacked
                          LOL...the fact that he hit.362 as a catcher in 1997 had nothing to do with it. The fact that he "Bucky Dented" on 9/21 put him in the HOF.

                          The only other catcher, off the top of my mind, that had a season like that was Joe Torre, At the age of 31 in 1971, very slow footed Joe Torre had an incredible 230 hits and hit .363 Joe was slow, even for a catcher.

                          Johnny Bench incredible power numbers in 1970, but he "only hit" .293


                          Anyway...the whole idea that somehow a HR on 9/21/01 had any effect on getting elected to Cooperstown is pretty silly. This whole "warm fuzzy ESPN moment " crap is just that...crap. Reminds me of fans saying "Citi Field hasn't had it's moment" and I was like "WTF?". Then Johan pitched his 'no hitter' and fans said that was the moment. Then fans said the All Star game was the moment. Then fans said the first post season game was, then fans said the WS was.

                          What was Shea's moment ? (the Beatles?) or Ebbets Field, or the Polo Grounds, or the original Yankee Stadium moment. See how silly that sounds???

                          And the exact moment Babe Ruth became a Hall of Famer? Well for me its when he told that little boy in the hospital in "The Babe Ruth Story" that he would hit a HR for him. (or was it the moment when he saw Ol' Miller Huggins had died in the Hospital, and turned the light out?"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Typical fluff piece. No harm intended I am sure - but of course Pizza was a HOFer to be WAY before 2001.
                            1885 1886 1926 1931 1934 1942 1944 1946 1964 1967 1982 2006 2011

                            1887 1888 1928 1930 1943 1968 1985 1987 2004 2013

                            1996 2000 2001 2002 2005 2009 2012 2014 2015


                            The Top 100 Pitchers In MLB History
                            The Top 100 Position Players In MLB History

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mandrake View Post
                              LOL...the fact that he hit.362 as a catcher in 1997 had nothing to do with it. The fact that he "Bucky Dented" on 9/21 put him in the HOF.

                              The only other catcher, off the top of my mind, that had a season like that was Joe Torre, At the age of 31 in 1971, very slow footed Joe Torre had an incredible 230 hits and hit .363 Joe was slow, even for a catcher.

                              Johnny Bench incredible power numbers in 1970, but he "only hit" .293


                              Anyway...the whole idea that somehow a HR on 9/21/01 had any effect on getting elected to Cooperstown is pretty silly. This whole "warm fuzzy ESPN moment " crap is just that...crap. Reminds me of fans saying "Citi Field hasn't had it's moment" and I was like "WTF?". Then Johan pitched his 'no hitter' and fans said that was the moment. Then fans said the All Star game was the moment. Then fans said the first post season game was, then fans said the WS was.

                              What was Shea's moment ? (the Beatles?) or Ebbets Field, or the Polo Grounds, or the original Yankee Stadium moment. See how silly that sounds???

                              And the exact moment Babe Ruth became a Hall of Famer? Well for me its when he told that little boy in the hospital in "The Babe Ruth Story" that he would hit a HR for him. (or was it the moment when he saw Ol' Miller Huggins had died in the Hospital, and turned the light out?"
                              Great careers should have its share of great moments. Now 2001 was an extenuating circumstance - I get it but its not career defining.

                              Articles like this is why I find ESPN a bigger harm to sports than they do good. People read this rubbish and believe it. ESPN has influenced way too many opinions of people without the ability to formulate their own.

                              Everyone in sports now looks for that "moment" that defines a player and their career. It creates a label. It makes it easier for the media to relay the message and much easier for the "fan" to relate to a player in such a way instead of actually researching the player and coming to their own conclusions.

                              That one 1960 WS homer put Bill Mazerowski in the HOF when he shouldnt even be allowed in the town of Cooperstown, and that one moment destroyed Bill Buckner. Both career defining moments that dont represent either players career, but it does make it pretty easy doesnt it?

                              How many times have we heard 'Player A" is clutch because he got a big hit in a big game. So now he is clutch. Nobody did any research - he is just clutch. The same with choke. Beltran had more big hits for the Mets than other players had hits, but he struck out in a playoff game and was a choker.

                              Comment

                              Ad Widget

                              Collapse
                              Working...
                              X