Mets fans young and old received some wonderful news yesterday. Mike Piazza, the club's longtime catcher and one of the best players in franchise history, was elected to the Hall of Fame. When he is officially enshrined this summer in Cooperstown, Piazza is expected to become the second player ever to enter the Hall with a Mets cap on his plaque.
To celebrate the occasion, here are some highlights from the career of the greatest hitting catcher of all time.
Before he came to the Mets, Piazza was already a superstar for the Dodgers, bursting onto the scene by hitting .318/.370/.561 during his 1993 rookie campaign. His superhero strength and ability to hit with power to all fields made you wonder how he lasted until the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft.
After finishing four games back of the Wild Card spot in 1997, the Mets were determined to return to the postseason for the first time in a decade at the outset of the 1998 season. To show how serious the front office was, general manager Steve Phillips traded Preston Wilson, Geoff Goetz, and Ed Yarnall to Florida in exchange for Piazza, who had just been dealt to the Marlins a week earlier. During his first game with New York, the All-Star backstop received a standing ovation and laced an RBI double to right-center field.
The Mets fell just short of the postseason again in 1998, but they finally broke through the next season by winning the National League Wild Card as well as the Division Series. During Game 6 of the Championship Series versus the rival Braves, Piazza hit a shot that would perhaps be as memorable as Robin Ventura's grand slam single... if only the Mets could have finished the job.
Piazza delighted Mets fans not only by leading the team to the postseason in consecutive seasons, but also by hitting long home runs against the Yankees, such as this grand slam off of Roger Clemens. For some reason the broadcasters are shocked that Mets fans managed to find their way into the Bronx. Really?
Later that June, Piazza hit one of his most famous home runs, a three-run shot to cap a delirious 10-run, eighth-inning rally. Despite trailing Atlanta 8-1 after seven innings, the Mets came out on top, 11-8.
Perhaps upset about giving up the long ball to Piazza, Clemens hit Piazza in the head with a fastball when the regular season leg of the Subway Series continued in July. As if that weren't enough, he then through a sharp piece of wood at the slugger during the Fall Classic. The Yankees ended up defeating the Mets to earn their 26th World Series title, but at least Piazza got into the Hall of Fame before Clemens.
Before all was said and done, Piazza shook off the assault to hit this home run in Game 4. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to lift the Mets to a victory.
Even with all of that World Series drama, the most memorable moment in Piazza's career is without a doubt the home run he hit to deep center field during the Mets' return to New York following the September 11 attacks. With the orange and blue trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, Piazza hit the two-run shot off of Atlanta's Steve Karsay to cement his spot in New York sports lore and keep the Mets alive in the pennant chase.
The Mets ended up doing just fine without Piazza during the 2006 campaign, but he was still missed by fans and players alike. When he came back to Queens in a San Diego uniform, the Mets legend hit a pair of home runs to remind the Shea faithful of the good ole days.
After the 2007 season, Piazza retired with 427 home runs, more than any catcher in major league history. Yes, it's stupid that it took him four tries to get into the Hall of Fame now, but who cares? He's in now, and he's going to be immortalized as a proud member of the Mets.