With the New York Mets gaining another HOF member, we relive Mike Piazza’s most heroic moment as a ball player.
Mike Piazza smashed 427 home runs over his 16-year career, the most by a catcher in Major League history.
He hit 30 or more in nine separate seasons, which also ranks first among catchers.
He drove in 1335 runs, and boasted a career .308 batting average. Piazza was named to 12 All-Star Games.
No one will ever doubt the offensive prowess of Piazza, and many would call him the best offensive catcher to ever play the game.
For that, Piazza will be enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Sunday, July 24, 2016, wearing a New York Mets cap.
But in the course of his storied career, it was one defining moment – one which abstracts itself from the 1912 Major League games Piazza participated in – which will be remembered forever as a feat which uplifted an ailing city, and united a mourning nation.
After the shocking, sobering attacks on New York on September 11, 2001, in which the World Trade Center was brought to rubble and nearly 3,000 Americans were killed, all of life seemed to freeze.
Suddenly, events like baseball games and concerts were irrelevant.
Nothing else mattered. And it seemed as though nothing else would ever matter. Many wondered how, and if, life would go on as usual.
Baseball is a sport played all but four days over the course of its schedule from April through September.
Besides the All-Star Break, there is at least one big league game happening every single day across the country.
But after the 9/11 terrorist attacks remembered all too well for the horror they struck, baseball was shut down for 10 days.
With the pastime out of commission, along with all the regular life events New Yorkers loved to love, the city – and its millions of residents – was in need of repair.
No one knew if it would come, and how it would come.
The answer lied in that pastime. It was ingrained in the very fibers of Mike Piazza’s bat, thinly intertwined and independently weak, but strong in unity.
When Piazza belted that seventh inning home run to put the Mets ahead of the Braves, even though it was just one of 36 Mike would hit in the 2001 season, it carried more meaning than any he hit in his 16 years as a big leaguer.
Simply put, the home run transcended sport.
It rose above baseball and its competitive nature, and, despite its timing in the heat of a pennant race, the home run struck the chord of happiness which was absent from the grieving New Yorker.
Though that beat of joy may have been temporary, it still signified a recovery in the making.
That recovery was still in its early stages, but the smile Mike Piazza gave New Yorkers, meant something. It meant that injuries do heal. And that, no matter the horror the city inexplicably experienced, people would rise above it.
Howie Rose’s call embodied the meaning of a home run that is on paper just one of 427, but in reality one of a kind, as he said, “Shea Stadium has something to smile about!”
That it did, and the ballpark saw a moment which defined the ability of sport to transcend its innate competition, and touch the hearts of people with real problems – not the problems of baseball, like losing a playoff game, or making an error.
Those real problems were not healed by any means, but the home run which sparked a moving, albeit short-lived kind of joy was a perfect symbolism of a city that could, and would, overcome an unspeakable tragedy.
Yes, Mike is a deserved Hall of Famer with unparalleled numbers for the position he played, but it was a moment that counted as just one of his 427 home runs, two of his 1335 RBIs, and one of his 2127 runs scored which will cement his legacy as a true hero in sports history.
In memory, all we can do is look back and smile.