Tonight at Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza returns to Shea Stadium for the first time since he left the Mets and went to the San Diego Padres as a free agent last winter.
I hope the Mets fans will give Piazza the long ovation he deserves. For 7 1/2 years, he was an All-Star for the Mets, and without question is a future first-ballot Hall of Famer.
He also was responsible for one of the favorite baseball memories of my life.
September 21, 2001. The Mets were playing their first game back at Shea Stadium since the terrorist attacks of ten days earlier. That night, I was in Manhattan, going to a rock show for the record company I worked for. I stopped off at the ESPNZone as the Mets-Braves game was beginning, and I watched the opening ceremonies honoring those heroes who risked their lives at the World Trade Center, and those who were lost. It was a very moving thing to see. People at the ESPNZone were applauding and some were even in tears. Piazza was shown in tears himself as it all unfolded.
I spent most of the evening at the show in Greenwich Village, but I followed the game on my walkman from time to time. By the eighth inning, the Mets were down 2-1, with a man on and two outs when, having just put the walkman back on, Piazza came up. I had a feeling about this at-bat, and stayed with it. Piazza belted a long drive to deep left-center that hit the camera well beyond the wall for a two-run homer and sent Shea into a frenzy. I remember putting my arms up in the air in triumph, and a friend asked me what was going on. I explained what happened, and what a magical moment was taking place. I saw it all on the replays after I got home.
The Mets went on to win, 3-2, and gave it a good ride in the NL East race before ultimately finishing out of the playoffs. But Piazza's blast was still one of the most emotional moments on one of the most emotional nights in New York City baseball history. SportsnetNY recently replayed that game on their "Mets Classics" show, and it brought back a lot of emotions for me.
Thanks for the memories Mike.