Mike Piazza returns to Shea with moving tribute
For Mets fans, Mike Piazza was the 'face of the franchise' since he was acquired from the Florida Marlins in 1998. Tom Seaver may be "The Franchise" and "Tom Terrific", but for position players, Piazza is right up there in all-time great Mets. And the Mets and their fans did right by giving him his due on Tuesday night when he came in as a visiting player for the first time as an ex-Met with the San Diego Padres.
The video tribute was moving, to say the least. The Beatles' "In My Life" was a fitting song to show some great moments that Piazza had brought to the team and the city. Just seeing some of the plays again that we are all familiar with and knowing the setting was special. The ovation that he received in all of his at-bats during the game was well deserved. Piazza went 1-4 with a single, which really didn't matter. Whatever he did would have received applause and standing ovations. The game itself was won by the Mets, 3-2.
It all started when Piazza was taking his cuts during batting practice. The fans were cheering everything he hit, especially the long balls. Chants of "Bring him back" could be heard and it was easy to see the happiness on Piazza's face when it echoed through the stadium. Everywhere you looked, #31 and Piazza were on the backs of fans. It was a special night for a special player.
It's hard to say exactly why Piazza became an instant hero to the Mets fans. They have had other players that captured their hearts and had great abilities. But when Piazza came on board, you could just feel the difference. He put the team on his back and was 'the savior' that others have not been here. George Foster and Bobby Bonilla are two that come to mind that have been brought to New York to give the franchise credibility and have failed miserably. Piazza was brought here for the same reason and succeeded. The only thing lacking was a World Series championship. He led the team to the post-season in 1999 and 2000. He was the main man on both clubs, and he can hang his hat (or helmet) on the 2000 National League pennant.
Piazza has hit so many huge home runs, but he seemed to always make sure that some of them were against their nemesis, the Atlanta Braves. His opposite field moon-shot at Atlanta to draw the Mets even in Game 6 of the 1999 Division Series, the three run line drive down the left field line to take an 11-8 lead to cap a comeback from an eight run deficit in 2001, and the September 21, 2001 game-winning shot in the first game back after the 9-11-01 tragedy. Those are three that we can always look back at and know that Piazza was all he was supposed to be, and more.
Although his numbers declined in the last few seasons, he still was a threat in the batter's box every time. The amicable split in the off-season was done with class on both sides. The Mets wanted to go in another direction and Piazza wanted to continue his career, including being a number one catcher. He is content in San Diego and his having a very good season on a first place team.
It would be a very interesting scene if these two teams meet in the playoffs. But that is for another day. Right now, Piazza has received the proper accolades from the fans that he entertained for eight years. Congratulations Mike.