Congratulations to Mike Piazza on admission to baseball’s greatest shrine in Cooperstown. I was at Shea Stadium in 1998 the day before his arrival and saw relief pitcher John Franco wearing 45 instead of 31, which was Mike’s number in LA and briefly in Miami. One of the best offensive catchers in the game and he got the Mets to the 1999 post-season and the 2000 [subway] World Series. Seems like only yesterday watching from the green chairs in the mezzanine at old Shea Stadium. Just last October we saw Citi Field finally lose its post-season virginity and host a series with the Kansas City Royals.
Among his contemporaries, there were better players than Mike Piazza in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but Mike was just what the doctor ordered in Flushing at the time. The bond with fans like me is tight, but not as tight, as with Seaver, Gooden, and Strawberry, who were all home-grown products. Seaver is in the hall and #41 is retired by the Mets, the latter two if they just could have stayed off drugs. Piazza’s contributions to the Mets in that era were far from ignominious—he was an integral part of those clubs’ success. But I believe his best years were with the Dodgers. Even in 1998, his throw to second in an attempt to throw out a runner was beginning to show his age. He brought pop at bat which is what the team on the precipice desperately needed.
I hope to see a 31 in leftfield along with the 37 (Stengel), 14 (Hodges), 41 (Seaver), 42 (42 unilaterally retired across MLB for Jackie Robinson), and SHEA (tribute to home ball park for forty-five years).