When the Mets acquired Mike Piazza from the Florida Marlins on May 22, 1998, they didn’t just acquire one of the premier catchers in baseball. They also found the face of the franchise for the the next eight years.
At the time of the trade, the Amazins were a team on the rise under Bobby Valentine. However, despite an 88-win season in 1997, the Mets lacked the sizzle (or star-power) that the crosstown rival Yankees had, and the attendance reflected it.
Piazza’s first game in New York represented a few of the changes that would be evident during his time in New York. Before Mike’s arrival, the Mets were only averaging 18,177 per game. 32,900 flocked to Shea to see Piazza’s debut as a Met against the Milwaukee Brewers on May 23, and that number would continue to climb as the season continued.
On a Saturday afternoon before Memorial Day, it was Piazza behind the plate and hitting third in the lineup for the Mets. His first two at-bats were uneventful, as he grounded out and then struck out. But in the bottom of the fifth, the Mets’ slugger drilled an RBI double to right-center off of the Brewers’ Jeff Juden to give the Mets a 2-0 lead.
The crowd roared in approval, sounding much louder than the actual capacity at Shea that afternoon. As Daily News writer Mike Lupica said, “hope always seems to pad the house.”
The Mets beat the Brewers 3-0 behind a complete game shutout from Al Leiter. But the story of the day was Piazza. The fans got a tiny glimpse of the greatness that was still to come
Safe to say, for the first time in a decade, they Mets a face for their franchise.
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This Fan Shot was contributed by Michael Rappaport. Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over 17,000 Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to GetMetsmerized@aol.com. Or ask us about becoming a regular contributor.