Mike Piazza’s legendary career had some speed bumps along the way, yet through sheer determination, work, people who believed in him, and his skill set catapulted a player who was drafted in the 62nd round of the 1988 draft to the pinnacle of being enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY this past weekend. Let’s take a look at some facts that will amaze the reader on how Mike Piazza overcame obstacles to get to the apex.
It’s no secret that Tommy Lasorda begged and pleaded with Dodgers’ management to draft Piazza, and it took until the 62nd round for them to listen. Lasorda also made the call to change Piazza’s position from first base to catcher, and unknown to Dodger management, he also sent Piazza down to the development camp in the Dominican Republic for three months to learn his new position. Dodger third baseman Eric Karros (drafted in the sixth round in 1988) indicated that Piazza went above and beyond to become a catcher and work diligently to get to the big leagues.
In a contract dispute with the Dodgers in 1998, he was traded to the Florida Marlins in a six player swap. Piazza only played five games with the Marlins, and as luck would have it, he was shipped off to the Big Apple to play where he would spend seven unforgettable years playing for the boys of Queens. Being in the spotlight, Piazza became the leader and soul of the New York Mets, and that is how he enters the Hall, a Met.
Piazza hit 220 home runs during his eight year stint with the Mets, where he ranks third behind Darryl Strawberry and David Wright. He also had 655 RBI’s with a .298 batting average. His most memorable moment occurred just after the tragedy of 9/11 when he drilled the first home run post 9/11 in New York off of Atlanta’s Steve Karsay to lift the Mets’ to victory on a storied and emotional night.
Piazza would play in New York until the end of the 2005 season, leading the Mets to a World Series appearance against their cross town rival in 2000. Unfortunately they were defeated in five games in “The Subway Series”. He ended his playing days back on the West Coast with San Diego and then Oakland, retiring in 2007 after playing 16 years.
Piazza ranks 21st all time with 1,630 games behind the plate. Ivan Rodriguez is top at an amazing 2,427 games. He is a 12 time All Star and ranks fourth in appearances behind Yogi Berra (15), Johnny Bench (14), and Rodriguez (14). His 396 home runs as a catcher ranks first in that category with nine seasons hitting 30 or more home runs which more than doubles any other catcher.
This past weekend, Piazza, along with Ken Griffey Jr. were enshrined at Cooperstown, where Piazza thanked Mets fans for their support and will have his number 31 retired this weekend at Citi Field when the Mets host the Colorado Rockies in a three game set. He is the 312th player to have his career forever preserved in Cooperstown and well deserved.