COOPERSTOWN, NY – With the wreckage of the World Trade Center attacks still literally smoldering, Major League Baseball played its first games on September 21, 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. As the attacks were felt by all Americans, it was a uniquely personal attack on the populace of the greatest city on Earth. I vividly recall people walking expressionless around the city in the days after the attacks, zombie-like in their grief and confusion and fear.
When the Mets and Braves took the field at a sold out Shea Stadium that evening, there was hope of a return to normalcy. And nobody led the charge back toward normalcy like Mike Piazza. Piazza launched a massive home run to give the Mets the lead in the 8th inning of a game they would go on to win. Piazza became an icon, a symbol of the resiliency of New Yorkers. In the days and weeks after Piazza-himself a rare New York player who lived in Manhattan, would visit the city’s firehouses and first responders and kids of fallen first responders. For these reasons-in addition to his Hall of Fame career-he belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The beautiful museum in Cooperstown is a Hall of Fame. It houses the plaques, the memorabilia and the memories of the greatest players Major League Baseball ever saw. It goes without saying that some of history’s greatest players who are enshrined in the HOF may not have been the best people. We know the stories about guys like Rogers Hornsby, Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Cap Anson-who personally ensured the inclusion of a color barrier in baseball that lasted more than 60 years.
I don’t care about any of that though. Whatever your opinions may be about Piazza there are some facts that are irrefutable. The greatest hitting catcher in Major League history was also a tireless presence in the city when that city needed him most. His accomplishments were not achieved in Kansas City, or Minneapolis or any other outpost where little is demanded of their heroes. Piazza did most of his damage in New York. This town chews up the weak, the thin-skinned. Piazza embraced it, put up with it (I’m not gay press conference) and flourished. On the biggest stage as the star of the team Piazza answered the bell every night.
Believe what you want about his backne. Believe what you want about performance enhancers that may or may not have aided him in his career. Mike Piazza is a Hall of Famer and should be recognized as such. He made it here. End of story. It’s time for the sanctimonious baseball writers like Bill Madden to go away. Open your eyes and take it all in. All of it. Piazza was a Hall of Famer on and off the playing field.