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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

20 years later, the enduring legacy of the Mike Piazza home run

ON THE WAY to Shea Stadium, Mike Piazza spent the whole ride thinking it was too soon. The Mets had swept three games in Pittsburgh from Sept. 17-19, and Piazza struggled badly. Not on the field—he had two home runs and four RBIs against the Pirates. But inside, he felt empty. He’d grown to love New York, being a New Yorker, being a Met. He wasn’t sure how he or his teammates would possibly be able to play with the destruction just a few miles away. It didn’t feel right.

Throw in that the Mets had closed to within 4½ games of the Braves and there were real pennant stakes to the game, and Piazza was afraid he wouldn’t even be able to function that night.

“We just didn’t know if we should be there,” he says. “To be a professional athlete, you do have to muster up a certain sense of emotion to play with intensity. And at that point, all of our emotion was drained.”

The Braves felt the same way. Before the game, Greg Maddux went out and sat in the visiting team bullpen. He occasionally did that on days when he didn’t pitch, but on Sept. 21 he wanted to talk to Mets security, cops, firefighters and other first responders around the bullpen.

As he sat there in his uniform, two hours before a baseball game, he wavered on the importance of the game that night, too. He listened to them talk about the agony of losing loved ones and coworkers, but he was struck by the different level of pain in their voice about the uncertainty. There was so little finality, for so many. “They just wanted to know,” Maddux says. “Even if the news was terrible, they wanted to know for sure what happened to the people they loved.”

But Maddux ultimately was swayed by something else he heard in the bullpen: The players may have been wrestling with whether to play or not, but those New Yorkers, the ones with a void in their guts, needed the game. “It was such a tragedy that happened. All the lives that were lost,” Maddux says. “It was nice to pay your respects and start moving on again. Something good finally happened—there was a baseball game people could go to, and things were going to start to get better.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: September 08, 2021 at 05:59 PM | 0 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: mets, mike piazza, september 11th

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