Piazza's journey to be featured on Network special
By Austin Laymance
Mike Piazza, the most accomplished offensive catcher in Major League history, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on July 24. His improbable rise from a 62nd-round Draft pick to baseball immortality is the focus of Wednesday's "MLB Network Presents" debut showing of "Against All Odds: The Mike Piazza Story," which airs on MLB Network at 10 p.m. ET.
The hour-long program is narrated by actor, New York City native and Mets fan Matthew Broderick. It features exclusive footage of Piazza's orientation visit to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in advance of his upcoming induction.
Piazza reflects on his career journey throughout the program, which includes rare footage of Hall of Famer Ted Williams watching a teenaged Piazza hit in his backyard. Williams remarks, "I don't think I hit the ball as good as he does when I was 16."
Signature moments from Piazza's career are documented, most notably his on-field encounters with former Yankees ace Roger Clemens and his legendary home run against the Braves in the first sporting event played in New York following September 11th.
Said Piazza of his showdown with Clemens in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series: "I mean, if I would have taken a swing and gotten thrown out of the game, we end up losing that game, then they would've said, 'Oh, he's selfish. He wanted to be macho, but it cost his team the game.' Obviously I was upset, but that unfortunately will always be part of my history, and people still talk about it today."
The friendship between Piazza's father, Vincent Piazza Sr., and close family friend, Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, is highlighted throughout the program, with Lasorda illustrating the history behind the Dodgers selecting Piazza in the 1998 MLB Draft.
Former Dodgers general manager Fred Claire, former All-Star and Dodgers Minor League instructor Reggie Smith and former Dodgers teammate Eric Karros detail Piazza's struggles at the outset of his professional career, including the brief period when he left the organization and his eventual impact with the big league club. In another piece of rare footage, Piazza discusses quitting baseball in the Minors.
Piazza also opens up about being traded from the Dodgers to the Marlins in 1998 following five straight All-Star seasons in Los Angeles, and former Mets general manager Steve Phillips and manager Bobby Valentine detail the deal that brought Piazza to New York just eight days later.
"We became a marquee team," Valentine says of Piazza joining the Mets in 1998. "A team that now had a different level of respect than we had before he got there."
Al Leiter, a teammate of Piazza's with the Mets, describes the catcher's tremendous value to the organization, which culminated in a National League pennant in 2000. Also, MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal discusses Piazza's place in baseball history.
"MLB Network Presents," which is hosted by Bob Costas and launched in January 2015, is a series of documentaries and access-driven profiles covering a wide array of baseball history.
Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.