Hall of Famer hit dramatic home run in NYC's first pro sports event after 2001 attacks
By Chad Thornburg
Of the 427 home runs hit by Mike Piazza throughout his 16-year career, it's the two-run homer in a regular-season game against the Braves at Shea Stadium, 15 years ago today, that still resonates most profoundly.
On Sept. 21, 2001, 10 days after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Piazza provided a small dose of healing for a city rebounding from tragedy.
It was the first professional sporting event in New York after the attacks, and the Mets were hosting the division-rival Braves in the midst of a pennant race. With the his club trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, Piazza stepped into the box for his fourth and final at-bat of the night and took Atlanta's Steve Karsay deep to left-center for the go-ahead two-run homer.
New York went on to win, cementing the moment in Mets lore and providing a modicum of normalcy for the 41,235 fans in attendance, including many first responders and their families, and the countless others watching at home.
"It was just this incredible release of emotion," Piazza told MLB Network earlier this year. "And I think, you know, it became evidently clear that people just wanted to cheer about something."
That two-run shot is perhaps the most iconic moment of Piazza's illustrious Major League career, which culminated in his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., in July. For his eight seasons in New York (1998-2005), the 12-time All-Star catcher became the fourth player in Mets history to have his number, 31, retired.
Piazza debuted in 1992 with the Dodgers, who selected him in the 62nd round of the '88 Draft, and took home National League Rookie of the Year honors in his first full season in '93. He played the majority of his career with Los Angeles and New York, but also had brief stints with the Marlins, Padres and A's.
Piazza retired after the 2007 season, finishing with a .308 batting average, 1,335 RBIs and a record 396 of his 427 home runs at catcher. He took home 10 Silver Slugger Awards and finished in the top-10 in MVP voting seven times.
"What an amazing life that I've had in baseball," Piazza said after his Hall of Fame announcement. "The memories, to me, I almost can't capture. It's truly a blessing and I'm very, very grateful."
Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.