Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Road To Cooperstown

When he retires from baseball, Mike Piazza will be remembered as the best hitting catcher of all time. He is most likely spending his last few days in a Mets uniform, and the long home run he hit tonight, followed by a curtain call demanded by the small, yet boisterous crowd, was a reminder of the great run he has had in New York. Next season, he will probably play with an American League team, so that he can end his career as a DH.

Gloria Salt writes a fitting tribute:
It would be difficult to find another future Hall of Famer whose provenance is more underwhelming. He had a tepid, abbreviated college career in which his hitting prowess was evident but his slowness a constant liability. His professional prospects seemed dim to hopeless by the 62nd round of the 1988 major league draft. Indeed, Piazza would almost certainly now be just a regular Joe had he not gotten a major break at that moment: Family friend Tommy LaSorda stepped in to urge the Los Angeles Dodgers to give Piazza a shot. He was reluctantly picked up late in that round, with the Dodgers so skeptical about him that they wouldn’t pay his plane fare to L.A.
Piazza hurled himself into the project of professional ball with the same single-minded determination that had led him to spend winters shoveling snow out of the makeshift batting cage his father built for him in his Pennsylvania backyard. Partly to justify LaSorda’s faith in him and partly to counter constant accusations that he’d been given a free ride, Piazza did everything imaginable to mold himself into a major-leaguer.
Piazza had the pluck to stick it out in New York, not in spite of the ferociousness of the impatient New York fans but because of it. And he was rewarded, after a year of snippy phenom-baiting, by an outpouring of adoration from fans of both genders and respect from the press...