Tomorrow is a HUGE day in Baseball, and it’s fitting that in a season with such competitiveness that you find two big time competitors being inducted into its Hall of Fame to celebrate it’s past:
Mike Piazza. I’m not a fan, but when you look at the stats, in the immortal words of the PA announcer in “A League of Their Own”…”OH DOCTOR!!!”
A player in LA and NYC, he “played the role”, but unlike many others, this guy performed. A 12 time all-star, a .308 batting average, 10 Silver Slugger awards, 427 HR and 1335 RBI. Not bad for a kid who was a 62nd round draft choice.
All that, but Piazza seems to be remembered most for that epic Home Run post 9/11. Facing the Atlanta Braves at the old Shea Stadium in the first game back after the break from 9/11. That HR may have torn the roof off of that place – had there been a roof.
Of course there was all that non-sense with Roger Clemens in the 2000 World Series Subway Series, but as I recall, Piazza did pretty well against Clemens.
Ken Griffey, Jr. What can you say about “the kid” that hasn’t already been said? I personally will always remember him as a Seattle Mariner. One of the major players that “saved baseball in Seattle”, his flair and his performance were something to behold. If there was ANYBODY who should have went STRAIGHT into Cooperstown immediately after his playing days, “The Kid” was it.
It’s amazing how a cat with 630 Home Runs, a career .284 BA, nearly 2800 hits, and 1836 RBI’s, not to mention his incredible ability with the glove has just been so quiet.
I consider myself a casual fan of Baseball, I’m nowhere near the encyclopedia of so many others. But when Baseball desperately needed a shot in the arm after that ignorant strike that cancelled the 1994 playoffs and World Series, the 1995 American League Divisional Series between the Evil Empire and Seattle delivered in epic fashion, particularly that deciding Game 5.
Bottom of the 11th after the hated Yankees took the lead The kid slaps a ball into right field for a single. Edgar Martinez slapped a pitch off Blackjack McDowell down the third base line to tie the game, but it was “the kid” who legged it out from First Base, scoring the winning run to take that series, and I don’t think I’ve EVER seen a place as loud as the Kingdome in that very minute.
It is said that that play was what saved Baseball in Seattle, and you know what? I’m glad.
But he was about so much more. Epic blasts, slick fielding, outstanding base running, and to my knowledge NEVER a whiff of negativity. He was the poster child for Baseball, I only wish that Griffey had stayed healthy at the end and got the HR record.
In reviewing his highlights, there is something that I forgot because it was so long ago. Back when he had that record for hitting a HR in eight straight games, I was there. I don’t remember which game in a row it was, but I was in Seattle in the Navy visiting for Seattle SeaFair and my buddies decided to take in a game at the Kingdome, I think it was against the Minnesota Twins. Little did we know the history we witnessed.
Conclusion. When Baseball was desperate for flair and performance, Piazza and “the kid” delivered, providing incredible memories that as a casual fan retain. Their achievements were fare more memorable than that cheap HR race with juiced balls in 1998.
But maybe this is what draws me to these two is that yeah, they got hype, but they were just some solid performers and you never really heard the bad with them. In fact, when we talk about McGwire and Sosa saving the game of Baseball after the 1994 strike shortened season, perhaps the reality is that Piazza and Junior may have been just as responsible? These two set the stage post-strike in 1994 and were the beginning of the comeback of Baseball.