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New York Mets: 5 Greatest Moments of Mike Piazza's Career in Queens

Vinny MessanaCorrespondent IJanuary 13, 2017

New York Mets: 5 Greatest Moments of Mike Piazza's Career in Queens

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    When debating who is the greatest hitting catcher of all time, the argument starts and ends with Mike Piazza.

    He finished his career with 427 home runs, 220 of which came with the Mets.

    For his accomplishments, Piazza should have been a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but that is a separate story.

    During his career in New York, Piazza was the heart and soul of the Mets. He was a fierce competitor and was the biggest threat in a lineup that had very little pop.

    He was still able to lead the Mets to the playoffs in back-to-back years, while the team just missed out in 1998 and 2001.

    Here are the top five moments of Piazza's Mets career. 

5. No. 200 Is a Clutch One

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    It's hard to believe, but when Piazza initially came to New York, the fans did not adore him.

    He struggled at first, which caused many anxious fans to begin booing him.

    Eventually, things turned around and he reached his comfort zone, and naturally, the Mets began to win more consistently.

    In 1998, New York was in a heated pennant race in the middle of September when they were in Houston.

    Entering the ninth inning they trailed 2-0 against All-Star closer Billy Wagner. With two outs and two men on, Piazza delivered a clutch, game-winning, three-run home run to give the Mets the lead.

    It was also the 200th of his career.

    The Mets ultimately missed the postseason, as they were swept by the Braves on the final weekend of the season, but it was Piazza's first defining moment with his new team.

4. Piazza Breaks the Record

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    The last few years of Piazza's career in blue and orange were rather disappointing. His numbers declined, and the Mets were no longer contenders in the NL East.

    He was, however, on his way to breaking the all-time record for home runs as a catcher.

    In May of 2004, he took a Jerome Williams pitch deep over the right-center field fence to break Carlton Fisk's record of 351 home runs as a catcher.

    The year was a struggle overall for Piazza, as he hit 20 home runs but only compiled 54 RBI and began a difficult transition to first base.

    Regardless, it was a historic moment for the Mets and Piazza, proving to be one of the lone bright spots during the Art Howe era (or error). 

3. 1999 NLCS Game Six

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    The Mets entered the 1999 NLCS as heavy underdogs to the 103-win Atlanta Braves who were led by John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux.

    After all, the Braves had dominated the Mets over the past decade.

    For the first three games of the series, things went as expected. The Braves received lights-out pitching from their trio of aces, holding the Mets offense to five runs over 27 innings.

    The Mets staved off elimination in Game 4 thanks to a clutch two-run single by John Olerud off John Rocker in the eighth inning.

    Game 5 was among the best Mets games of all time, featuring the epic "Grand Slam Single" off the bat of Robin Ventura in the 15th inning.

    Piazza made his impact with a terrific block of home plate, which prevented a run from scoring, though he was one-of-six at the dish.

    It appeared the tide had turned until Al Leiter allowed five runs to score without recording an out in bottom of the first inning, seemingly ending the game before it started.

    Pat Mahomes relieved him, however, and held the Braves scoreless until the Mets broke out with three runs in the sixth inning.

    The Braves answered with two runs of their own, making the score 7-3.

    In the seventh, the resilient Mets quickly erased those runs thanks to RBI hits from Rickey Henderson and John Olerud.

    With the score 7-5, Piazza stepped in representing the tying run. In typical fashion, Piazza drove a pitch to right-center, which had just enough to clear the fence and tie the game.

    Gary Cohen's excitement could be heard from New York, and the Mets had completely erased the deficit.

    Unfortunately, it did not last. The teams exchanged blows multiple times.

    John Franco relinquished the lead in the eighth. The Mets got it back. Armando Benitez blew it in the 10th.

    In the 11th, Kenny Rogers unraveled and walked Andruw Jones to end the Mets' dream season.  

2. The Epic Comeback

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    To me, this home run encapsulates everything that Mets fans fell in love with during the 2000 NL Pennant-winning season.

    In a seemingly dull June game in which the Mets fell behind Atlanta early—what else is new?—and appeared ready to throw in the towel, just the opposite occurred.

    In the top half of the eighth inning, Mets reliever Eric Cammack surrendered a three-run home run to Met-killer Brian Jordan.

    It appeared to be the nail in the coffin.

    The Mets came to bat in the eighth with one storyline to follow: could they give Piazza an opportunity to drive in a run, which would inch him closer to the MLB record of most consecutive games with an RBI?

    Piazza singled, but was unable to drive in the run, and it appeared to be his last chance of the game.

    That changed when the Braves pitchers, first Kerry Lightenberg then Terry Mulholland, struggled to find the strike zone. In fact, three consecutive Mets batters walked with the bases loaded to make the score 8-6.

    Edgardo Alfonzo then singled through the left side to tie up the score.

    Piazza came to the plate with the crowd already in a state of bedlam hoping for their slugger to pull through. 

    On the first pitch, he hit a missile down the left field line that barely got off the ground, yet ricocheted off the retired numbers and back onto the field of play for a three-run home run.

    Piazza pumped his fist in a state of euphoria as the Mets capped their epic seven-run comeback.

    Armando Benitez came on to save the game for the Mets, and Piazza became the hero for the night.   

1. Game-Winning Home Run on September 22, 2001

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    There are certain moments in sports that are transcendent.

    This would qualify as just that.

    In the aftermath of September 11th, sports became an afterthought in the city of New York.

    After 10 days of inactivity, baseball returned with the Mets hosting the Atlanta Braves.

    Despite the fact both teams were fighting for playoff berths, this had the feel of a friendly competition, as all the players met before the game to exchange greetings.

    In the eighth inning, with the Braves leading 2-1, Piazza stepped to the plate with the tying run on base against reliever Steve Karsay.

    Piazza took a mighty cut and delivered a soaring fly ball towards the deepest part of the yard. Center fielder Andruw Jones looked up and watched the ball go over the fence to give the Mets the lead.

    The stadium—which was previously somber and tranquil—erupted into a frenzy. Howie Rose, who is the announcer in the video above, was one of the most passionate people in the stadium,

    Piazza has obviously hit home runs in more crucial games, but the city was in mourning, and this moment gave the people an opportunity to enjoy something—even for a brief moment—that helped take their minds off such a dreary period in American history.

    The moment was bigger than baseball; it was a transcendent moment for New York.

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