Book Review: Mike Piazza's Autobiography 'Long Shot'

Shale BriskinContributor IIIApril 11, 2013

30 Jul 1999:  Mike Piazza #31 of the New York Mets swings at the ball during the game against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Mets defeated the Cubs 10-9. Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel  /Allsport
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Long Shot is the autobiography of former major league catcher Mike Piazza, who collaborated with Lonnie Wheeler to write the book.

The title of the autobiography is symbolic, because it defines Piazza in multiple ways. For one, Piazza is widely considered the greatest offensive catcher of all time and he hit more home runs (427 in his career and 396 as a catcher) than any other catcher in baseball history.

But what some may not know is that Piazza's journey to stardom was anything but easy. Many people had doubted him, but when it was all said and done, he proved them all wrong.

In Long Shot, Piazza opened up about his entire life and was very descriptive about it, with the book containing 347 pages. At times, he even got emotional and poured his heart out into certain topics.

In the first four chapters, Piazza described his family history and then his own childhood. He was not the most social kid back then because he was always very focused on baseball. Piazza's father played a very large role in his son's development and career.

He built Mike a batting cage in the family's backyard and that certainly helped the slugger become as great a hitter as he was down the road.

Piazza was also lucky that his father was a close friend of former Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. When Piazza was growing up, Lasorda let him be a Dodgers' batboy whenever the Dodgers were in Philadelphia. Piazza grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, which is relatively close to Philadelphia. Piazza was a Phillies fan as a kid and Mike Schmidt was his idol.

One unique experience in Piazza's childhood was when the legendary Ted Williams visited him and saw him hit in his cage. Williams liked what he saw and believed he would soon see Piazza in the major leagues. It was a big confidence boost for him.

Growing up, Piazza was always a good hitter, but was only an average first baseman defensively. At the end of high school, while trying to get drafted, he began his conversion to catcher in order to have a better chance of getting drafted.

Coaches and scouts felt he was not a good enough hitter to get drafted as a first baseman, but could make it as a catcher. Piazza, though, did not get drafted out of high school.

Piazza would spend a year at the University of Miami, but did not have a good year there and transferred to a community college in Miami after that. But eventually, his father's friendship with Lasorda helped Piazza get a big break when the Dodgers drafted him in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Draft.

It has been said that Piazza only got drafted as a favor to Lasorda, but this would become something the Dodgers would not regret.

Piazza's time in the minor leagues from 1988-1992 was not all too enjoyable for him. He clashed with some of his managers and teammates and even threatened to leave baseball altogether. He got dissatisfied with the playing time he was getting and felt he was treated unfairly due to his relationship with Lasorda.

By 1993, Piazza was in the major leagues for good and won the 1993 NL Rookie of the Year Award. His 35 home runs that year are still a rookie record for catchers. Piazza then went on to describe his major league playing career, year by year.

A few of the topics he touched on included his friendship with Eric Karros, his problems with Pedro and Ramon Martinez, his strained relationships with the Dodgers' front office regarding contract extensions and his opinions on how the media may have prevented him from winning at least one NL MVP Award during his Dodger years.

After the Dodgers failed to reach a new contract with Piazza, they eventually traded him to the Florida Marlins in May of 1998. Less than two weeks later, he got traded again to the Mets.

Piazza described his new experiences in New York, getting along with new teammates, his relationship with manager Bobby Valentine and dealing with the pressure of playing in New York.

In the next 10 chapters, Piazza talked about each year of his time in New York. Among the topics he discussed outside of the baseball seasons themselves were the saga of him and Roger Clemens, other pitchers he did not get along with, steroid allegations, his press conference in which he had to defend his heterosexuality, some of the girlfriends he had and of course, Alicia Rickter, the woman he eventually married in 2005.

The end of the book included the last two years of Piazza's career with the Padres and A's, respectively, plus an epilogue that includes how getting into the Baseball Hall of Fame would mean a lot to him.

In his autobiography, Piazza put everything he could into it and gave a true, vivid description of what his life was like as a major league baseball player. Some of the information was rather expected or predictable, but quite a bit of what he said may surprise a lot of people.

Long Shot is a must-read for anyone that is a fan of the Mets, baseball and compelling stories in general. The book might look rather long at first, but it is certainly worth reading. And the amount of details provided by Piazza will keep readers glued to the pages.