So Long, Mike Piazza: the Mets' Hero Hangs 'em Up

Andrew MeesAnalyst IMay 20, 2008

I'm 23 years old.  While I have watched the '86 Mets' championship video a million times over the course of my life, I wasn't old enough to truly experience the miracle season that was the '86 Mets. 

I was a toddler for game six, and Bill Buckner's infamous error.  I don't remember the emotions I must have felt at the time, watching the Mets celebrate on the field in one of the greatest come-from-behind World Series victories in history.

I was too young to appreciate the great Mets' teams of the 80's, only being able to understand how truly great they were through old highlights, books, and story-time with my dad. 

I wasn't old enough to understand just how far Darryl Strawberry and Doc Gooden fell—shooting stars that burned out as incredibly as they shined. 

I was coming into my formative years as a sports fan in the early 90's.  The Giants had just won a Super Bowl, and LT was still flying all over the field—putting fear in the hearts of opposing quarterbacks. 

The Giants had given me reason to keep watching, memories that I could hang on to in future years of futility. 

The Mets, however, were quickly becoming one of the worst teams in baseball.  I had been too young to understand their greatness in the 80's. 

My father had taught me the most valuable lesson of being a sports fan—never abandon your team, no matter how bad they are, you never stop being a fan.  Nobody likes a fair-weather fan, so I'd never have abandoned my Mets.

But I never had a personal reason to love them.  All I had were my father's memories, and old highlights of the good times. 

All I had was Bobby Bonilla screaming at any reporter in his path, and Vince Coleman's pyrotechnic displays. 

Year after year the Mets were a below-average team, and year after year I searched for a reason of my own to keep going through the inevitable down periods of the team's history.

Then, an event happened that changed the course of Mets' history, and of this writer's life as a fan of the Amazins. 

The date was May 22, 1998, and the Mets had just traded for the best offensive catcher in the game—Mike Piazza.

Finally, the Mets had a player that commanded the ultimate respect from the opposition. 

Here was a guy, in the prime of his career, the best at his position, playing for my favorite team.  My team was no longer the butt of jokes, no longer a team where as a fan, I faced constant ridicule. 

Over his seven seasons with the Mets, Piazza brought the club back to respectability, and even brought them to the Fall Classic against the cross-town Yankees—proving his stature as a franchise player once and for all. 

He is second all-time in Mets' history in home runs and RBI, and was the face of the franchise for the better part of a decade. 

He provided fans with some of the most memorable moments in Mets' history.  I defy anyone to watch the highlight of his home run against the Atlanta Braves in the game following the 9/11 tragedy—and not get goosebumps.

All of these things made Piazza one of the best players to ever put on the orange and blue. 

There may never be another Mets' hitter as outstanding, and as feared as 31 in his time at Shea.

But to me, he was so much more.  He gave me a reason to hope.  He gave me a reason to believe.  He brought the Mets, the team I had learned to love unconditionally as if they were a member of my family, to the Fall Classic. 

He had brought my team to respectability, and given a generation of Mets fans a reason to believe there would be good times in Flushing.

So thank you, Mike Piazza. 

You have given me more memories and good times than I could have ever hoped for, even though you never won a world series ring in New York.

You gave me a reason to believe in the Mets, to believe that someday the glory days would return. 

As you hang up your cleats and walk off into the sunset, just know you are a hero to an entire generation of Mets fans, and we are forever indebted to you.