Sep 10, 2012

Remembering Mike Piazza's HR as Baseball Returned to New York After the Tragedies of 911

Baseball resumed play on September 17th, 2001 as the Mets took on the Pirates in Pittsburgh. Al Leiter took the mound against the Pirates Todd Ritchie, as baseball life began to carry on. In the Mets top of the third inning, Rey Ordonez walked & Matt Lawton was hit by a pitch. With two outs Mike Piazza was intentonally walked & then Todd Ritchie allowed a bases loaded walk to Tsuyoshi Shinjo scoring the Mets first run. The Pirates tied the game & it remained that way until the 9th inning.

Tsuyoshi Shinjo was hit by a pitch by the Pirates Mike Fetters. He then stole second base. With two outs Jay Payton walked & Rey Ordonez singled, scoring Shinjo with the lead run. Next up, pinch hitter Mark Johnson doubled, driving home two more runs putting New York up 4-1.

John Franco earned the victory after pitching a perfect 8th inning & Armando Benitez got the save for a very happy Bobby Valentine. They Mets went on to sweep the Pirates and then returned to Shea Stadium for a Friday night game against the Atlanta Braves on September 23rd.

It was the first game played  in New York City since the 911 attacks. The Mets donned caps that read NYPD & FDNY in honor of the city workers.

On September 23rd 2001, baseball returned to New York for the first time since the 911 attacks. There was a very moving pregame ceremony honoring the victims of 911.

As for baseball, the Mets & Atlanta Braves players lined up from home plate down the baselines, during an emotional National Anthem sung by singer Mark Anthony. Also on the evening ceromonies, Diana Ross sang God Bless America & Liza Minelli sang New York New York.

There were special honored guests on hand; firemen, policemen as well as other emergency workers as New York City attempted to get back to normal by playing baseball. After the ceromony the two teams shook hands, hugged each other & proceeded to played ball.
The Mets entered the game in third place on a hot streak, just 4 1/2 games back of the Braves. The reigning N.L. Champions were indeed back in the pennant race. It was their best stretch of the season. They had won 10 out of their last 12, and twenty of their last twenty six games.

Bobby Valentine sent Bruce Chen to the mound against native New Yorker, Atlanta's Jason Marquis. The two pitchers  allowed just one run each before both getting relieved in the 7th inning.

The Mets native New Yorker, John Franco came in & retired the first two batters in the 8th inning. But then he gave up two singles and was relieved by Armando Benitez. Benitez surrendered the go ahead run on a double to Brian Jordan.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, Atlanta's Steve Karsay came in to pitch. Karsay was born in Flushing, Queens just a baseball throw over to Shea Stadium. He then attended high school in Middle Village, Queens New York. With one out Karsay walked Edgardo Alfonzo. Desi Relaford came in to pinch run and the Mets best hitter, Mike Piazza came to bat.

In the most dramatic fashion, Piazza blasted a long HR over the Shea fence, bringing Shea Stadium & New York city to a frenzy. It may have been one of the most important HRs in Piazza's career, Mets history & baseball history as well as the nations history. 
It was more than just a HR, more than just putting the Mets ahead. It meant more than words can explaib to the city of New York & Mets fans as well. As the years go on, the legend grows even more. It will never be forgotten.

It some how symbolized that New York City as well as America is back & moving forward. It was Piazza's 34th HR of the year, he had three hits on the night, bringing his average up to just under the .300 mark.

Benitez closed out the 9th inning by striking out Gary Mathews and the Mets had a dramatic 3-2 vctory. Even one of the most hated Mets opponents of that era, Chipper Jones, admitted it was the only time he didn't mind losing a game, seeing what it did for New York City as well as baseball, in the wake of tragedy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dude, you don't give Piazza's blast much credit now. That monster went to center field. Not only did it clear the 410 sign with room to spare but it almost went over the speaker system in the 'batter's eye'. I think only Agee's shot in 1970 went further at Shea. Such an epic homer.

I live in Richmond, VA and listened to the game on 660 in my car. I clearly remember pounding on my steering wheel and screaming as if I was at Shea when the blast was hit. (Luckily I didn't cause an accident!)