Remembering Mets History: (2001) Mike Piazza's Post 911 HR

Friday September 21st, 2001: On this now legendary night, baseball returned to New York City for the first time since the tragic attacks of 911.

41, 235  fans came out to Shea Stadium on a very emotional night of baseball & support for both New York City as well as America. Before the game there was a very moving  ceremony honoring the victims of 911.

Starting Lineups

The New York Mets hosted their rivals, the Atlanta Braves. Both teams lined up from home plate down the baselines, during an emotional National Anthem sung by singer Mark Anthony. 

Also during that evenings ceremonies, Diana Ross sang "God Bless America" & Liza Minelli sang "New York, New York".

There were special honored guests on hand; New York City firemen, policemen & other emergency workers. On this night, New York City attempted to get back to some kind of normal routine & it began with the playing of baseball. After the ceromonies, the two teams shook hands, hugged each other & proceeded to play ball.

The Mets (75-73) entered the game in third place on a hot streak, just 4 1/2 games back of the Braves (79-68). The reigning N.L. Champion Mets, were indeed back in the pennant race. It was their best stretch of the season. They had won ten out of their last twelve games, and twenty of their last twenty six games.

Mets manager Bobby Valentine, sent pitcher; Bruce Chen to the mound to face off against a native New Yorker, Atlanta's Jason Marquis.

Leadoff batter Marcus Giles drew a walk, but was erased on a line drive double off the bat of Julio Franco. In the bottom of the 1st, Mike Piazza fittingly got the first hit of the game, a double to left field.

In the visiting 4th, the Braves Chipper Jones singled & scored on a Ken Caminiti double, it was 1-0 Braves. But the Mets came right back in the bottom of the inning. Mike Piazza doubled for the second time in as many at bats, Robin Ventura then singled. Tsuyoshi Shinjo hit a sac fly, scoring Piazza to tie it at one.

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 of the 8th inning. But then he gave up a walk to Julio Franco & a single to Chipper Jones. Bobby Valentine came to the mound, Franco 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 another native New Yorker, was born in Flushing, Queens just a baseball throw over to Shea Stadium. He then attended high school in Middle Village, Queens New York.

Matt Lawton led off with a ground out to short. Karsay then 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 Stadium fence, bringing the crowd into a frenzy. As a matter of fact for a brief moment, all of New York city went into to a frenzy. It was one of the most important HRs in Piazza's career, one of the most important HRs in Mets history, as well as in baseball history. 

It was more than just a HR, more than just putting the Mets ahead. The HR meant so much to the city of New York & America as a nation.

 Mets broadcaster Howie Rose may have put it best, he said he saw fire fighters smile as Piazza rounded the bases. There is no doubt that that man lost friends, colleges & maybe even family members on that tragic day of 911. 

But some how this HR in a game of baseball made him happy & forget his troubles for at least a moment. Thats when he realized it was good that baseball was back on the field again.

As the years have gone by, the legend of this HR has even grown larger than life itself. It will never be forgotten.

It some how symbolized that New York City as well as America was 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.

Armando Benitez came back in the 9th inning with the fans on their feet & still excited. Javier Lopez led off with a single & everyone held their breath as Armando was at it again. But on this night, even he came through. He struck out BJ Surhoff & closed out the 9th inning by striking out Gary Mathews Jr. 

The Mets had a dramatic 3-2 vctory and pulled even closer to the Braves. The Mets won five straight & got to within three games of Atlanta.  Then they eventually lost six of nine & fell out of the race.

Trivia: Even one of the most hated Mets opponents of that era; Chipper Jones, admitted it was the only time that he didn't mind losing a game, because of what it meant for New York City, baseball & the Country in the wake of tragedy.


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!)

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