In 'Long Shot,' 12-time all-star Mike Piazza recounts his unlikely path from suburban Philadelphia to the big leagues and even how it led to a trip to the Vatican.
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It was during his years with the Mets that Piazza married and also made his first trip to Europe as part of a Major League Baseball goodwill tour to visit baseball academies in London, Berlin, and Rome. While in Italy, the national sports council arranged for him to join a large papal audience at the Vatican. He was among the VIPs that day who actually were introduced to Pope John Paul II. He left behind a “Piazza, 31" Mets jersey for the pontiff.Skip to next paragraph
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Piazza later would suit up for the Italian national team in the first World Baseball Classic. Through his association’s with his grandfather’s homeland, he has decided to pursue becoming a dual citizen of both the US and Italy.
As for playing in the World Series, Piazza only managed to do that once, but it was eventful for two reasons. In 2000, the Mets squared off against the Yankees in the city’s first “Subway Series” since 1956 when the Yankees beat the Brooklyn Dodgers. It promised melodrama as Piazza strode to the plate against Roger Clemens, who had beaned him during a regular-season interleague game earlier that year. The New York media had a field day playing up the rematch angle, then had lots more to write about when, in trying to fight off an inside fastball in Game 2, Piazza’s bat broke apart in two places.
Piazza began running to first until he realized it was a foul ball. Clemens, meanwhile, fielded a piece of the bat and threw it in Piazza’s direction, causing both teams to come onto the field. After order was restored, Piazza grounded out. He later hit a home run off reliever Jeff Nelson, but Clemens and the Yankees got the win, and went on to take the Series in five games.
If that was a disappointment, his New York years ago produced one of his finest hours and what was named the second-greatest moment in Shea Stadium history, behind only clinching the 1986 World Series. In the first game played in Shea after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, feeling especially determined and patriotic, Piazza came through with a game-winning homer to center field in the eighth inning to beat Mets nemesis, Atlanta,
Piazza remembers feeling the eruption of crowd noise might crumble the stadium. “It was a moment for New Yorkers ... to let it all out at last, whatever they felt,” he writes. “To scream, to cheer, to chant, to hug, to cry, to jump up and down in celebration of something happy again, something normal and familiar and fun again; of getting their lives back, at least in some small way.”