Piazza Catches Immortality as 2016 Hall of Fame Inductee
Mike Piazza, one of baseball’s greatest hitting catchers, has been voted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. He played in Major League Baseball as a catcher, most notably for the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers and was elected as the National League Rookie of the Year in 1993. He also played for the Florida Marlins, San Diego Padres, and Oakland Athletics. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza has been described as the best offensive catcher of all time, and holds the career record for home runs hit by a catcher,with a total of 427. His lifetime statistics include a career batting average of .308 with 1335 runs batted in.
The announcement on Monday, January 6 was not so much of a surprise, as a relief for the baseball community. This was the fourth year of eligibility for Piazza, who narrowly missed induction last year. For 2016, the Hall of Fame vote conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America had 440 ballots cast, with 330 needed for election. Piazza received 365 votes (83% of the vote) for election into the Hall. Last year he received 69.9% of the writer’s vote (75% is required).
Piazza was born in Norristown, Pennsylvania, grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, and attended Phoenixville High School. His father, Vince Piazza was a successful businessman and early on saw potential in his son Mike as a future major leaguer. When he was 12, Piazza received personal instruction in his backyard batting cage from Ted Williams.
Tommy Lasorda, a childhood friend of Mike’s father and godfather to his brother had a strong influence on Piazza. Lasorda, who was manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers, asked Piazza to give up his first base position and learn how to catch in order to improve his chances of reaching the major leagues, and helped him attend a special training camp for catchers in the Dominican Republic. His major league debut came with the Dodgers on September 1, 1992, against the Chicago Cubs. He played seven seasons for the Dodgers until he was traded to the Florida Marlins on May 15, 1998. One week later, on May 22, Piazza was traded from the Marlins to the New York Mets.
Piazza helped the Mets to two consecutive playoff appearances in 1999 and 2000. The latter of the two resulted in a National League pennant and a World Series appearance in the 2000 Subway Series, which the Mets lost 4-1 to a New York Yankees team which won their fourth World Series in five years. Of note, all five games were decided by two runs or fewer, something that had not occurred in a World Series in almost 70 years.
Following the 2005 season, Piazza filed for free agency and he signed a one-year contract with the San Diego Padres on January 29, 2006.
Piazza made a return to Shea Stadium during the “Shea Goodbye” closing ceremony on September 28, 2008. He received the final pitch in the history of the stadium from Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Piazza and Seaver were also afforded the honor of officially closing Shea, exiting together through the center field gate, after waving goodbye to the capacity crowd. On April 13, 2009, Piazza received the first pitch in Citi Field history from Seaver before the Mets opening game against the San Diego Padres.
Mets teammate Tom Glavine called Piazza a “first-ballot Hall of Famer, certainly the best hitting catcher of our era and arguably the best hitting catcher of all time”.
On May 8, 2010, while receiving an award, Piazza told reporters that if he got into the Hall of Fame he would like to be inducted as a Met.
On January 29, 2005, Piazza married Alicia Rickter at St. Jude’s Catholic Church in Miami, Florida. The couple have three children, Paulina, Nicoletta and Marco.
Among his many accomplishment, Piazza hit more than 30 home runs in eight consecutive seasons (1995–2002), had nine career 30-homer seasons and from 1993 to 2001, hit .300 or better each season. Only nine other players have ever had over 400 home runs with over a .300 lifetime average while never striking out more than 100 times in a season. The list includes Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Lou Gehrig, Mel Ott, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.
Bravissimo e Auguri Mike!