May 23, 1998 is one of the most important dates in Mets franchise history. Michael Joseph Piazza made his Mets debut on this date. The day before, the Mets traded Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz to the Marlins for Mike Piazza. Piazza had spent the first 7 years of his career with the Dodgers but was traded to the Marlins for a package that included Gary Sheffield. If you do not remember Piazza’s time in the Marlins its because he was only there for about a week. In his 5 games with the Fish, he went 5-19 with 5 RBIs. He was then quickly flipped to the Mets on May 22, 1998.
The Mets were in desperate need for a star player. Other members of the team included Edgardo Alfonzo, John Olerud, and the original flyin Hawaiian, Benny Agbayani. The trade rejuvenated a dormant fanbase. The Mets lacked star power, especially at the catcher position ever since Gary Carter departed. In his first season in Queens, Piazza hit 23 home runs with Mets and 32 in total.
Hall of Fame Career from Humble Beginnings
Piazza has one of the most unique careers. He was drafted by the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Entry Draft. Basically, the only reason he was drafted was because his dad was good friends with then Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda. He made his Major League debut on September 1, 1992 with the Dodgers. In 21 games in 1992, he hit 1 home run and had 7 RBIs. In his first full season in 1993, he hit 35 home runs and drove in 112 runs. This sparked a 15 year career that included 12 All-Star seasons and ended with the most home runs ever by a catcher.
In addition to all of these accolades, Piazza meant more to New York than maybe any other athlete. I have already written a piece about his home run on 9/21/2001. That might be the most important home run in franchise history. Again, if you have not seen it, please please watch it.
Piazza made his final appearance for the Mets on October 2, 2005. He finished his career by playing for the Padres and the Athletics. I was lucky enough to be at one of his first games back at Shea Stadium after leaving the Mets. He joined Tom Seaver as the only players (other than Jackie Robinson), to have his number retired by the Mets. I was fortunate enough to be at that ceremony, and I will tell you, it was emotional. Also, he was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 2016, going in with Ken Griffey Jr. This was a historic class because Griffey was the highest overall draft pick to get elected (the first ever 1st overall pick) and Piazza was the lowest overall pick to ever make the Hall of Fame.
Piazza is larger than life for Mets fans. He was one of the most important players in franchise history, and it was on this date, that we got to fall in love with Michael Jospeh Piazza.
-Pete Chatterton (@Pchat12)
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