Former Mets catcher Mike Piazza, who’s currently promoting his newly released book “Long Shot,” gave two interviews today.
The first interview, which aired at 6:00 PM, was on MLB Tonight on the MLB Network, and was given by Greg Amsinger. Below are in depth highlights from the interview:
On why the title of the book is “Long Shot”-
I think it says a lot coming from where I came late in the draft and working my way up…just all the hurdles, bumps and bruises along the way. People ask me ‘why would you write a book’ and I say I’ve had a very interesting life. I’ve had a very interesting career…it’s just something I wanted to share with people.
On getting into weight training before he made it to the majors and on the PED connections to the university of Miami (where he trained)-
I think the story is still ongoing , it’s really tough to speculate until all the facts come out…there seems there’s a correlation, but we’ll see.
On the rumors that he used performance enhancing drugs-
My histories of denial are documented all the way back to 1997. I never really thought that was news. In the light of the history, and I try to put that in perspective, paint a picture of the history of the game and how – not just PED’s – but generally the whole philosophy on training for the game changed. With weight training…generally it was discouraged when I was a kid. I remember people saying ‘you’re gonna get muscle bound, you’re gonna get too tight, ballplayers don’t train.’ …guys realized ‘wait a minute, I’m getting stronger, the ball is going farther as long as I stretch and as long as I keep hitting.’ Generally, that whole philosophy did change.
On the following quote from his book: “I don’t use steroids…I’m not upset by the rumors.” Amsinger asked how can he be clean but not be upset that people think he cheated?
I think there’s just some people you’re not gonna convince. I can only do so much and say ‘here’s my life, make your own judgment.’
On his candor regarding his amphetamines and andro usage, and regarding what other substances he admitted to using throughout his career-
Most of the stuff that I documented was pretty much through the training room, through the trainers. One of the things was Vioxx, which is a very strong anti inflammatory that was banned because it’s one of those things that can cause heart attacks and things like that. I just really wanted to paint a picture that drugs, unfortunately, is part of sports. Obviously, it’s part of the training room, it’s part of – sometimes you have to do those things – cortisone – to get on the field. I just really wanted to draw a comparison because sometimes guys blurred the line. But as far as andro for me, it was just a supplement that came in a pack that I bought. Once I started realizing that it was being discouraged, then I stopped it.
On the press conference when he announced he wasn’t gay-
I thought it was becoming a distraction for my team. It really was an awkward situation, only a product of being in NY. I can’t explain anything more. It was just one of these things…that just snowballed…all of my teammates were really uneasy about it so I said ‘you know what? I can do one of two things about it, I can ignore this and I can go on’, or just kinda nip it in the bud and say ‘I don’t know who this is, it’s not me and move on.’ But as you know, sometimes there’s a story in a non-story…but it’s just one of those things that’s a burden that I have to deal with.
Amsinger asked him why if he held a press conference to announce he wasn’t gay, why didn’t he hold a press conference before the Hall of Fame vote to announce he never used steroids-
We talked about that, and I said recently that I truly wanted to be respectful of the process. I didn’t want to make it seem like I was out there campaigning for it. I just, generally wanted to say ‘let the process run its course,’ then afterwards kinda say my piece in the book. So there really wasn’t a strategy involved. I thought it would’ve been inappropriate to come out early and say ‘vote for me, here is my career, here are my numbers.’ I thought all that kinda speak for themselves. Just generally reserved judgment to hold back and say let’s just wait and (let it) run its course. That was pretty much our thinking.
On getting 57.8 of the Hall of Fame vote – was he disappointed?
I was a little disappointed, I can’t lie about that. But I got so much positive support. To keep it in historical perspective as well, there’s a lot of great players that didn’t get on the first ballot. (Joe) DiMaggio comes to mind, Yogi Berra. I have respect for the process, I really do. I just think that it has to, it’s just gonna run its course. I’m very proud of my career. If you look at my entire body of work, I put it up against any catcher that’s played the position. As far as the controversy, it’s frustrating for me because I hate that it happened to the game. On the same note, I think MLB has really done a lot to address it and be proactive about it.
Asked whether he’d be a Hall of Famer in 15 years-
I think so, I hope so. But I can’t go around periodically trying to convince. I can only say ‘here’s the history, it’s pretty cut and dry.’ As far as pure numbers on the field, I’m really proud of that.
On his feud with Roger Clemens-
If you can really take it back to 2000, getting hit in the head, what happened after that and the amount of tension that was in the air. It turned into, almost like a gladiator type of mentality. And that was something that was for me, was difficult. But I’ve definitely moved on. I’ve seen Roger at some golf tournaments…it is what it is.
What would teammates say about him? Amsinger quotes piazza as saying he never had many friends in the game and that he wasn’t always the best teammate-
I think that I didn’t have as much fun as I should’ve… I felt so much pressure. There wasn’t a time when I felt like I wasn’t meant to carry the team. People deal with pressure different ways…I kept it internal…maybe the perception was that it rubbed some guys the wrong way…its just something that I had to deal with as a player. And then I think back to Roy Campanella when I was a kid, and the one thing he always said was ‘just play the game, don’t worry about anything else.’ It allowed me just to relax and say ‘I’m gonna do the best I can’ and that’s all you can do.
100 years from now, if he could handpick one moment from his career that would help determine how people remember him as a baseball player, what one moment would that be?
The moment I think was probably the first game after 9/11 for me, because being in the city that week and that time was just something beyond baseball, something beyond anything really. It’s total…it’s, the meaning of life. The tragedy and the pain and the despair that went through that city and then, eventually, going through – doing whatever we can to try to help and make people better – and realize how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of things. And then going back and having the first game in New York and living that day and the tension. Should we be there, shouldn’t we be there. Going through that game with the Braves and then to hit that home run. To have people remember. People still, everywhere I go, just still come up to me. To be remembered for one home run, if that’s the one, that is something I’ll definitely cherish. Even to this day, people still come up to me (and say) ‘ I remember that game, I remember that home run, I remember how much it meant.’ And it really is overwhelming, it’s humbling. I was just a ballplayer doing what I was supposed to do, doing my job. The fact that it took on a lot more meaning to people is something that still affects me today. It really does.
The second interview, which aired at 11:00 PM was on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Comedy Central. The interview was shorter and of course much more laid back than the one Piazza gave to Greg Amsinger on the MLB Network. Below are the highlights:
On getting drafted in the 62nd round-
I got a telegram three days after the draft…I realized at the time it was gonna be a big mountain to climb.
Stewart asked Piazza if he felt he should go into the Hall of Fame as a Met or a Dodger-
I would think the Mets. And I talk about that a lot.
On no one getting elected to the Hall of Fame this year partly because of the PED cloud. Stewart said if you deny using, no one believes you. If you say you did it, you don’t get in. He then asked Piazza why he wrote the book-
It was funny, when the hall vote happened everyone was like “he’s gotta talk about it, he’s gotta talk about it.’ And then when I came out with the book they’re like ‘what’s he talking about this for?’
On whether those who played in the steroid era knew who was juicing-
Not in my clubhouses. As far as the game goes, they were pretty clean…once you see the records were being compromised, that’s when people were getting concerned.
On whether he made a conscious choice to not use steroids, whether or not it was tempting, and if he understood why some guys did it-
Of course it was conscious…I could understand why from a financial perspective, but then again…for me, it was compromising the integrity of the game. Sometimes being a professional athlete isn’t a healthy lifestyle choice…you do weave in and out of -not just PED’s or steroids – but painkillers…you do have to make a conscious effort to take care of yourself and really not fall into the excess.