With one big swing, Mike Piazza and the New York Mets lifted New York City after one of the greatest American tragedies.
On September 11, 2001, New York saw the worst terrorist act happen right in front of their eyes. When the World Trade Center buildings were hit it ruined everyone physically, emotionally, and mentally and nobody knew how they were going to keep their heads up. Then just ten days later a very special moment happened in Flushing when one member of the New York Mets swung a bat.
September 21, 2018, marks the 17 year anniversary of the biggest home run in Mike Piazza‘s career. Ten days after the World Trade Center attack baseball resumed in New York when the Atlanta Braves came to play the Mets.
Two teams that truly hated each other put their differences beside them this day as head coaches Bobby Valentine and Bobby Cox had their teams both meet and shake hands after the national anthem was sung. Shea Stadium was sold out and everyone was united this night.
There was a different feel throughout the stadium that night due to what happened two weeks prior and the lack of Mets offense didn’t help the crowd wake up. Then in the eighth inning, something very special happened.
The Mets entered the eighth inning trailing 2-1 to the Braves and with one out Edgardo Alfonzo drew a walk and next up was Mike Piazza. Everyone in this stadium had a feeling if something great was to happened this night that it would be Piazza to do so.
Piazza took the first pitch for a strike against Braves pitcher Steve Karsay. What happened next brought tears of joy to all New Yorkers. Karsay was set to delivery and then came the Howie Rose television call:
"“And its hit deep to left center…Andrew Jones on the run….this one has a chance…HOME RUN! MIKE PIAZZA! And the Mets lead it 3-2!”"
That one swing of the bat not only gave the Mets the lead that they held on to win, but that swing brought all of New Yorkers on their feet cheering and hugging one another. Piazza even came back out for the curtain call to the fans and this right here was the moment baseball was back in New York.
Piazza claims this home run as his favorite home run of his career. During his Hall of Fame speech, he mentioned how much the home run meant to him but he didn’t want to take the credit for it as he believed others were to thank for everything:
"Many of you give me the praise for the two-run home run on the first game back on September 21st to push us ahead of the rival Braves. But the true praise belongs to the police, firefighters, first responders, who knew they were going to die but still went forward anyway. People always say sports is one thing that can bring people together and on September 21st, 2001 we saw that at Shea Stadium. Two teams that hated each other, their fan bases hated each other but nobody even cared about the outcome it was more just to stand up with their heads up high knowing that no matter how bad the tragedy is nothing can keep Americans down."
Piazza knew what the home run meant. Maybe not at the time, but all of these years later, he clearly understands.
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There are moments in sports that are bigger than the game. With ths one heavy swing, we got to live one of them.