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Mike Piazza - MLB photo




James Loving - National Radio Text Service

Piazza was cheered by the fans when he took batting practice. He stroked three of the first five pitches into the stands, the last of which careened off the top of the metal canopy covering the left field pavilion creating a BONG sound before bouncing out of the stadium.

August, 1998


YOU-HADDA-BEEN-THERE: Ring, Ring, Ring. Hello it's MIKE PIAZZA at the door returning to Dodger Stadium for the first time since he was shockingly traded from the Dodgers to the Florida Marlins May 15. Within a week the Marlins in turn traded Piazza to the Mets May 22.

The return of Piazza this past Friday, to Dodger Stadium created the media frenzy that was expected. The press box was overflowing and media turmoil ensued for the Pi[a]zza Man's first game back to the house that WALTER O'MALLEY built. Yes... The Pi[a]zza Man had returned to deliver. The first delivery was giving his first interview since the trade to the non traveling LA media, in a strange place...from the visitors dugout. Prior to the game he talked to the scribes as they swarmed him like locusts. Those who were lucky enough to be in prime position, in the front row, could hear what he was saying. Many of the press had the BOB UECKER seats...in the back, didn't have a clue what was said.

Before taking batting practice photographers flash bulbs were firing away and TV cameras focused in on the 6-3, 215 lb. catcher for close-ups as he stretched behind the batters cage. Wearing wrap-around sun glasses, he took it all in stride as if he anticipated all of the attention. I mean, this is Hollyweird, where cameras are commonplace and this was.... HIS DAY.

Piazza was cheered by the fans when he took batting practice. He stroked three of the first five pitches into the stands. The last of which careened off the top of the metal canopy covering the left field pavilion creating a BONG sound before bouncing out of the stadium. More cheers. He knocked another ball out of the park later on in batting practice. No, he's not MARK McGWIRE, he's the Pi[a]zza Man... MIKE PIAZZA... and he came to deliver.

It was proof positive... Mike Piazza fits Dodger Stadium like a hot dog in a roll. He seems to thrive in the Chavez Ravine environment like a fox in the hills. When his name was announced before the game the crowd cheered again but, with more enthusiasm. It was the return of the Pi[a]zza Man.

In the first inning, when he came to the plate for his first at bat, he received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd of 52,154. He then tipped his hat to them.

"I really hadn't planed on doing that," he said. "I really just wanted to respond. I had five great years here. A lot of memories. It's just good to see the fans... just kind of showing me that they appreciated the work that I put out on the field. It was very touching for me. I was very honored and... ah... little bit emotional."

With two out and John Olerud on first base, he dug in the batters box. On a 2-1 count he drove a fly ball to right field to the player that he was traded to the Marlins for... GARY SHEFFIELD to end the inning. How fitting. In Sheffield's first at bat , with two on, no outs, in a 0-0 game, he drove a 1-0 pitch over the center field wall giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead in the first inning. But the Piazza Man was not to be denied.

In Piazza's second trip to the plate he led off the fourth inning with his team still trailing 3-0. He smashed the first pitch, a hot bullet of a line drive, back to pitcher CARLOS PEREZ. Perez amazingly caught the ball. More so, out of self defense. It was such an outstanding play the crowd cheered for.... PEREZ. The ball was hit so hard that if Perez were the Angels much battered pitcher CHUCK FINLEY, he would have been carried off on a stretcher or... IN A COFFIN. Piazza agreed.

"I'll tell you about that," he said. "I'm actually glad that ball didn't hit him anywhere else except the glove. If that had hit him in the head... god forbid. In the head it would have really seriously hurt him. I really don't know how he caught it, because I absolutely crushed that ball. Thank god he didn't get hurt. I honest to god think it would have killed him. Or even injured him...hit him in the shoulder, in the knee or something."

With the Mets trailing 4-0, Piazza led off the 6th inning. The fans, again, gave him a rousing ovation as he stepped to the plate. He then proceeded to smash Perez's first pitch over the left field wall. As he circled the bases the crowd stood and cheered. Dodgers 4, Mets 1. [RING 1].

In the 7th inning Piazza came to the plate after Olerud socked a three run home run to tie the game 4-4. He was walked by reliever Scott Radinsky.

With the game tied 4-4 in the top of the 10th, Piazza led off an inning for the third time in the game and singled to left on a 2-2 pitch off Jeff Shaw for his second hit of the game [RING 2]. He advanced to second on a walk to Brian McRae.

On a pick-off play at second Piazza was hit in the ribs by Dodgers catcher Charles Johnson on his way back to the bag.

He advanced to third on a walk to and Matt Franco, loading the bases. On a ground ball to first baseman Eric Karros, Piazza raced for home to score what would be the winning run when Karros threw wide of the plate. RING (3). Final score Mets win 5-4.

To Piazza, winning the game, hitting a home run and scoring the winning run... none of that was his most memorable moment of the game.

"It was actually ah... very painful homecoming," the exhausted catcher said after the game. "Getting hit more in the ribs more than [hitting] with the bat. I think that's what I'll remember the most." But then he added, "The fans were great. There was a lot of support out there and I was very, very honored."

Was he surprised by the standing ovation he received the first time he was announced?

"A little bit, yea. It was a lot louder than what I'd thought. The fans showed a lot of class. It was great. I'm sure all of it wasn't positive but I think the positives kind of found their way through more. I didn't hear too many negatives but ah... I can understand that too."

Piazza didn't feel too strongly attached to his old Dodger team.

"The team has changed a lot. It's not like there's a lot of guys over there that I've played with in LA. Just Eric [Karros], obviously. When you've played with someone for five years and more times than that in the minor leagues and stuff, it's just... it's just strange.

Even in New York [when the Dodgers were the visiting team] I didn't really... ah.. think about it that much but, it's a little different coming back here.

In his return to Dodger Stadium, Piazza noted that making statements or proving something wasn't on his agenda.

"I've been low key about the whole thing. I never really wanted to come in and make any statements or anything like that. I just wanted to play good baseball. I just hope that [for] the people that remember me I just wanted to play the way I played here for five years. Team-wise I'm glad the team won the game."

The Mets went on to win three games out of the four in the series. Piazza was cheered EVERY TIME his name was announced or when he came to bat, from the first time to the last time, THROUGHOUT the series.

"That was weird," he said. "Because of the success I've had here I use that in a positive way. You could feel that support. It motivates you... it really does. It gets your adrenaline to kick in. It gets you more focused. It was good."

The PI[a]ZZA MAN, he came back and HE DELIVERED batting .615 in the series [8-13] with (1) home run, (2) doubles and (3) RBI's.


Game # 1 -- 2-4 - 1 HR & 1 RBI

Game #2 -- 3-4 DOUBLE

Game #3 -- 0-1 Left game in 2nd w bruised shoulder.

Game # 4 -- 3-4 DOUBLE, 2 RBI


After the series was over the Dodgers Eric Karros was reticent to talk about his old buddy Piazza. Why??? [This is me talkin] Because he was the last one in the clubhouse, he was tired and he WANTED TO GET OUT OF THERE. BUT being the professional that he is he volunteered his thoughts. What did Piazza say to him to rattle his cage when he came to bat and his thoughts on Piazza's return?

"He really didn't have very much to say. It was an experience for him coming back here and playing in front of the people that he's played in front of the last few years. It was emotional for him, but, he had a great series."

* * *

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the N.Y. Met that hit the ball that trickled under Boston Red Sox first baseman BILL BUCKNER's glove in the 1986 World Series???

* * *

BIG NUMBERS: The four game Dodgers/Mets series drew 183,887 for an average 45, 971. The first game of MIKE PIAZZA'S return to LA since he was traded May 15th drew a sellout crowd of 52,154. Game #2 - ( 49,181 ), Game #3 - ( 44,746 ), Game #4 - ( 37,806 ). The Dodgers average 38,859 on the season prior to the series...

* * *

MISSING PERSONS: Only 12 players remain for the Dodgers 25 man active roster from Opening Day...

* * *

BIG JOHN: A spin on the Denver Posts sports columnist MARK KISZLA who took androstenedione from DANTE BICHETTE'S locker. For the incident, Kiszla had his credentials pulled by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

After Friday's Dodgers/Mets game, reporters gathered around Mike Piazza's locker like a pack of wolves waiting for its prey [yes, I'm guilty]. JOHN FRANCO lockers next to Piazza. As he walked by the wolfpack on his way from the players dining room to the trainers room he shouted out, "Don't look in my locker, I've got VIAGRA in there. [SAY WHAT???... "I'VE GOT VIAGRA IN THERE."]

* * *

DID-JA-KNOW???: New York Mets pitcher RICK REED is donating $2,000 to the American Diabetes Association for every victory he earns this season. With 16 wins to his credit he has donated $32,000 to the ADA so far this season.

* * *

PRAISE JESUS: It seems the Los Angeles press had mercy on the Mets TONY PHILLIPS. It was his first visit back to LA since he played for the Angels last season and was dismissed from the team for substance abuse. The LA press crucified Phillips for weeks after the substance incident, saying what a disgrace he was to: M*I*C*....K*E*Y.... M*O*U*S*E. During the Mets 4 game series with the Dodgers the crowd didn't boo and nary a bad word was said or written in the media about Phillips during his visit to Los Angeles.

* * *

WHO-DA-THUNK-IT???: When the Dodgers and Mets played their four game series this past weekend former Mets DAVE MLICKI and BRIAN BOHANON, who were traded in midseason, faced their former teammates.

Bohanon had a no decision Saturday after pitching 8 innings and left the game leading 3-2. Jeff Shaw gave up a 2 run home run to Edgardo Alfonzo with two out in the ninth. His record remained 6-8 with a 2.71 ERA.

Mlicki pitched a complete game Sunday and won 4-2 while giving up 8 hits and striking out a season high nine batters. The win gave him an 8-6 record and a 4.56 ERA. Former Dodger now NY Met HIDEO NOMO, didn't pitch in the series due to the Mets using a six man rotation.

* * *

NEW ANGEL: GREGG JEFFERIES, the newest member of the Anaheim Angels, previously played one of his 11 major league season in the American League. He played for the Kansas City Royals in 1992. He was used at 2nd and 3rd base and as a designated hitter. He hit .285 that year. Jefferies has a .291 lifetime average...

* * *

OOOPS - WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES DEPT: The LA TIMES is considered by many to be THE BIBLE of truth in journalism, BUT...... In Monday's edition the Times stat line for USC freshman quarterback CARSON PALMER read: passes attempted (6), passes completed (3), passes intercepted (79 ???) *** [ I DON'T THINK SO ] yards gained passes (0) ahhhhh....

* * *

DODGERS OSUNA OUT FOR SEASON: The Los Angeles Dodgers have lost right handed pitcher ANTONIO OSUNA for the season. Osuna has been suffering what was thought to be a sore arm. After an examination Monday it was discovered that Osuna had a bone spur on his right elbow that requires season ending surgery...

* * *

TRIVIA ANSWER: MOOKIE WILSON who is now the first base coach of the Mets.

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