Famous Baseball Players
Michael Joseph Piazza (born September 4, 1968 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, USA) is a U.S. Major League Baseball player for the Oakland Athletics. He began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and played for the Florida Marlins, New York Mets, and San Diego Padres. He is a 12-time All-Star. Piazza is one of the best-hitting catchers of all time, and holds the career record for home runs hit by a catcher.
Piazza was the last player the Dodgers drafted of the 1988 draft. He was their selection in the 62nd round, and the 1390th pick overall. It is believed that the pick was partly a favor on the part of Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, who is godfather to one of Piazza's brothers and, like Piazza, grew up in Norristown. Piazza swore he'd learn to catch if he was drafted. Piazza's major league debut came with the Dodgers in 1992, when he appeared in 21 games. He then won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1993.
Piazza's best season was 1997, a year when he finished second in MVP voting. He hit .362, with 40 home runs and 124 runs batted in, an on base percentage of .431 and a slugging percentage of .638.
He played six full seasons for the Dodgers until he was traded to the Florida Marlins on May 15, 1998. Piazza and Todd Zeile went to the Marlins in return for Gary Sheffield, Charles Johnson, Bobby Bonilla, Manuel Barrios, and Jim Eisenreich. The trade, precipitated by a contract dispute, is regarded by many as one of the worst moves in Dodgers history. One week later, on May 22, Piazza was traded from the Marlins to the New York Mets for Preston Wilson, Ed Yarnall, and Geoff Goetz.
Piazza helped the Mets to two consecutive playoff appearances for the only time in Mets history in 1999 and 2000, the second resulting in a National League Pennant and World Series appearance resulting in a 5-game loss to a Yankee team winning their fourth World Series in five years. Of note, all 5 games were decided by 2 runs or less, something that had not occurred in a World Series in almost 70 years. He became known as The Monster after coach John Stearns was caught on tape during the 2000 NLCS after a Piazza hit saying "The Monster is out of the Cage!"
Piazza was involved in a bizarre incident in Game 2 of the 2000 World Series. In the first inning, Piazza was facing Yankees pitcher Roger Clemens and broke his bat fouling off a pitch. The barrel of his bat flew towards Clemens's feet at the pitcher's mound. Clemens picked up the broken barrel and heaved it in the direction of Piazza running up the first base line sparking both benches to clear, but no ejections. The reason this incident sparked this reaction was because earlier in the season, during Interleague play when the Mets played the Yankees, Mike Piazza was drilled in the head by a Roger Clemens pitch. Mike Piazza suffered a concussion as a result of this and created tension between the two since it was speculated by some that Clemens had hit Piazza on purpose. Words were exchanged after the bat incident but no further altercations resulted from this.
One of the most emotional moments of Piazza's career came when he belted a dramatic two-run home run in the eighth inning against Steve Karsay on September 21, 2001 in New York City to lift the Mets to a 3-2 triumph over the Braves in the first regular season professional sporting event in New York City since the September 11 tragedy.
To ease the stress on his deteriorating knees, Piazza began to split his time between catching and playing first base during the 2004 season, an experiment which was abandoned before the end of the season because of Piazza's defensive deficiencies. Although recognized as a great hitter, Piazza does not get enough credit for his handling of pitchers, having caught two no hitters thrown by Ramón Martínez and Hideo Nomo. Nomo's was particularly impressive because it happened at Coors Field. In his 14-year career (through 2006), Piazza's career batting average is .309 with 419 home runs, 1,288 RBI, and 308 doubles in 1,702 games.
On May 5, 2004, Piazza surpassed Carlton Fisk for most home runs by a catcher with his 352nd as a catcher.
On October 2, 2005, Piazza filed for free agency, effectively ending his career with the Mets. He signed with the San Diego Padres on January 29, 2006 and is their starting catcher and clean-up hitter. Piazza experienced somewhat of a rejuvenation in 2006, batting .283 with 22 homers and leading the Padres to a division title. Piazza, who was drafted late in the baseball draft, is proving critics wrong yet again, this time over a decade later. On July 21, 2006, Mike Piazza collected his 2,000th career hit in the major leagues.
On August 8, 2006, Piazza played his first game at Shea Stadium since leaving the Mets. During the three-game series, Piazza drew frequent, repeated standing ovations indicative of the high level of regard New York's fans still hold for him. Even more telling was an event on August 9 during that series in which he drew a rare curtain call in an opposing park following a home run off Mets pitcher Pedro Martinez.
He represented Italy in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Only 5 other players have ever had over 400 homeruns with over a .300 life time average while never striking out more than 100 times in a season.
On December 6, 2006, Piazza was signed to a 1-year, $8.5 million deal with the Oakland Athletics.