Mike Piazza's co-author says catcher provides answers, believes "he's clean"

Mike Piazza smiles as he stretches with the

Mike Piazza smiles as he stretches with the Mets during practice. (Credit: Kathy Kmonicek, 2003)

The man who co-authored Mike Piazza's autobiography said Thursday that the former Mets catcher addresses longtime rumors of steroid use in the soon-to-be-released book.

Veteran scribe Lonnie Wheeler made it sound as if Piazza will continue to deny he ever used PEDs. That cloud of suspicion might have kept Piazza out of baseball's Hall of Fame in voting announced Wednesday.

Wheeler said he didn't want to upstage his publisher's upcoming media tour by giving away too many details about "Long Shot," which will be released Feb. 12. But asked if Piazza continues to deny PED use in the book, Wheeler said: "Anybody who's looking for Mike's answer to PED questions will find it there . . . I believe he's clean."

Piazza received 57.8 percent of the vote; 75 percent is needed for election to Cooperstown. No players were voted in by the eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Wheeler, in a telephone interview, said he spoke to Piazza Thursday and that the 44-year-old was "upbeat" despite the results.

"I was surprised," Wheeler said. "He was fine. He was laughing about it. I think he understood that the whole situation was so murky and complicated, and with nobody getting elected, that it was just an unpredictable scenario that he got caught up in. Frankly, he knew it was coming.

"I think, like I did, that he felt that he deserved it and was optimistic that he would get in and saw no reason why he shouldn't. But given the way the wind was blowing, he was prepared for that outcome."

Media-watchers had wondered if the upcoming book will include any revelations from Piazza.

"Revelations, I guess, are in the eye of the beholder," said Wheeler, a former sports columnist for the now-defunct Cincinnati Post and co-author of autobiographies of Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Bob Gibson, among other works.

"I can't get too specific about the nature of that discussion," Wheeler said. "But he does tackle the question and discusses the PED scenario in length in three or four different sections of the book."

Wheeler -- an honorary BBWAA member who does not have a Hall vote -- said Piazza also discusses the Roger Clemens bat-throwing incident in Game 2 of the 2000 Subway Series and the bizarre episode in which Piazza held a news conference before a Mets game to refute rumors that he is gay.

"The subjects that people want to hear him on, he has spoken on candidly and at length," Wheeler said.

Piazza's rise from 62nd-round draft pick to the player with the most home runs as a catcher in baseball history normally would be the stuff of Hollywood legend, especially given that he started with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda, who pushed for the Dodgers to draft Piazza as a favor to Piazza's father, said Thursday that he was "much surprised" that his protégée didn't make it into the Hall.

"I don't think he would do anything wrong because he's such an outstanding young man," Lasorda, 85, said in a telephone interview. "That's how I feel. That's it."

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