Tom Seaver will always be The Franchise and is the only player in the Hall of Fame with a Mets cap on his plaque in Cooperstown. That will change July 24 when Mike Piazza is inducted into the Hall as a Met.
The former slugging catcher, who was elected to the Hall on Wednesday in his fourth year on the ballot, opened his post-election news conference on Thursday with an announcement that ended what little suspense there might have been about Piazza and the Hall of Fame’s choice.
“As far as my hat,” Piazza said, “I want to be very clear and say that as much as I loved coming up with the Dodgers — I will always cherish my time there — I’m going to go in as a New York Met.”
In recent years, the Hall of Fame and the elected player or manager have had to make some difficult logo choices. Just last year, Greg Maddux and Tony La Russa were inducted without a logo on their plaques because they and the Hall didn’t want to pick one team over the other.
Piazza had no such qualms. He was drafted by the Dodgers and spent parts of seven seasons in Los Angeles — Hall of Fame manager Tommy Lasorda is like a second father to him — but Piazza feels more connected to the Mets after spending parts of eight seasons with them.
“I enjoyed coming up with the Dodgers and had an amazing career there as far as getting to know Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, the Hall of Famers,” Piazza said. “But fortunately for me, I eventually ended in New York in some way, shape or form and became a New York Met. I truly have a special relationship here with the fans of the Mets . . . I feel like the fans here truly brought me into their family. Every time I’ve come back, I’ve been so incredibly honored from the response.”
The feeling for Piazza at Citi Field is mutual, and the Mets plan to stoke that fervor this summer by staging a “Piazza weekend” on dates to be determined after the Hall of Fame induction.
It’s also a safe bet that the team at that time will retire Piazza’s uniform number. His “31” will join Seaver’s “41” as the only ones the Mets have retired for their own players. The team has retired the numbers for managers Casey Stengel (37) and Gil Hodges (14), and Jackie Robinson’s 42 is retired throughout baseball.
Piazza has made peace with the Dodgers, but when he left in 1998, bad blood existed. Unable to work out a contract extension, he was traded to the Marlins and then shipped to the Mets eight days later.
The rest is history. Mets history. Baseball history.
“It was just one of those things,” Piazza said. “It was maybe a combination of egos and bad timing, whatever the case may be . . . Lo and behold, I ended up with the New York Mets, which believe it or not, at the time I had no idea I would end up here. Again, it’s funny. Sometimes in life change is difficult, and it’s tough. But if it happens, it knocks you out of your comfort zone, sometimes you just have to go along for the ride and try to make the best of it.”
With David Lennon
TALE OF TWO CITIES
Mike Piazza was almost equally successful in Flushing and Los Angeles. Comparing his numbers with the Mets and Dodgers: