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Mike Piazza

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Mike Piazza

A photo of Mike Piazza.

Mike Piazza
Catcher
Personal information
Born September 4, 1968 (1968-09-04) (age 48)
U.S Flag Norristown, Pennsylvania
Listed height 6 ft 3 Listed weight 200 lbs
Bats Right Throws Right
MLB debut
September 1, 1992 for the Los Angeles Dodgers
Final game
September 30, 2007 for the Oakland Athletics
Career information
MLB Draft 1988; 62nd round / 1390th pick
Selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers
Pro career 1988-2007
Teams
Career highlights and awards
  • 12× All-Star selection
  • 10× Silver Slugger Award winner
  • 1993 NL Rookie of the Year
  • 1996 MLB All-Star Game MVP
MLB Profile at mlb.com

Michael Joseph Piazza (born September 4, 1968 in Norristown, Pennsylvania, USA) is a retired Americanbaseball Catcher. He began his career with the Los Angeles Dodgers and played for the Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, and Oakland Athletics. . He is a 12-time All-Star. Piazza is often regarded as the best-hitting catcher of all time, and holds the career record for home runs hit by a catcher.

ChildhoodEdit

Mike grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania with his parents, Vince and Veronica, and his brothers Vince Jr., Danny, Tony and Tommy. When Piazza was 12, he received personal instruction from the late Hall of Famer Ted Williams in his backyard batting cage.

Vince Piazza was childhood friends with Dodgers manager, Tommy Lasorda. When the Dodgers came to Philadelphia, Mike had the opportunity to spend time in the Dodger clubhouse and dugout.

Major League careerEdit

Piazza was the last player the Dodgers drafted of the 1988 draft. He was their selection in the 62nd round, and baseball magazines such as the 1994 edition of Athlon Baseball mentioned how rare such a feat is of a low draft pick becoming such a prominent player. 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 (tying the Yankees' Bill Dickey (1936) for highest batting average by a catcher in one season), 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 latter of the two resulted in a National League Pennant and World Series appearance, where the Mets lost in five games to a Yankee team winning their fourth World Series in five years. Of note, all five games were decided by two 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. The game was the first regular season professional sporting event held in New York City after the September 11, 2001 attacks.

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.

After the 2006 season, he was signed by the Oakland Athletics to replace Frank Thomas as their DH. But he spent most of the year battling injuries and appeared in only 83 games.

With the A's entering a significant re-building period in 2008, Piazza was not resigned by the team. At the start of spring training, he still had not signed a deal with another major league club.

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. Mike Piazza is a shoo-in fior the Hall of Fame, and figures to become the first Italiam-American player elected in his first year of eligibility (Joe DiMaggio and Yogi Berra were not).

SalaryEdit

During the 2005 season, Piazza was the ninth highest paid MLB player at $16,071,429. On January 29, 2006, Mike Piazza accepted a one-year deal with the San Diego Padres worth up to $2 million. On December 6, 2006, Piazza signed a 1-year, $8.5 million deal with the Oakland Athletics. He is expected to replace Frank Thomas as the A's designated hitter.

Career Salaries:Edit

  • 1993 - $126,000
  • 1994 - $600,000
  • 1995 - $900,000
  • 1996 - $2,700,000
  • 1997 - $7,000,000
  • 1998 - $8,000,000
  • 1999 - $7,171,428
  • 2000 - $12,071,429
  • 2001 - $13,571,429
  • 2002 - $10,571,429
  • 2003 - $15,571,429
  • 2004 - $16,071,429
  • 2005 - $16,071,429
  • 2006 - $1,250,000
  • 2007 - $8,500,000

Personal lifeEdit

On January 29, 2005, he married Playboy Playmate Alicia Rickter at St. Jude's Catholic Church in Miami, Florida, before 120 guests, including Brande Roderick, Lisa Dergan, Anjelica Bridges, Al Leiter and Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez.

On February 3, 2007, Piazza's wife welcomed the couple's first child, a daughter. Nicoletta Veronica Piazza was born at 4:07 a.m. in New York City. She weighed in at 5 lbs., 8 oz. and measured 19 inches long. [1]

Career highlights and milestonesEdit

  • In 1993, his 35 home runs set the record for most home runs by a rookie catcher, surpassing Detroit's Matt Nokes with 28 in 1987. Plus, it is the most home runs by any Dodger rookie.
  • He was named the All-Star Game's MVP, in 1996, after he went 2-3 with a double, home run and two RBI at Veterans Stadium in his hometown of Philadelphia.
  • His 40 homers in 1997 and 1999 is the third most by a catcher. Todd Hundley is second, with 41 homers in 1996, and Javy Lopez set the record with 43 in 2003. Roy Campanella hit 41 as a catcher in 1953, including one as a pinch hitter.
  • His .362 average in 1997 was the highest ever by a catcher (110 games) in the National League, tying the Major League record Bill Dickey who also batted .362 for the New York Yankees in 1936.
  • He won the Ted Williams Award, presented by CNN/SI and Total Baseball in 1997.
  • His 201 hits in 1997 were the most in major league history by a player used as a catcher in 130 or more games
  • On Sept. 21, 1997 Mike Piazza became just the third player and the only Dodger ever to hit a ball out of Dodger Stadium with a blast over the left-field pavilion.
  • He hit the longest home run in Astrodome history, an estimated 480-foot, two-run blast off Jose Lima in the first inning of a game on September 14, 1998.
  • Led the majors with four grand slams in 1998. His fourth slam and first as a Met came against the Diamondbacks' Andy Benes in the second inning of the August 22 game at Shea Stadium. His first 3 grand slams in 1998 occurred in April for the Dodgers.
  • Hit his 200th home run on September 16, 1998, at Houston. The home run, a three-run shot with two outs in the ninth inning against Billy Wagner (now coincidentally a Met), gave the Mets a 3-2 lead in a game they would win, 4-3, in 11 innings.
  • Tied a Mets club record on July 18, 2000 when he hit his third grand slam home run of the season ... The only other Mets with three grand slams in a year are John Milner in 1976, Robin Ventura in 1999 and Carlos Beltran in 2006.
  • His 72 RBI prior to the All-Star Break in 2000 were, at the time, the most in club history. Dave Kingman had 69 in 1976.
  • He and Derek Jeter are the only players in major league history to hit a World Series home run in both Yankee Stadium and Shea Stadium.
  • He won a record 10 consecutive Louisville Silver Slugger Awards.
  • He joined Cincinnati's Johnny Bench (1968), New York Yankees' Thurman Munson (1970), Atlanta's Earl Williams (1971), Boston's Carlton Fisk (1972), San Diego's Benito Santiago (1987) and Cleveland's Sandy Alomar, Jr. (1990) as the only catchers to be named Rookie of the Year.
  • He hit his first career pinch-hit home run off Richie Lewis at Florida on July 23, 1995.
  • He finished second in the NL Most Valuable Player voting behind San Diego's Ken Caminiti after batting .336 with 36 home runs, 105 RBI, 87 runs and 16 doubles in 148 games in 1996. (Sadly, Caminiti later admitted to taking steroids during his MVP Award-winning season.)
  • He led the All-Star voting in 1996, 1997, and 2000.
  • He has the 2nd-highest slugging percentage in Dodgers history with .572, trailing Gary Sheffield by only .001 percent.
  • His .331 batting average as a Dodger is the fourth highest in franchise history.
  • He hit more than 30 home runs in eight consecutive seasons (from 1995 to 2002). He has nine career 30-homer seasons.
  • He hit .300 in nine consecutive seasons, dating from 1993 to 2001.
  • Yogi Berra, Carlton Fisk, Gary Carter, and Johnny Bench were on hand at Shea Stadium to honor Mike on "Mike Piazza Night" on June 18, 2004. Piazza was celebrated for breaking the record for career home runs by a catcher.
  • His 250th home run was a grand slam on May 14 vs. Florida's Brad Penny.
  • He hit his 400th career home run on April 26, 2006, off the Arizona Diamondbacks' Jose Valverde.
  • He hit a double off of the San Francisco Giants' Matt Cain for his 2,000th career hit on July 21, 2006.
  • On August 8, 2006, Piazza returned to Shea Stadium in a Padres uniform for the first time since signing with them in January. Piazza received constant cheers, ovations and chanting of his name from the second he stepped foot on the field for batting practice until leaving the field after his final at-bat in the 8th inning. In his first at-bat in the second inning, Piazza received a two-minuite standing ovation as Shea Stadium played Voodoo Child, by Jimi Hendrix. It was considered by Mets fans the biggest welcome back since Tom Seaver returned in 1977 as a member of the Cincinnati Reds. New York would win the game 3-2.
  • In game two of his return to Shea Stadium, he hit two solo home runs against Pedro Martinez. During two home run performance he is one of the few players to give a curtain call while playing as a visitor.
  • Upon hitting the two home runs on August 8, 2006, he has hit 6 home runs against Pedro Martinez. Martinez hasn't allowed more than 4 home runs to any other hitter.
  • Became the first former Met to have a multi-home run game against the Mets since Tony Clark, who did it in 2004 as a Yankee.

TriviaEdit

  • During the 1994 strike he and Joe Morgan appeared on Married... with Children. Mike played a cameraman; when asked what he was doing there, he answered, "Just trying to make an honest buck."
  • Piazza appeared in a 1995 episode of "Baywatch".
  • In February 2001, he defeated Kevin Sorbo of Hercules fame and Ally McBeal actress Jane Krakowski on Celebrity Jeopardy!, collecting $15,000 for teammate Al Leiter's Leiters Landing Foundation charity.
  • Piazza appeared on the September 23, 2004, episode of NBC's The Apprentice. He was paid $20,000 for a half-hour of work pitching a vanilla-mint-flavored Crest toothpaste.
  • On the title track to Black Label Society's (a band fronted by Ozzy Osbourne guitarist Zakk Wylde) 2000 sophomore album "Stronger Than Death", Mike Piazza sings backing vocals (jokingly referred to as "growls of doom"). Spotted on Oct. 19 2006 at Starland Ballroom in Sayreville NJ at BLS show watching Game 7 Mets vs. Cards.
  • He did backup vocals for heavy metal band Overkill onstage during DJ Eddie Trunk's Annual Halloween listener party on October 29, 2004, at the Hard Rock Café in New York City.
  • Mike was responsible for leaking a demo of "I.R.S." by Guns N' Roses, also on the Eddie Trunk Radio Show.
  • He was interviewed in June 2003 magazine issue of Playboy.
  • He was referenced in a song by Scottish indie-rock group Belle & Sebastian entitled "Piazza, New York Catcher." At one point, the singer asks, "Piazza, New York Catcher, are you straight or are you gay?". This plays off the rumor, denied by Piazza, that he is gay. The rumor apparently began when a major sports magazine reported that a MLB player on the East Coast was gay.
  • Mike was the subject—and source—of a hoax involving Teen Wolf starring Michael J. Fox. Mike alleged in an interview with New York Sports Express that he had played the boyfriend of the beautiful blonde (whom Fox sleeps with).
  • In 2006, DHL started a campaign for Hometown Heroes, in which 5 of the greatest players in all 30 teams history were up for the award. Piazza was nominated for the Mets hero along with John Franco, Tug McGraw, Tom Seaver, and Keith Hernandez. The spot was eventually won by Seaver.
  • Mike owns a car dealership in Langhorne, Pennsylvania.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

Preceded by:
Eric Karros
National League Rookie of the Year
1993
Succeeded by:
Raúl Mondesí
Preceded by:
Ellis Burks
National League Player of the Month
May, 1994 (with Lenny Dykstra)
Succeeded by:
Jeff Bagwell
Preceded by:
Dante Bichette
National League Player of the Month
August, 1995
Succeeded by:
Dante Bichette
Preceded by:
Jeff Conine
Major League Baseball All-Star Game
Most Valuable Player

1996
Succeeded by:
Sandy Alomar, Jr.
Preceded by:
Tony Gwynn
National League Player of the Month
June, 1997
Succeeded by:
Barry Bonds
Preceded by:
Barry Bonds
National League Player of the Month
August, 1997
Succeeded by:
Mark McGwire

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