Piazza and Mets fans celebrate on his home turf

National Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Mike Piazza arrives for an induction ceremony at the Clark Sports Center in Cooperstown.
AP Photo/Mike Groll
by Laura Amato

Mike Piazza was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame last weekend, but the celebration isn’t quite over yet—it has simply changed locations.

The Mets honored Piazza and his historic contributions to the franchise with an entire weekend of events in Queens, including having his No. 31 retired Saturday.

It was a celebration years in the making, honoring a player whose time with the Mets not only shaped his own career, but helped define a generation of baseball in Queens—and the fans came out in droves for the festivities.

“I love it,” Woodhaven native Alice Fenty said. “I’ve got tickets for Friday and Sunday as well. It’s for Piazza weekend and my closest friends got me tickets for my birthday so I could make sure I was here. Born, slapped, raised a Mets fan.”

The highlight of the weekend was the jersey retirement ahead of Saturday’s tilt against the Colorado Rockies. Piazza became just the fourth Met to have his number retired, joining Casey Stengel (No. 37), Gil Hodges (No. 14) and Tom Seaver (No. 41).

But that wasn’t the only event planned to honor one of the game’s all-time best hitters.

Piazza’s Hall of Fame plaque was on display all weekend, while fans received a Piazza replica jersey on Friday and Piazza bobbleheads on Sunday.

For plenty of die-hard Mets fans, being in the crowd at Citi Field last weekend was a must-see moment and a chance to honor their hero.

“I followed him so much as a kid and he just became my favorite player,” said Staten Island native Joseph DeAngelis, who was born just three months before Piazza was traded to the Mets. “My mom and I were at his last game as a Met in 2005 and we were at his Mets Hall of Fame game in 2013. Now we’re here the whole weekend. As soon as tickets went on sale, I knew we had to be here.”

Of course, Piazza’s legacy with the Mets is well documented.

The catcher, who played 16 years in the big leagues, posted a .308 career batting average and drove in 1,335 runs—fourth among catchers all-time. He was a 12-time all star, winning the 1996 All-Star Game MVP, and captured 10 Silver Slugger Awards.

As far as Mets fans are concerned, his induction in Cooperstown—not to mention last weekend’s slate of events—are a long time coming.

“You go back all the way to 9/11 and he carried this team. He was just a good ball player,” said Matt Schmidt of Monmouth County, New Jersey. “He could hit and as a catcher he played well—the best all-time catcher we’ve had. He really deserved to be in the Hall of Fame three or four years ago.”

Piazza’s retirement ceremony was the stuff of sports legend, the kind of moment that fans and players tell their families about. When the Hall of Famer walked out of the Citi Field dugout with tears in his eyes, there wasn’t a dry eye in stands. Piazza even did a final victory lap along the base lines, shaking hands with fans.

By the end of the weekend, Mets fans weren’t entirely concerned with Piazza’s stats or his propensity for hitting home runs in clutch moments. They weren’t—at least not solely—concerned with the final score in the series against the Rockies.

These fans came out to honor their hero and while they were certainly moved by Piazza’s Hall of Fame speech in Cooperstown, there was something about seeing him celebrated in person that made all difference.

“There was something about it that was just amazing to me,” DeAngelis said. “I was proud for him and I’ve never met him in my life. I don’t know him personally, but it was just amazing to see.”

More from Around New York