Thursday, January 7, 2016

The Catcher and The Kid

The 2016 class for the baseball Hall-of-Fame is half the size of the 2015 edition.  What it lacks in numbers however it more than makes up for in star power.  

Ken Griffey, Jr. is one of my favorite players.  Irrespective of the team for which he plays, I will always love a baseball player who is unquestionably the most talented  member of his team but who hustles and busts his ass as if he is the 25th man on the roster.  Junior was as apt to barrel headlong into the wall to catch a fly ball as he was to launch a tape-measure home run.  Other than when he wreaked havoc on my Yankees (1995 ALDS anyone?), he was an absolute joy to watch play.  




I read online last night that Junior has never set foot inside of the Hall-of-Fame.  As a player, he played in the Hall-of-Fame game three times.  He never went into the HOF however.  His reasoning? He did not want to go inside until he was a member.  I hope he enjoys his first visit.  

Mike Piazza was an incredible offensive player, principally for the Dodgers and the Mets.  His arrival in New York in 1998 immediately restored credibility to the Mets, which they had lacked since Davy Johnson and Darryl Strawberry put Flushing in their rear-view mirrors.  Piazza not only put a charge into the Mets' fan base, he led them to back-to-back appearances in the NLCS in 1999 and 2000.  

But for him, the only Subway Series played thus far in my lifetime, the 2000 World Series, probably would not have occurred.   Piazza made the final out of the 2000 Series, although when the ball left his bat I feared it was going over the wall and not into the glove of Bernie Williams...who was standing in deep left-center field when he caught it.  

For me, Piazza's ticket to Cooperstown was punched the following September.  The Mets hosted the Braves in the first post-September 11 sporting event played in New York City.  Friday, September 21, 2001 was an incredible, emotional night.  On the field, however, through seven-plus innings, the Mets - who had started the night 5 1/2 games behind the Braves for the NL East lead, were trailing Atlanta.  In the bottom of the eighth inning, Piazza changed all of that with one swing of his bat.



With one swing, he lifted an entire city - even those of us who are Yankees fans.  It takes damn broad shoulders to carry millions of people simultaneously.  For that moment, on that night, Mike Piazza did just that.  A moment for the ages.   Brought to us by an immortal.  

Nicely done, gentlemen.  Congratulations.  

-AK


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