|On August 28, 1998, Mike Piazza tips his cap to Dodger fans that gave him a standing ovation as he returned to Dodger Stadium for the first time in a visiting uniform.|
Thursday, January 19, 2012
Mike Piazza - It Sure Would Be Nice if He Would Agree to Participate In the 50 Year Festivities
What would it take to get Mike Piazza to return to Dodger Stadium and receive some recognition and appreciation from the fans? With the announcement of several Bobblehead dolls issued this year commemorating the 50 years of Dodger Stadium, I have to believe that Piazza was approached with the idea and he turned it down. Sadly, I almost believe that Mike is still holding a grudge against the organization and the fans all these years later. It is no secret that Piazza was not happy with being booed by Dodger fans early in ’98 when contract talks broke down. Shortly afterward, Chase Carey traded him to Florida and he never put on a Dodger uniform again.
I happened to be present when Mike Piazza returned to Dodger Stadium as a Met in 2008 for the first time. It was August 28th and 52,154 fans showed up for a Friday night game in which a .500 Dodger team found itself 21 games behind in the standings. Piazza, came to the plate for his first at bat as a Met at Dodger Stadium and received a standing ovation. Something he certainly deserved. He then ripped a pitch deep to right center field where Gary Sheffield caught it on the warning track. He received a standing ovation as he returned to the dugout following the out.
The oddest part of the game was yet to come though. With the Dodgers leading 4-0 in the top of the sixth, Piazza led off the inning. First ball swinging off of Carlos Perez, he lined a home run into the Left Field Pavilion. It was a classic Piazza shot that we had seen so many times. Exiting the playing field in a matter of a second or two. And then it happened, it was a gradual swell that erupted into a tremendous ovation. Yeah there were a few boos, but they were drowned out by the majority of fans that stood and cheered as an opposing player circled the bases at Dodger Stadium. I distinctly remember a young boy seated in the row next to me, wearing his Dodger Blue Crew T-shirt that he had obtained from the previous year with Mike’s image prominently displayed on the front. He was wearing a Mets cap. The kid and his mom hugged each other in excitement as Piazza crossed home plate in that Mets uni.
I believe its safe to say that never before or since has a visiting player competing against the Dodgers received such a positive reception at Dodger Stadium. I stood and applauded too, but I didn’t feel too bad about doing so, because the Dodgers still led 4-1. As that lead slowly evaporated and the Dodgers eventually went to extra innings in a 4-4 tie, I started to feel a bit different about the feel good story of Piazza’s return. The Mets eventually scored what turned out to be the winning run as Piazza slid across the plate in the 10th inning when Eric Karros failed to cleanly field a grounder in an attempt to cut down Mike from scoring. Again, fans stood and cheered. Piazza came out a winner and the Dodgers, well, they were done for the evening.
A diplomatic Piazza told L.A. TImes Dodger beat writer Jason Reid only positive things in the games aftermath. “The fans have always been good to me here. That’s something you never forget.”
As the years have gone by, that statement from 1998 looks to have been forgotten by Piazza. It seems like Mike wants to distance himself from his Dodger days. “The bulk of my career was with the Mets,” he told Craig Calcaterra of Hardball Talk in 2010. “ After going through the trade and then the drama of 9/11, I’ll never forget my Dodger days, but my time with the Mets is what I’ll remember most about my career.”
It sure would be nice to see him return for one night, put on the Dodger jersey and step to the mound in the pre-game ceremony and one more time, tip that cap to Dodger fans that were appreciative of his contributions. In my opinion he was by far the biggest offensive force to ever wear a Dodger uniform. His departure was a major contributor to the Dodgers demise that followed between '98-'03. In some sense, I believe it can be argued that they have never recovered from that trade with Florida.
Any ideas what we could do to convince him to return? I have to believe that Mike Piazza would receive an extremely positive and warm response if he did. Come back home Mike. L.A. fans that hated that trade would like to acknowledge you for your accomplishments as a Dodger. In case we all forgot, the youtube video below reminds us all what a force he was in his prime.