Mike Piazza walked up to bat against Steve Karsay in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets trailing the Braves 2-1. Shea Stadium was electric; Mike Piazza was the guy fans wanted at-bat down a run late in a game. Karsay pitched a ball that was meant to be away, and the second the ball hit Piazza’s bat, fans knew it was leaving the ballpark.
“And it’s hit deep to left-center, Andruw Jones on the run, this one has a chance! Home run, Mike Piazza! And the Mets lead three to two!” Broadcaster Howie Rose screamed as the 41,235 fans at Shea cheered and got out of their seats.
17 years ago today, on Sept. 21, 2001, the Mets returned to Shea Stadium for the first time since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
An emotional night for fans, players, and the baseball community as a whole, Piazza’s home run gave the fans a distraction from the devastating tragedy of the attacks.
“I was glad to come through and give these people something to cheer for at last,” Piazza said. “That’s why they came out, to be diverted from the sorrow and the loss.”
The Mets went on to defeat the Braves 3-2 that night, thanks to the rocket hit by Piazza, but more importantly, the fans were able to celebrate once more.
“Shea Stadium has something to smile about!” Rose said.
As Piazza rounded the bases and finally touched home plate, the fans went wild, American flags waving, Piazza met his teammates and returned to the dugout. The electric fans could not be tamed, and Piazza got out of his dugout and tipped his cap to the crowd.
“Well it was a great, great ending. You know, a storybook ending. The home team coming back, playing in front of an emotional crowd,” teammate John Franco said of the win.
Even 17 years later, the video of Piazza’s home run circles around the internet to remember a time when The Amazins and their fans showed resiliency in a trying time for New York and the United States.