The phone rang at my desk on May 22, 1998. I didn’t recognize the voice.
“Hi,” someone said. “You’re gonna have Mike Piazza on the Mets, but he might or might not use some substances that aren’t exactly on the up and up to keep his performance at the extraordinary level it’s been since he’s been in the majors. Not saying he’s doing that now, but he might have been. You still want him on the Mets?”
I said yes.
The phone rang in my home on October 19, 1999. Same voice.
“Hi,” someone said. “The Mets are down to the Braves 7-3 right now and if they don’t come back, they’re done for in the NLCS. We’re headed to the seventh. Piazza can hit an absolute laser of a homer off Smoltz and tie it in a few minutes, but he might need a little something to help him, considering how banged up he’s been this month. He might not, but I’m just saying it’s a possibility. You OK with that?”
I said yes.
The phone rang in my pocket at my seat on June 30, 2000. Same voice.
“Hi,” someone said. “Listen, I know this game sucks right now in the middle of the eighth, the Mets losing 8-1, but some baserunners are gonna get on and before you know it, it will be tied 8-8, two will be on and Piazza will be up. He can take one mighty swing and give you the memory of a lifetime here. I mean you’ll be talking about this forever. Thing is the swing might not produce anything unless he’s sort of ‘enhanced’ before coming to bat. Can’t say for sure that he’ll need that extra boost, but if we have to go that route, will you sign off on that decision?”
I said yes.
Every now and then, I’d get a call like that. Same basic proposition: Mike Piazza will perform as no Met before him did, as no Met around him could. Every time he did, it would give me a thrill unsurpassed by any other sensation. But I had to say yes, that however Piazza prepared himself to deliver on my behalf was all right by me.
I always said yes.
It’s years since Mike Piazza played for the Mets. I got one more call from that voice, this afternoon.
“Hi,” someone said. “A book is coming out that alleges Mike Piazza used performance-enhancing substances. There’s no irrefutable evidence, but it’s by a writer you basically trust. And it’s not the first time someone’s mentioned this sort of thing. Anyway, you’ve been a Mets fan your whole life and you never got a rush from any Met the way you did from Piazza hitting those amazing, dramatic homers he had such a knack for. So I’m just wondering, do these revelations — if they’re true, and we don’t know if they are — change any of the way you felt toward Mike Piazza?”
I said no. Not really.
Faith and Fear in Flushing: An Intense Personal History of the New York Mets is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other fine booksellers.