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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Our Second Hall of Famer

Recognized validation of Mike Piazza’s baseball immortality came in our man’s fourth appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. If you put aside the fact that it didn’t take Mets fans four freaking election cycles to figure out Piazza was among the best of the best of all time, it sounds sort of appropriate.

Mike Piazza did some of his most dramatic work his fourth time up. Seventh, eighth, ninth inning, depending on how the game was going. If it was close and Mike was coming to bat, we didn’t think it was over. We had Mike Piazza. We had every chance in the world.

There was no reason to give up when Mike Piazza was a Met. There was no reason to give up when Mike Piazza was a Hall of Famer in waiting. If we learned anything between 1998 and 2005, it was you could never count out Mike Piazza.

Count him in now. Count him in among the Class of 2016 in Cooperstown. Count him in among those fourteen players who have been Mets and who have been certified Hall of Famers, even if their days in our duds were relatively brief and totally incidental to their case. Count him in (by every available indication) as the second Met to — per the lexicon of the realm — go in as a Met.

There’s Tom Seaver. And now there’s Mike Piazza. I’ll take that battery any day.

I can’t stress enough that Mike should have received this honor in 2013, when he was first eligible. I can’t stress enough that it was borderline irresponsible for 75 percent of Baseball Writers Association of America members to not vote for the greatest-hitting catcher who ever played the game. I can’t stress enough how insulting the whisper campaigns that kept him out were. I can’t stress enough that as long as we cherished Mike’s eight sublime seasons in our midst, it didn’t ultimately matter if more than 25 percent of voters in a given year found him something short of worthy.

I also must confess that those gripes carried an expiration date of January 6, 2016, the Wednesday it was announced Piazza, along with Ken Griffey, Jr., was finally getting his impeccable credentials validated. I’m probably a bit of a hypocrite for having gotten hung up winter after winter on Piazza’s omission — how glad I am that we have been successfully relieved of partisan Cooperstown sentry duty — and now deciding this is a moment to celebrate.

But it is. One of ours is heading to the Hall. Thirteen prior Mets have made it there, but really, it’s happened fully only once before. That was for Tom Terrific. When Seaver — still possessor of the highest percentage of Hall of Fame checkmarks ever made on behalf of any pitcher — got the call this week in 1992, it was as if we’d won an additional championship. The victor was Tom, the emotional spoils were ours. That feeling visited me again Wednesday night. That’s the connection at work. That’s why we say “we”. That’s why we dwell on an insignia on a plaque whose path it’s quite possible we’ll never cross.

This is not an occasion to wonder why we invest ourselves in individuals we likely won’t meet and certainly won’t know in any substantive fashion. This is a time to simply bask in a veritable eternal glow.

The glow was warm that Friday afternoon in late May when the word went forth that the Mets had traded for Mike Piazza at the end of his Florida Marlins layover. My phone rang several times. I rang several phones. We, Mets fans, had to share the news with us, more Mets fans. Didja hear? We just got Mike Piazza! It didn’t matter for who or for how long. You get Mike Piazza, you revel first, you ask questions later.

Later, much later, on an early-October Sunday afternoon in Flushing, the glow was still warm. The years hadn’t dimmed our enthusiasm for the news and the knowledge that we had gotten Mike Piazza and we had held onto Mike Piazza and Mike Piazza had kept us looking forward to his every last at-bat, right up to his literal last at-bat as a Met.

In between the acquisition of May 22, 1998, and the au revoir of October 2, 2005? The glow…the warmth…the electricity of knowing we had Mike Piazza and he was going to be up a fourth or a fifth time in whatever game was going on, quite possibly the biggest game we could imagine finding ourselves in, desperately needing one more hit. Maybe we were down, but we were never out. Piazza was stepping to the plate. There was a pitch; there was a swing; there was another instance of a surefire future Hall of Famer coming through for us. If we were on hand, there was some serious high-fiving and backslapping and hugging. If we were following alone from afar, we whooped and we clapped and we were as thrilled as could be.

The thrill continues unabated that Mike Piazza is Mike Piazza of the New York Mets, now Mike Piazza of the New York Mets in the Hall of Fame. I’m amazed every single day he’s one of ours.

23 comments to Our Second Hall of Famer

  • 9th string catcher

    Bravo, Mike! Head of the class of an underrated catching lineage that the Mets have. A true shame he was ostracized for the era in which he played – so glad he got his due! I’m guessing this is the year 31 gets retired.

  • Dennis

    Congrats to Mike! Nice to see another Met get in. Not sure why his career was more deserving now than 2 years ago, but better late than never.

    Also nice to see him going in with Griffey, another classy player as well.

  • SkillSets

    Piazza will be the last Mets Baseball Hall of Famer for a long, long time. The next one isn’t going to be Captain Stenosis, and we’ll have to wait until I am long dead and buried to see if deGrom, Harvey, etc. fit the bill.

    • Kevin From Flushing

      Beltran? Maybe he misses the cut. Or maybe he goes in with no affiliation. Or maybe he goes in as a Met. But he should certainly be debated.

  • DAK442

    I’m ecstatically happy for Mike, especially since reading his book and learning so much more about him. I’m also thrilled for us, the fans who love him. Those were happy times, when for only the second time Met fans had the best at something on our team.

    Has anyone here ever been to Cooperstown for induction ceremony? Do you have to get tickets in advance somewhere? What’s involved? Because I need to be there for this. I want his introduction to be like his reception at the closing day at Shea – deafening, joyous, and long to the point of almost embarrassing.

  • open the gates

    I remember a conversation I had back then with a friend and fellow Met fan:

    Me: I have great news!
    Him: Yeah! We just got Piazza!
    Me: Yeah, I heard. What I was going to tell you us that I just got engaged!
    Him: [pause]…Oh. That’s nice, too.

    I wasn’t insulted. I knew where he was coming from.

    Meanwhile, my wife and I are going on 17 years, and Mike’s induction ceremony will somewhat coincide with our younger son’s Bar Mitzvah. Amazing how we have this confluence between our lives and events in Metsville. All part of being a fan, I guess.

  • Daniel Hall

    Can we be sure he’s going to wear a Mets hat? I sense the Dodgers camp expects him to go in as a Dodger.

  • AndyT

    First time commenter; love FAFIF! Lifelong Mets fan since my Dad took me to Polo Grounds in ’63 for first Banner Day doubleheader. I carried a big white surrender flag with a Mets logo sewn at its center

    Most amazing thing about Piazza was that, despite that vicious long hack, he never once struck out 100 times in a season. Greatest hitting catcher of all time; lowest draft pick of all time. Wonderful he’ll be wearing a Mets cap on that plaque.

    Go Mets, but it will hurt to see Murph in the Walgreen’s W!

  • Will in Central NJ

    Yes!! Finally, our man is in!

    Extra reasons to be happy: the Mets outlast the Dodgers again for the 2nd time in four months (first, NLDS; now, cap logo). Secondly, a certain bat-shard throwing primate will NOT be sharing the Cooperstown stage with Mike Piazza! How sweet it is!

  • Kevin From Flushing

    My favorite Met of all time is going in the Hall of Fame, as a Met. There are little words to describe the joy this brings me.

    Greg, you touched on something I was thinking yesterday, how Mike so often played the role of Anti-“Mighty Casey”. The Almanzar Game, the Wagner Game, the 10-run inning, and so many more games where the Mets would be down late and I’d find myself thinking, “well, if we string a few runners together, that’d get Piazza up with a chance to give us the lead.” And time and time again Mark Johnson would take a walk, or Tsuyoshi Shinjo would leg out an infield hit, and I’d think, “oh wow, this is really happening… but Piazza couldn’t really go deep here, it doesn’t work like that, it’s not Hollywood.”

    Then a no-doubter goes rocketing into the stands. Praise be to The Catcher… Number 31… Mike……….. Piazza.

  • argman

    The only other time I was as excited about a Mets trade acquisition as I was by Piazza was when they picked up Gary Carter. There are many obvious parallels to them, but I think the most important that we already had a pretty decent club, one on the rise at least, and now we had added a real star at his peak (or just about).

  • Ken K. in NJ

    The fact remains that since 1962 the Mets have produced only one Home Grown Hall of Famer. Unless I’m missing somebody, the only teams with a worse track record over that span are The Cleveland Indians, Detroit Tigers and the Washington Senators/Texas Rangers.

    • Home-grown Hall of Famers have become an endangered species post the free agent era, no? Perhaps given the relatively new tendency to lock up the young with extensions that trend will reverse a little bit when the Verlanders and King Felix’s of the game hit eligibility.

  • metsfaninparadise

    I keep reminding people that having a big bopper in the lineup is no longer de rigueur for a WS champ, as the Giants and Royals have proven recently, but even so…we could really use one of those now.

  • Lenny65

    I’m so thrilled that he’s repping us, I was sure he’d go in as a (boo) Dodger. When you reflect on those Mets teams from 98-01, Piazza uncorking that magnificent swing is the first memory that comes to mind. That one hit hit at Shea during the ten run inning was my personal favorite, I’ve never seen a ball exit Shea that fast before or since. His moon shot in the ill-fated 1999 NLCS Game Six was another favorite, as well as every one he hit against that bat-throwing non-HOF drug crazed weirdo as well. All this chatter about PEDs aside, Piazza was always pure class, no freakouts, rages or embarrassing meltdowns with him, unlike certain other stars of the era I could name.

    And the Mets are finally retiring a number!!!! About damn time. I think they should retire #17 this year too. IMO the standards for retiring a number should be very high and Piazza and Hernandez both merit it above any other possible contenders.

  • Dave

    Lost in the discussion the past few days is the fact that there’s another catcher in Cooperstown who had some pretty good years for some pretty good Mets teams. Yes, he’s there with an Expos cap, but not like he was in the Mays/Snider/Berra category of “well, yeah, technically a former Met” or the Murray/Alomar camp of “why even bother?” So I put the number of real Mets in the Hall at 2+.

    Interesting comment the other day from some writer…said Jerry Koosman is about as good a player who’s not in the Hall as there is. His stats align pretty closely with those of Jim Bunning, whose election was the end of a long populist campaign. Yet Kooz couldn’t even remain on the ballot a 2nd year.

    • Lenny65

      Jerry Koosman gets lost in Mets history sometimes, but he’s arguably one of the four or five best pitchers they’ve ever had. Jon Matlack often gets forgotten too but he was mighty impressive there for a while.

      I wish Carter had gone in as a Met, I’d like to see his #8 retired too. Piazza and Carter are 1A and 1B as far as great Mets catchers are concerned.

    • Jim Bunning! My, my. Finally elected in ’01 and curmudgeonly to this day (most recently incensed at the failure of the Committee to vote in his former teammate, Dick Allen — on the grounds that no one hit as many 500-foot home runs. Because those count more, apparently? Ahhh….Washington….see what you do to people?)

      A quick check of Bunning’s stats show that the area he proved most dominant among his peers was leading the NL for four successive years in HBP.

      Sorry, Kooz. I love you….but two wrongs won’t make a right.

      • Wondered about Koosman vs. Bunning on this very day ten years ago. I wasn’t necessarily pining for Kooz’s induction (though I’d certainly cheer it) as wondering why he disappeared from consideration so fast, considering Bunning hung in there for so long and eventually got inducted.

        Difference in a decade: It used to be enough to keep a guy on the ballot for the sake of keeping him on the ballot and maybe thinking a little more. Now, post-PED, the stray vote for a candidate a little off the beaten path is excoriated as a wasted vote. I miss the days of the random check mark thrown Jim DeShaies’ way.

        As for Carter the Met, yeah, for sure a great day for the likes of us when he got the call. Wished he could’ve had a Mets cap, totally understood why it was an Expos cap. And as far as visceral thrills regarding Mets in the Hall, the one that elevated my ecstasy level most, after Seaver, was Bob Murphy winning the Ford C. Frick.

  • […] Baseball Hall of Fame. The timing doesn’t seem coincidental. The Mets took their honoring cue from Cooperstown, as if No. 31 couldn’t be hallowed in the Mets’ midst until somebody else vouched for its […]