For eight years, Mike Piazza heard you, and today’s induction speech by only the second Met, joining Tom Seaver, to be enshrined into the Baseball Hall of Fame was his way of saying thank you for the encouragement, the prodding, the enjoyment, and most of all, for the love.
“How can I put into words my love, thanks and appreciation for New York Mets’ fans?” was one of the many highlights of his Hall of Fame induction speech, which timed out close to 31 minutes, which was the number he proudly wore during his magnificent career.
“You have given me the greatest gift and graciously taken me into your family. This brings me back to the best time of my life. … You guys are serious. The eight years we spent together went by way too fast. The thing I miss most is making you cheer.”
Today wasn’t about numbers, but emotions and memories and Piazza made sure to thank his father, Vince, saying: “We made it, dad. The race is over. Now it’s time to smell the roses.”
But, not before thanking a few more special people, from managers Tommy Lasorda and Bobby Valentine, to scores of teammates, including John Franco, who gave up his No. 31 when the former 62nd round draft pick was traded to the Mets.
Piazza’s speech embodied the way he played – from the heart.
We loved him for the numbers and moments, including his post-September 11 home run, with a reference on his plaque saying, “it helped rally a nation.” But, we also loved him for his class and humility.
Piazza acknowledged how many noted that home run in the proceeding weeks, but he chose to honor the first responders who selflessly gave their lives.
That home run might have been a symbolic gesture, but what the police and firemen did was a greater sacrifice.
Piazza gave us numerous memories to love him over those eight years. Today he told us he loved us back.