Mike Piazza is a retired baseball player who played for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics. A 12-time All-Star, Piazza is often regarded as the best-hitting catcher of all time and holds the record for home runs hit by a catcher with 396 (with a career total of 427).
Piazza grew up in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, as the second-oldest son of his family. Piazza’s father, Vince Piazza, saw early-on that Mike had potential in the sport of baseball and encouraged his son to build his arm strength and learn to hit. When he was 12, Piazza received personal instruction in his backyard batting cage from Ted Williams. The Hall of Famer praised his talent and advised him to not let anyone change his swing. He went on to attend Phoenixville Area High School and graduated in 1986.
Piazza was drafted out of Miami-Dade Community College by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Draft. In the minors, Piazza became an excellent hitter, especially as a catcher. His major league debut came with the Dodgers in 1992, when he appeared in 21 games. He then won the National League MLB Rookie of the Year Award in 1993.
Piazza's best season with the Dodgers was 1997 when he finished second in MVP voting. He hit .362, with 40 home runs and 124 runs batted in, an on base percentage of .431 and a slugging percentage of .638. He played six seasons with the Dodgers before being traded to the Florida Marlins in May of 1998. One week later, he was traded from the Marlins to the Mets where he led New York to two consecutive playoff appearances in 1999 and 2000.
The latter of the two playoff appearances resulted in a Mets World Series appearance, where the Mets lost in five games to the New York Yankees, all five games were decided by two runs or fewer, something that had not occurred in a World Series in almost 70 years. He became known as The Monster after coach John Stearns was caught on tape during the 2000 National League Championship Series after a Piazza hit saying "The Monster is out of the Cage."
One of the signature moments of Piazza’s career came on September 21, 2001, ten days after the terrorist attacks of September 11. The Mets faced their rivals the Atlanta Braves in the first professional sporting event hosted in New York City since the tragedy. After an emotional pre-game ceremony the two teams played a tense unfocused game in the reserved atmosphere of Shea Stadium, Piazza hit what is considered by many to be the most significant home run of his career. With the Mets down 2–1 in the bottom of the eighth inning, Piazza a two-run blast that put the Mets up 3–2, securing a victory. The home run has been called one of the greatest moments in baseball history.
At the latter stage of his career, Piazza began to split his time between catching and playing first base to ease the stress on his knees. His last game with the Mets came on October 2, 2005. He was removed from the game in the eighth inning to a standing ovation from the 47,718 fans in attendance at Shea Stadium.
Piazza played for the San Diego Padres in 2006 and Oakland Athletics in 2007 to finish his playing career. He was only one of ten players have to have ever had over 400 home runs with over a .300 lifetime average while never striking out more than 100 times in a season. He announced his retirement on May 20, 2008. He is regarded as a first-ballot Hall of Famer by many when he receives his nomination.