September 11, 2001, is a day that will always live in infamy in the minds and hearts of Americans. The World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia were both targeted by hijacked airplanes in a terrorist attack that injured over 6,000 people and killed just under 3,000. The tragic events that took place on that day shook the United States to its core.
But what the terrorists who perpetrated the attack didn’t count on was the resilience of the American people, who in their time of crisis put differences aside and came together as a nation. It took some time for things to begin returning to normal, but just 10 days after the attack, Shea Stadium was packed with fans supporting the New York Mets. And on that night, Mike Piazza would give the nation a memory it would never forget.
The lead up to Mike Piazza’s moment
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Major League Baseball postponed its schedule for a week to make sure that it would be safe for the 2001 regular season to resume. The New York Mets had their series against the Pittsburgh Pirates that started on September 17 rescheduled from New York to Pittsburgh. The Mets swept that road series.
New York would return home to Shea Stadium to play the Atlanta Braves on Friday, September 21. The atmosphere was a somber one as the Mets honored America and the New Yorkers who had lost their lives in a pregame ceremony. And just 10 days removed from the deadly attack, the 41,235 fans in attendance who were brave enough to come out to the game were worried that an event like this one could be the target of another terrorist attack.
The game wound up being a pitcher’s duel with each team scoring only one run apiece through the first seven innings. When the Braves scratched out a run in the top of the eighth inning to take a 2-1 lead, it appeared as though Atlanta was going to spoil the Mets’ return home.
The home run seen around the country
Mike Piazza had other plans. The Mets slugger had already hit two doubles on the evening and had scored the team’s only run back in the fourth inning, but he was only getting started.
With Desi Relaford at first base, Piazza crushed a Steve Karsay fastball to deep center field. It was an absolute no-doubter that sent the crowd into a frenzy the second it left his bat. All night these fans had been waiting for the chance to erupt in cheers, and Piazza gave them exactly that in remarkable fashion.
And it wasn’t just the fans in attendance. Millions around the nation had the chance to celebrate with the state of New York in a time that even the smallest of victories was a welcome reprieve. The Mets would hold on to win for a 3-2 win that night.
Piazza understood the significance of this home run
After the game, Piazza, who had donated his $68,000 game check to the relief efforts, spoke to the media.
“I’m just so happy I gave the people something to cheer,” Piazza said. “There was a lot of emotion. It was just a surreal sort of energy out there. I’m just so proud to be a part of it tonight.”
“These people are great,” he continued. “New York has been so strong through all this. I feel so sad. I met two kids today who lost their fathers … I’m glad to give people a diversion from the sorrow, to give them a thrill.”
And what a thrill it was.