09/26/2003 1:10 AM ET
Piazza makes 'first' debut in NY
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By Kevin T. Czerwinski / MLB.com
NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza's much-anticipated move to first base proved to be a highlight on Bob Murphy Appreciation Night Thursday in the Mets' 3-1 loss to the Pirates. Manager Art Howe said he told Piazza that he would be playing first base sometime in the series finale when he was on the mound making a pitching change in the eighth inning of Wednesday's win.
"If I was going to do it, I figured I wanted to do it at home so our fans could see it," Howe said. "They deserve to see it after so much hoopla. It was a courtesy to our fans."
And the Shea Stadium fans responded. When Piazza's position change was announced in the ninth inning, the crowd erupted and began chanting Piazza's name. The applause and chanting only intensified when Piazza dropped to his knees while reaching up to spear a Carlos Rivera line drive for the inning's first out. In fact, Piazza registered all three putouts, easily handling throws from Pedro Feliciano and Ty Wigginton on a pair of grounders.
"I never really thought about it as an event," said Piazza, who played first base for the first time since July 26, 1993, when the Dodgers were at San Francisco. "It's just something we prepared for and talked about. It felt a little different but fortunately I was prepared. I don't remember much about that first ball. It was hit pretty hard and I was just trying to react. It was mostly self-preservation."
When asked if he heard the crowd chanting his name after the catch, Piazza deadpanned.
"I don't know," said Piazza, who extended his hitting streak to seven games but saw his career-high homerless streak stretch to 84 at-bats. "I was still breathing a little heavy."
Kevin T. Czerwinski is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.