Piazza and Co. reflect on Shea
Those who made top moments happen gather on Friday
NEW YORK -- Mike Piazza recalls sitting in the team bus, when all of a sudden Shea Stadium became visible in the side window. To call attention to their imminent arrival at the less-than-glimmering park, fellow catcher Todd Pratt stood up to address his teammates.
"It's not much, boys," Pratt said, "but it's home."
Admittedly, Shea Stadium may not have the appeal of the Yankee Stadiums, the Fenway Parks or the Wrigley Fields of the world, and Piazza laughs when imagining how far from it the park can really seem. But there is a certain energy Piazza senses when it's the eighth inning, there are men on base and the crowd anticipates the big hit.
At that moment, no opponent wants to play there, not because of its rusty exterior but because of the noise pulsing through the field. At that moment, the Mets practically own this city.
And at that moment -- like the top three all-time moments at Shea Stadium as voted on by the fans and revealed in a news conference Friday -- the home team senses the arrival of another classic memory.
"You feel that buzz and everybody anticipating that big hit," Piazza said. "It's an energy that I've never seen duplicated anywhere."
Piazza was joined by a cross-section of Mets legends Friday, which ranged from Darryl Strawberry of the 1986 World Series championship team to Tom Seaver and Bud Harrelson of the '69 World Series champs. Each represented one of the fans' greatest remembrances at Shea, counting down from the No. 3 choice of Seaver's Mets, to Piazza's home run post-Sept. 11 at No. 2, and Strawberry's club coming in at No. 1.
But they were each flattered to just be a lasting image in the club's history -- well, maybe not Seaver, who jokingly read the list upside down and fancied his team to be the greatest. Seaver, probably the best pitcher in the team's history, recalled his one hit allowed in the "Imperfect Game" in 1969 and reminded everyone who would listen that he had 311 career wins and a 2.86 career ERA.
"And 12 or 13 home runs," Seaver added.
"Seven home runs," Harrelson said, poking fun at his measly career total as he was introduced.
While Harrelson wasn't a power hitter by any means, his memories of Shea Stadium are that powerful. As a coach in 1986, he saw Seaver in the stands during Game 6 of the World Series, sticking out his thumb and pinky to make a phone sign, telling Harrelson to call him after the Red Sox disturbed the Mets' title hopes. Then, the ball went through Bill Buckner's legs and Harrelson was running with Ray Knight all the way to home plate for the winning run.
At least he was there, unlike when Harrelson was up in Watertown, N.Y., serving military duties during Seaver's bid for a no-hitter in 1969. Bar patrons accompanying him near the television made him angry, helping him realize what he wasn't there to see.
"They were all looking at me saying, 'Look what you are missing,' " Harrelson said.
Harrelson knew what he was not there for. It was like what Seaver explained when he recalled a sensation of levitation while playing at Shea Stadium. And they all wanted to be a part of it.
Strawberry, who played with the Mets from 1983-90, will always hold the '86 championship as his favorite career moment. The worst?
"The saddest day in my life was when I left the Mets," Strawberry said, explaining his love for the uniform and the stadium, despite a sometimes contentious relationship with the fans. "If they booed me, I'd hit two home runs and I wasn't coming out. To be honest, I really enjoyed when they booed me.
"It's just an honor to be here."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.