Three weeks ago, the New York Mets looked dead in the water. With playoff hopes dwindling, fan interest was fading and New Yorkers were already looking forward to football season. Despite the outrageous odds against them, the Mets have displayed resilience and clawed their way back into contention. As they now sit tied for the second Wild Card Spot, Mets fever is back, and it feels like an enjoyable time to look back into Mets history.
The NLCS Endy Chavez Catch and Mike Piazza‘s post-9/11 homer are among the brightest of moments in the history of the Amazins’. Fans may debate over which one meant more, but both hold undeniable significance.
Greatest Moments of the 2000’s
A miracle run to the World Series. An unparalleled September collapse to miss the playoffs. The acquisition of a two-time Cy Young winner. The heartbreaking destruction of Shea Stadium. No matter how one views the era, the 2000’s were a period of highs and lows for the Mets. The boys from Queens suffered and celebrated, but it would be a disservice to dwell on the bad times.
Instead, why not enjoy all the best moments of this portion of Mets history? More importantly, why not define which moments are arguably the most pivotal? It comes down to two astonishing moments: the Endy Chavez game-saving catch in the 2006 NLCS and the Mike Piazza home run in the first game in New York City following 9/11.
The NLCS Endy Chavez Catch
What took place almost nine years ago now feels like it was just yesterday. After recording their highest win total since 1999, the 2006 Mets not only won the NL East, but cruised past the Los Angeles Dodgers with a three-game sweep. The only thing standing between the Mets and the National League Pennant, was the perennial powerhouse St. Louis Cardinals. With the Mets in a 3-2 hole after five games and on the verge of elimination, John Maine took the mound and baffled the Cardinals through 5.1 innings. Maine recorded the win for the Mets, sending the series to Game 7 in Queens and setting the stage for one of the most unbelievable plays Met fans have ever witnessed.
With the pennant on the line, the Amazins’ sent midseason acquisition Oliver Perez to the mound to face veteran journeyman Jeff Suppan. The Mets jumped out to a lead early on a David Wright RBI bloop single, but Perez struggled and allowed the Cardinals to tie up the game. In the 6th inning, Perez worked himself into a jam once more. With Jim Edmonds on first and one out, the ever-so-erratic Perez delivered a meatball to Scott Rolen. It sailed right down the middle of the plate. Naturally, Rolen crushed it. With the crack of the bat told everyone listening it was headed over the fence. As the ball flew out to left field, every single member of the Shea faithful felt their heart sink.
I will never personally understand what possessed Endy Chavez to make such a perfect break for that ball. In a feat of pure desperation, Chavez leaped as high as he could and stuck his glove out, hoping for the impossible. I confess, I had my eyes shut for the whole play when I was watching it on TV years ago, but all of a sudden I opened them and saw Chavez gunning the ball back to the infield and doubling up Edmonds at first. All I could say was: wow. A miraculous leap over the fence to snowcone a surefire home run and preserve a tie ball game. The argument can be made elsewhere, but I truly believe that this was the greatest defensive play in post-season history.
Piazza’s Post-9/11 Homer
“September 11, 2001, a day that will live in infamy.” Words spoken by former United States President George W. Bush, reprised from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s original speech following Pearl Harbor. No words can describe the impact of the awful acts of terror that were committed that day. No words can comfort the individuals who lost their loved ones in the collapse or the aftermath.
Former Commissioner Bud Selig pushed the season back a week, and rightfully so. The season resumed on September 16th, but the first baseball game back in New York did not occur until September 21st. Home in Queens for the first time since the horrible attacks of terror, it’s easy to say this game was emotionally charged. The Mets represented a city in pain, and they had to provide hope and inspiration for the citizens by any means. In the midst of a Wild Card race and a divisional matchup against the Atlanta Braves, the Mets would do just that. As a New Yorker, I will always take pride in what my team did for my city when we were truly hurting.
New Yorkers needed a miracle. It’s as simple as that. They needed something to hang their hats on after the trauma they just endured. Knee deep in the Wild Card race after climbing back from 13.5 games out to 4.5, the Mets symbolized something more than just baseball. Down 2-1 with one out in the eighth, legendary Mets slugger Mike Piazza stepped to the plate. Piazza grew up in Pennsylvania, but that did not stop him from feeling the pain and empathizing with his adopted home. He understood the emotional significance of this game, and at this point the Mets needed a miracle to come out on top. What happened next could not be scripted.
Behind on an 0-1 count, Piazza belted a two run home run over the centerfield fence to give the Mets the lead. The crowd erupted. Thousands of American flags flew into the air. The fans chanted, “USA! USA! USA!”, and for a moment, everyone was distracted from their pain and sorrow. For one brief moment, Mike Piazza of the New York Mets was a hero, a source of inspiration, and New York embraced it. It truly was a proud moment to be a New Yorker, let alone an American. There are many great moments in professional sports, let alone MLB. However, this undeniably transcends sports and will always be a great reminder that even the little things, like baseball, can inspire and provide hope.
It’s a tough to really determine which was a more unbelievable, exciting, and pivotal moment in the history of the New York Mets. Endy Chavez made an impossible catch, but the Mets were eliminated on a called strike three with Carlos Beltran at the plate. Mike Piazza hit a miraculous and inspirational home run, but the Mets failed to complete the miracle and didn’t make the playoffs that season.
My choice? It’s pretty clear that nothing can ever contend with Mike Piazza’s post-9/11 homer. The momentary healing that Piazza provided for a city weathering the most devastating tragedy in it’s history? Irreplaceable. Sorry, Endy, your catch may be one of the greatest in postseason history, but Piazza’s home run is one of the greatest moments in sports ever.
Want to weigh in? Cast your vote here!
— Last Word on MLB (@LastWordOnMLB) September 8, 2016