Piazza's post-9/11 HR brought 'incredible release of emotion' to NY, nation

September 21st, 2022

Mike Piazza had no shortage of standout moments during his Hall of Fame career – breaking Carlton Fisk’s record for home runs by a catcher, epic faceoffs with Roger Clemens, going deep to cap a 10-run comeback by the Mets in 2000.

But if you ask Piazza, one moment outshines them all. It was a home run that helped lift a city – and a nation – reeling from unspeakable tragedy.

On Sept. 21, 2001, 10 days after the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in New York, Piazza came to the plate at Shea Stadium in the eighth inning with the Mets trailing the rival Braves, 2-1. It was the first sporting event in the city since the attack, and Piazza delivered some much-needed jubilation for the more than 41,000 fans in attendance, taking pitcher Steve Karsay deep to left-center for the go-ahead two-run homer.

An atmosphere that had been at times solemn and on edge turned to cheers and tears of joy as New York went on to win the game. The iconic moment was cemented in Mets lore.

“When you have a lot of people pulling for you, you feel it,” Piazza told MLB Network in 2016.

Many first responders and family members of those lost in the attack were in attendance that night, and the home run brought them – and the many watching at home – a sliver of normalcy, a reason to smile and a moment of healing.

“It was just this incredible release of emotion," Piazza said. "And I think, you know, it became evidently clear that people just wanted to cheer about something."

The game had personal meaning for Karsay as well, even being on the wrong side of it. He grew up in an apartment building just minutes from Shea, and from his bedroom window he could see both the stadium and the Twin Towers.

“Being a New Yorker, to get to play in that game, there was a lot of raw emotion,” Karsay told MLB.com. “It’s something that will be etched in my brain for the remainder of my life, however that game turned out or whatever part you played in that game.”

At the time, it was a tough moment for Karsay. Reflecting on it after 20-plus years, he believes that “everybody was in that situation for a reason.”

“That moment, I think, gave the fans in the stadium and the city of New York a small amount of time to take their mind away from the outside world,” Karsay said.

Piazza's career culminated in his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2016. For his eight seasons in New York (1998-2005), the 12-time All-Star catcher became the fourth player in Mets history to have his number, 31, retired.