In some ways, like when the legendary Ted Williams said he had a future as a hitter in the big leagues when he was just a kid, Mike Piazza seemed destined for a plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.But there were other times, like when Piazza
In some ways, like when the legendary Ted Williams said he had a future as a hitter in the big leagues when he was just a kid, Mike Piazza seemed destined for a plaque in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
But there were other times, like when Piazza nearly went undrafted in 1988, that his membership in baseball's most exclusive fraternity seemed extremely unlikely.
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Through a combination of hard work and one of the greatest power strokes in the history of the game, Piazza rose up to where he stands now: On the precipice of immortality just a few days before Sunday's ceremony in upstate New York, with live coverage on MLB Network and MLB.com beginning at 11 a.m. ET. Here are 10 facts you should know about one of the newest members of the Hall of Fame:
• With his induction to Cooperstown, Piazza becomes the lowest-drafted player to enter the Hall of Fame. Piazza, the 1,390th overall pick of the Dodgers in the 62nd round of the 1988 MLB Draft, replaces Class of 2015 inductee John Smoltz (22nd round, 574th overall pick by the Tigers in 1985) for that distinction.
• Piazza holds the all-time record for home runs by a catcher with 396. He also enjoyed nine seasons with 30 or more home runs -- more than double the amount of any other catcher in history.
• Going as far back to when he won the NL Rookie of the Year Award with the Dodgers in 1993, Piazza was viewed as leader of his team. That held true when it came to his penchant for big hits at the plate; he hit 157 of his home runs -- or 37 percent of his career total -- when his team was behind on the scoreboard.
• During the Mets' run to the NL pennant in 2000, Piazza tied a Major League record by hitting a home run in 18 ballparks during the season. That included the Tokyo Dome in Japan, where Piazza homered on Opening Day against the Cubs. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sammy Sosa is the only other player to hit a roundtripper in 18 stadiums in one year, doing so during his famous home run chase with Mark McGwire in 1998.
Over the entirety of his 16-year career, Piazza reached the seats in 40 stadiums, joining fellow inductee Ken Griffey Jr. (44) as just one of seven players in history to homer in at least 40 ballparks.
• Piazza was more than just a swing-for-the-fences-type player, however. He got on base frequently as well. In fact, he is the only catcher in baseball history to have three seasons with an OPS of 1.000 or higher.
• Piazza won 10 consecutive Silver Slugger Awards from 1993-2002, the most Silver Sluggers ever won by a catcher and also the most consecutive times a player at any position has captured the award.
• In 1997, Piazza became the only backstop in Major League history to record 200 hits in a season while playing at least 100 games behind the plate. Piazza recorded 201 hits that year while playing 139 games as a catcher.
In fact, Joe Torre is the only other player besides Piazza to record at least 200 hits while playing at least half of his games in a season at the catcher's position. Torre collected 203 knocks with the Cardinals in 1973 while playing 90 games at catcher, 73 at third base and one contest at first base.
• Piazza recorded at least a .300 average, 30 home runs and 100 RBIs in six seasons. He is the only player in history to reach those plateaus at least six times while playing at least half of his games at catcher in each of those seasons.
That's also double the number of seasons of the next catcher on that list, Roy Campanella, who reached .300/30 HR/100 RBIs three times in his Hall of Fame career.
• Piazza experienced a whirlwind 1998 season, in which he began the year with the Dodgers, was traded to the Marlins in May and played just five games with Florida before he was dealt once again to the Mets. According to Elias, Piazza is just the fifth member of the Hall of Fame to play at least one game for three franchises in the same season, joining Phil Niekro (1987), Steve Carlton ('86), Lloyd Waner ('41) and Burleigh Grimes ('34).
• Finally, Piazza is still the Mets' all-time leader with a .542 slugging percentage, and also holds the franchise's single-season records for RBIs (124 in 1999) and slugging percentage (.614 in 2000). This summer, Piazza joins franchise icon Tom Seaver as the second player to both have his number retired by the Mets and don a Mets cap on his Hall of Fame plaque.
Matt Kelly is a reporter for MLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter at @mattkellyMLB.