Mike Piazza's Healing Home Run

Originally published on September 21, 2014

Baseball isn't, and should never be, real life. I can say I'm personally guilty of it becoming "my life", but it never really takes the place of living - or dying. However, moments that the game creates can help cope with the bad things that happen in life. They can also elevate the good moments in life. That's what a "pastime" should do. That's why baseball is America's game. That's why it should always be.

In September of 2011, the nation was hurting. The inhuman terrorist attacks of September 11th shook us to our very core. They showed the evil that men do on a very grand scale. They also showed us the quality tokens of humanity as the nation - and in some respects, the world - banded together to help each other. Thousands of people died. Hundreds of thousands were directly affected. Millions were touched.

Baseball will never offer enough good things to make bad things go away. Baseball will never erase tragedy or overturn the clock. What baseball will do is create a diversion. A distraction if you will. A series of timeless actions performed by paid professionals under the brightest lights and the grandest stage always presents the opportunity for something memorable to happen. Perhaps...magical...if you'll permit.

On September 21, 2011, the New York Mets' slugging catcher, Michael Joseph Piazza created a little bit of that magic. In the first professional sporting event to occur in New York City after the attacks, and the Mets down 2-1 to the Atlanta Braves, Piazza launched a moonshot of Steve Karsay over the centerfield wall and into the darkness to give the Mets a 3-2 lead. They would eventually win the game by the same score.

ESPN's John Anderson said it almost perfectly. "There's no telling how far Mike Piazza's eighth-inning game-winning home run against the Braves at Shea Stadium flew on Friday ... because how do you measure the healing power of a swing. More than 400 feet? How do you quantify what sport truly means to a society. For whatever period of time -- the instant when bat met ball, the duration of the ball's flight or the entire frenzied celebration as the ball landed beyond the fence and Piazza glided around the bases -- the 41,325 fans in attendance and the millions of other New Yorkers who saw it on TV could forget."

Post-game, Piazza had a few words of his own when he said, "I'm just so happy I gave the people something to cheer," Piazza said. "There was a lot of emotion. It was just a surreal sort of energy out there. I'm just so proud to be a part of it tonight." The blast was Piazza's 34th of the season, but for New Yorkers, and for baseball fans in general - it was much more. It was a sense or normalcy - in just the slightest bit. The most exciting play in America's game, happening in our biggest city, and created by one of the game's biggest stars*. No, baseball will never be real life. It will never fill the void that day created. But it is our game, our memories, and our magic. There's healing power in that.

*The New York Mets players, coaches and manager Bobby Valentine donated a day's pay, which added up to approximately $450,000 to the families of police officers and firefighters killed during the terrorist attacks. Piazza's donation alone was $68,000.