Arguably the game’s greatest offensive catcher recounts his controversial career.
Of all the Hall of Fame–worthy catchers of the past 40 years, few names start an argument more quickly than Mike Piazza. Chosen 1,390th by the Dodgers in the 1988 draft, a courtesy pick engineered by family friend Tommy Lasorda, Piazza went on to set the all-time home-run record for his demanding position, playing, as one observer remarked, “as if he is tearing somebody’s head off.” With the assistance of Wheeler (co-author: Sixty Feet, Six Inches: A Hall of Fame Pitcher and a Hall of Fame Hitter Talk About How the Game is Played, 2009, etc.), Piazza explains the reasons for this intense single-mindedness, an anger ballplayers describe as “a chronic case of the red-ass. ” The stink of his low draft position never really dissipated, he insists, retarding his progress in the minors, opening him up to charges of nepotism and leaving him at the mercy of the game’s politics. Jealousy over his family’s vast wealth, resentment of his interfering father’s widespread baseball connections and enduring skepticism over his defensive skills (a bum rap, he says) all conspired to deprive him of honors due—at least a couple of MVP awards—or even simple credit for the hard work he put in to excel. That unrelenting dedication is well-documented here, along with the season-by-season highlights of his sterling career, principally with the Dodgers and Mets. He addresses his famous confrontations with Roger Clemens, writes movingly about playing in New York when the twin towers fell and adamantly denies performance-enhancing drug rumors that threaten his Hall of Fame candidacy. A curious mix of fervent metal head and devout Catholic, Piazza appears to understand how his self-centeredness needlessly alienated many, but his apologies can barely be heard over the loud and constant rehashing of grievances.
A superior ballplayer, still a work-in-progress as a human being.