He had a couple of highly publicized run-ins with superstar pitcher Roger Clemens. Clemens once beaned him in the head and another time tossed a broken bat at him during the World Series. Clemens had a reputation as a “head hunter” so it’s quite possible both “accidents” were intentional. In retrospect Piazza thinks he should have gone after him the bat incident but was too startled by Clemens’ excuse that he thought the bat was the ball (How do you mistake a bat for a ball?).
For anyone interested in the subtleties of the game, Piazza demonstrates what a difficult position catcher is to play. The crouching, collisions, knuckle balls and mental focus all take their toll. He was constantly battling injuries. It clearly affected his career as he got older. He provides an unsolicited plug for yoga as the one off-season he tried it he came to spring training with an extra “spring” in his step.
The best aspect of the book is that it is totally candid. Piazza doesn’t mince words about his attitude or his desire to win. Sometimes he’s a bit over the top with his opinions on life, but at least they show he isn’t holding anything back. Nothing comes easy to a 62nd round draft choice.
Does Mike Piazza belong in the Hall of Fame? Based on his stats and reputation he certainly does. If he didn’t cheat the game by using PEDs he definitely deserves a plaque in Cooperstown.
For fans of Piazza, the art of catching, Horatio Alger stories, or the mystique of professional athletes, “Long Shot” is a worthwhile journey. His success is one of persistence and one we can all appreciate.
David Kent is the director of the Village Library of Cooperstown. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.