The results of the 2016 Hall of Fame election are in, and for Mike Piazza, he is now officially a baseball immortal.
Piazza was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame along with Ken Griffey Jr. on Wednesday evening, the Hall of Fame announced.
Piazza received 83 percent of the vote. 75 percent of the vote is required for entry into the Hall of Fame.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” Piazza said Wednesday night. “I just want to say thank you very much to all the writers for their support. It’s just overwhelming. I’m very honored and I’m a huge student of the game as far as the history of the game so this is just something for me that really words can’t describe.”
Griffey received 99.3 percent of the vote, surpassing Tom Seaver (98.7 percent) for the highest percentage in baseball history.
Piazza failed in each of his first three attempts for Hall of Fame induction. He first appeared on the ballot in 2013 when he received 57.8 percent of the vote. His marks have improved each year since, as he received 62.2 percent of the vote in 2014 and 69.9 percent of the vote in 2015.
“We are really thrilled that Mike Piazza has taken his rightful place among the other greats in Cooperstown,” Mets COO Jeff Wilpon said in a statement. “Mike’s offensive prowess, ability to deliver in the clutch, and tireless work ethic helped him become of the great catchers of all-time.
“On behalf of Mets Ownership, front office staff and our fans, we congratulate Mike, his wife Alicia, his parents, Vince and Veronica, and the entire Piazza family.”
But the fourth time was his charm, and it is a well-deserved honor even if it took longer than it should.
“When you put everything in historical perspective, the fact that I mentioned Yogi Berra had four ballots and Joe DiMaggio had three ballots, myself being a student of the history of the game and having respect for the process as you mentioned it was nail biting at times but again I had a tremendous amount of support throughout my career from the writers and the fans,” Piazza said. “I think fans have obviously supported me in my post-career, so you can’t describe this honor and for me I don’t want to say it was difficult but I want to say it was definitely all the emotions came into it every year but again knowing the history of the game and knowing how many great players throughout this game had to wait years, sometimes many years, it keeps it in perspective. So for me that was something that I was able to sort of draw from to just keep patience and keep optimistic.”
A 62nd-round pick in the 1988 first-year player draft, Piazza earned National League Rookie of the Year honors in 1993, and was an All-Star 12 times and hit 396 home runs as a catcher, the most in Major League history. He was a lifetime .308/.377/.545 hitter with a total of 427 home runs, 344 doubles and 1335 RBI in 1912 games from 1992-2007 with the Dodgers, Marlins, Mets, Athletics and Padres.
Piazza is the lowest draft choice among all Hall of Famers.
He hit .296/.373/.542 with 220 home runs in 972 games over eight seasons with the Mets from 1998-2005. is easily the best and most prolific hitter the Mets have ever had, not to mention the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history.
He said in the memoir he wrote a few years ago he would like to go into the Hall of Fame as a Met. If that happens, he would become only the second player enshrined in the Hall of Fame in a Mets cap.
The other is Seaver, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1992.
“Without a doubt Mike Piazza was one of the top hitting catchers in the history of the game,” Seaver said in a statement. “For Mike to compile the stats he did while catching is amazing. His election to Cooperstown is most deserving.”
Now, the next question could very well be how the Mets might honor Piazza in 2016. Such an honor should include retiring his number, something which is long overdue.
That will be up to the team’s committee which is responsible for such decisions, but his election into the Hall of Fame should now make such a decision academic.
This is a truly an exciting day. Piazza came to the Mets when I was 18, and was the first true Met superstar I could admire, understand and appreciate. I remember idolizing Gary Carter and Darryl Strawberry, but that was well before I had a mature understanding of the game as both a player and a fan.
Piazza alone re-established credibility for the franchise and transformed them into a true powerhouse in the league over a three-year span, twice coming close to helping the club win a World Championship. He was such a dominant hitter for so long for this franchise and had an ability to carry this team for weeks and months at a time.
He was as much fun as he was emotional to watch given his propensity for home runs which froze moments in time, from his home run against John Smoltz in Game 6 of the 1999 NLCS to carry the Mets all the way back from a seven-run deficit, to his three-run home run against Terry Mulholland in the famous ten-run inning against the Braves at Shea Stadium, to one of the most iconic and inspiring home runs in baseball history against the Braves in September, 2001.
Yes, his bat could make people cry and jump for joy at any moment. He created memories for millions all around New York City which will never be forgotten.
Plus, Piazza was – and still is – so cool.
“Congratulations to Mike, an outstanding ballplayer and a great man,” said Dodger Hall of Fame Manager Tommy Lasorda. “I couldn’t be prouder of him after seeing his hard work to go from a 62nd round pick and converted catcher to one of the best ever at his position and now, a fellow Hall of Famer. I’d also like to congratulate Mike’s family and everyone back in Norristown (PA) on this honor.”
Piazza is only the ninth catcher ever voted into the Hall of Fame by the writers. The last catcher to be elected was Gary Carter in 2003. Piazza became the 17th catcher enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Fame is comprised of 312 elected members, including 217 former major league players, 28 executives, 35 Negro Leaguers, 22 managers and 10 umpires. The BBWAA has elected only 121 candidates to the Hall while the veterans committees have chosen 165 deserving candidates (96 major leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers, 10 umpires and nine Negro Leaguers). The former “Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues” selected nine men between 1971-77 and the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006 elected 17 Negro Leaguers.
Indeed, the Hall of Fame is reserved for exclusivity. It may be a flawed and antiquated voting system, but those voters have kept the Baseball Hall of Fame a sacred place, and easily the most meaningful Hall of Fame in all of professional sports. It is not the Hall of very good players or Hall of nice people. It’s about what’s above been a very good or even a great player, and potentially even more than being the dominant player at a given position. It should be reserved for players and people who encapsulated that greatness, defined the standard and could serve as the barometer for all that follow.
And in most instances, the writers have gotten the vote right in the end, whether a deserving player has gotten 75 percent or 98.7 percent.
Piazza’s skill set alone embodied what it means to be a Hall of Famer. And his moments defined what it means to be a player who is better than great. It’s a rare intangible which enhances that skill set.
Now, that player and person has been officially recognized as one of the sport’s all-time greats.
The induction ceremony will take place on Sunday, July 24 at 1:30 PM ET in Cooperstown, New York.