Perhaps the greatest moment of Mike Piazza’s career was his home run in the New York Mets’ first home game after 9/11.
With his Mets down 2-1 to the Atlanta Braves, Piazza punched a hands-down two-run homer that turned out to be the game-winner.
It is now considered one of the greatest home runs in Mets history, allowing New Yorkers to forget for a moment the tragedy that struck their city 10 days earlier.
However, the former catcher’s roots run deep in Italy.
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Piazza’s grandparents immigrated to the United States from Sicily, and he serves as manager of the Italian national baseball team, a team he played for in the 2006 World Baseball Classic. Italian football in 2016.
The Hall of Famer recently attended the Italian Federation of American Baseball Cigar Dinner in Bayside, New York, speaking to attendees about being “authentically Italian and…authentically American.”
The Mets icon said “new immigrants” can learn “everything” from Italian-Americans.
“I’ve been asked in political circles, ‘What can new immigrants coming to our country today learn from Italian-Americans?’ And I said ‘everything’.” he said. “Because you can be authentically Italian and be authentically American.
“So, they have a lot to learn from us, because we’re proud Americans. We love this country. We love the fact that we can achieve our dreams here. And we brought our families here probably with T-shirts on our backs, and we worked our butts off.
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“The only thing we really suck at is complaining. We’re not good at complaining. And that’s a good thing. Because we work hard, we love God, we love our country, we love our countries. And this is something special that we have , and it couldn’t be done without our incredible pride.”
Piazza was inducted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2016, the same year the Mets retired his No. 31.
His 396 home runs as a catcher (he hit 31 more at other positions) are an MLB record, which he achieved while hitting .308 with a .922 slugging percentage.
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Piazza is one of three players to win 10 Silver Slugger Awards. The others are Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez.