17 years ago today, Mike Piazza hit a go-ahead, two run home run in the eighth inning off of Steve Karsay of the Braves to propel the Mets to a 3-2 victory in the first professional sporting event in New York after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
"Anyone who saw it will be happy, anyone who didn't see it will be told about it," Piazza's manager, Bobby Valentine, told reporters from his office after the game.
The next morning, columnist Jack Curry published the following in the New York Times:
"For a minute, an hour or maybe 24 hours, there was something different to focus on. ... Shea looked regal, dressed up in red, white and blue on the scoreboard, above the banks of lights and across the dugouts, and the Mets looked as resilient as they have been for almost a month in winning for the 21st time in their last 26 games. They trail the first-place Braves by four and a half games with 14 games remaining, their chances for a miracle finish still intact…
"Even if it is helping others cope with grief, Piazza feels queasy being depicted as a hero for hitting homers. The heroes, Piazza said, never made it out of the two trade center buildings 11 days ago. The heroes, he said, are digging through the debris at the site of destruction. The Mets are trying to win for their fans, but Piazza refrained from saying that the tragedy gave them extra inspiration."
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, MLB commissioner Bud Selig postponed a week's worth of games. The following weekend, the NFL resumed play, but the Jets were scheduled to be in Foxborough as the Giants were in Kansas City. Therefore, exactly 10 days later, professional sports returned to New York where the Mets hosted the Braves at Shea Stadium on a cool Friday night in Queens.
"Those fans who showed up that night, they just wanted to see some baseball," Braves 3B Chipper Jones told SI.com in 2011. "They didn't hate the Atlanta Braves. They just wanted to see two good baseball teams and forget about their troubles for a few hours. ... Mike Piazza hitting that home run on that particular night at that particular stadium was absolutely perfect."
"It told the rest of the country and the rest of the world what New York is about," Piazza said, referring to his inspirational hit and the team's victory. "I'm just so happy I was able to come through in that situation and give people something to cheer about. That's what they came out here for, to be diverted a little from their losses and their sorrow. ... This isn't life and death, this is baseball."