May 3, 2021
Sports, in particular, New York Sports teams were the binding factor of the 4 Generations of Ricciardelli. from my Grandfather Leo, my dad Anthony myself and my Daughter Alayna. Then you can add in the Uconn Woman’s Basketball program. Since its spring and Baseball season just underway I’ll focus on Baseball Players of Italian American Heritage that made a difference to me and my family. I’d Like to focus on the National league teams, which of course would be the New York Giant’s the Brooklyn Dodgers and the New York Metropolitan’s.
There are many Italian American personalities that have been a part of these and other NY franchises. The most notable connection for us is the connection between Tommy Lasorda and Mike Piazza. You see Lasorda was close friends with Mikes father, Vince Piazza. Tommy was the Godfather to Mike’s brother Tommy. As it came to be, in 1988 Mike, then a first baseman at Miami Dade community college, was not noticed by baseball scouts. Vince asked Lasorda to draft Mike if no other team would.
Lasorda Drafted Mike in the 62nd round and the 1027th player taken in 1988. The Dodgers didn’t need a first basemen, so Lasorda convinced everyone, even Piazza, that Mike Piazza was a catcher. Thus the Dodgers signed him, for a mere $15,000.00 contract. Mike Piazza started playing winter ball in Mexico, then moved to the Dodgers training facility in the Dominican Republic. It’s safe to say things worked out: Piazza won NL Rookie of the Year after hitting 35 homers in 1993, quickly becoming one of the best players in the league. And when Lasorda decided to retire after a heart attack in July 1996, Piazza made sure to send him off a winner in his final game.
My Grandfather, and My Dad, were Brooklyn fans, and all of us became Mets fans. Mike Piazza had a wonderful career. His accomplishments on and off the field are well documented.
However for US, without a doubt what I remember Mike for the most is what happened on September 21st 2001 at Shea Stadium. It was the Mets and the Cities, first home game since the 9-11 attack They held a short memorial before the game. The Braves were leading 2-1, Piazza was at bat with a man on first. The 0-1 pitch headed to Piazza, as soon as he made contact you knew the ball was gone, out-a-here, homerun! The 40,000 + fans went crazy and so did Alayna, Sharon and I. I called My dad right away, when he answered he just said did you see that! Okay so I suppose there were a lot of great moments in Sports but that was one of the greatest sports moments ever. Even some of the Braves were smiling. In the video there are 3 more notable Italian American Players, John Franco, Bobby Valentine, and Robin Ventura.
Piazza was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2016.