Piazza on Piazza

by Jason Epstein

Via the New York Post, catching great Mike Piazza’s autobiography, Long Shot, covers an array of topics, from the speculation that he took performance-enhancing drugs and was a closeted homosexual to the on-the-diamond feud with Roger Clemens to Latin ballplayers who don’t make an effort to learn English.

Piazza, who over 16 big-league seasons, principally spent with the Dodgers and Mets, posted a .308/.377/.545 slash line and 66.8 fWAR in 7745 plate appearances, is withering in his criticism of Clemens:

The 44-year-old makes no bones about holding a grudge against Clemens for beaning him during a July 8, 2000, game, and for the infamous bat-throwing incident later that season against the Yankees during the World Series.

The 98-mph fastball to his helmet could have been deadly. 

“I truly believe that if I hadn’t gotten my head down at the last instant, Clemens’ two-seamer would have struck me in the eye and possibly killed me,” he recalls. . . .

“Roger Clemens had near-perfect control. I wouldn’t have batted an eye if he had just brushed me off the plate — of course that’s what he said he was trying to do . . . But to stick it in my forehead, that’s another story altogether.”

Piazza tells how he mapped out a plan for revenge — taking karate lessons and visualizing the next time they would go at it.

“I would approach with my fist pulled back. I figured he’d throw his glove out for protection. I’d parry the glove and then get after it,” Piazza writes.

On the rumors that Big Mike is gay:

Piazza believes the persistent whispers that he was in the closet began after Mets manager Bobby Valentine said in a 2002 interview that Major League Baseball was ready for an openly gay player.

“The whole episode was such a strange, incredible phenomenon . . . I still don’t get it.

“I don’t know where the rumor came from, although I’ve heard many theories, including one that I suppose makes the most sense to me, involving a former teammate and his agent.”

Piazza doesn’t name the instigators, and is vague about how the rumor spread from there. He felt compelled to address the gossip publicly, telling reporters, “I’m not gay. I’m heterosexual. I can’t control what people think. I can say I’m heterosexual. I date women. That’s pretty much it.”

Questions about his sexuality bothered him less than the insinuation that he was somehow phony. “I found it hugely insulting that people believed I’d go so far out of my way — living with Playmates, vacationing with actresses, showing up at nightclubs — to act out a lifestyle that would amount to a charade,” he writes. “If I was gay, I’d be gay all the way.”

Long Shot goes on sale tomorrow.

More here.

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