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The Bells Are Ringing

Mike Piazza's first walk-off home run as a Met came on April 28, 1999.

Piazza was in the midst of a rough stretch. A knee injury sidelined him for two weeks and when he came back, he didn't look too good. He had one hit in his first 13 at-bats coming off the disabled list and left seven runners on base in an ugly performance against the Padres the day before.

Trevor Hoffman, aka "Hell's Bells" (for the theme song they play when he enters a home game), turned out to be the cure for what ailed him. The Padres entered this game against the Mets having won 181 consecutive games when leading after eight innings, and they carried a 3-2 lead into the final frame after tallying twice in the eighth inning against Armando Benitez. That, in what turned out to become a familiar pattern, spoiled a good start by Al Leiter, who allowed just one run through the first seven frames.

Anyhow, John Olerud led off the ninth inning with a single, setting the stage for Piazza to face Hoffman. They had met before, with Piazza having success, and they would meet again, with Piazza having more success. Hoffman, who throws a devastating changeup, threw a fastball that Piazza crushed the other way, to right field. Hoffman, who gave up two home runs the previous season, knew immediately that it was gone. Piazza did as well. He took a look at the flight path, did his best Dante Bichette (see first game at Coors Field vs the Mets), glancing quickly into the Mets dugout, took seven steps and punched the air with his right fist, twice (as seen on the 1999 highlight film "Amazin Again") and got pounded on the helmet about 1,986 times upon crossing home plate.

Those who believe that wins like that can spark big things should take note. That home run marked the start of a six-game winning streak for the Mets and a five-game losing streak for the Padres.

On a personal note I have to invoke the words of WFAN talk-show host Chris Russo here and acknowledge that "I didn't see that" other than via highlights. I was working at the newspaper that night and there was a time that I was there (it lasted maybe a few days) in which we (specifically I) were advised not to watch the Mets because it would be too distracting to the staff. So when I got the jubilant phone call from my dad, I remember being a little ticked off. It wouldn't be the first time I'd miss a walk-off win and it wouldn't be the last. I do remember telling the newsroom that "Piazza just hit one off Hell's Bells to win" and the first thing I was asked was "Why would they play Hell's Bells at Shea Stadium?"

It wasn't long after that that we were allowed to watch Mets games at work again.

True Metazza know...The Mets have had 57 walk-off wins during Mike Piazza's tenure with the Mets (including postseason), 15 of which have been ended by home runs.


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