Following the resumption of baseball in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Mike Piazza hit a home run that anyone who watched still remembers and anyone who didn’t watch has no doubt seen at some point or another. A lot of people call it the “9/11 homer” or the homer from the “post-9/11 Game” or whatever, but the homer — hit on September 21, 2001 — was an exclamation point on an uplifting night in a time of great fear and uncertainty. Heck, he hit the homer off my Braves and I was cheering. It was just that kind of deal. Probably the most memorable thing Piazza ever did in his career.
The jersey Piazza wore during that game is now in the news, as the person who owns it is auctioning it off. Which, hey, why does someone besides Piazza or the Mets or the Hall of Fame own that anyway? The Hall of Fame swoops in and claims the left cleat of the guy who set the day game, west coast stolen base record (post-realignment) and curates the hell out of it for all eternity. How did they not get Piazza’s jersey from the 9/11 Game?
The reason: the Mets sold it to a collector three years ago and now that guy is auctioning it. Mike Piazza is none too pleased about this, by the way:
“I’ve expressed my feelings to Jeff (Wilpon) and the Mets. And while it never should have left Citi Field, they have assured me that contact with the seller has been made and they are making a concerted effort to get the jersey back. I’m hopeful that an agreement can be reached and we can give back to the fans and all New Yorkers a piece of that evening that was more than just a game.’
Meanwhile, Mike’s dad, Vince Piazza, tried to purchase the jersey with the real life auction equivalent of the “Buy it Now” button, but that didn’t go anywhere and he will not engage in open bidding. Read that link, too. Vince is not happy. Nor would I be, frankly.
For their part, the Mets said this:
“We made a mistake in selling the jersey and Jeff [Wilpon] called Mike to express our regret in so doing. We have dedicated a section in the Mets Hall of Fame and Museum to celebrate Mike’s achievements and his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame and are exploring memorabilia to display in that area. We can’t verify the item being auctioned, but can confirm that our memorabilia group sold a jersey that meets this description, which was not authenticated with respect to game use.”
Mmhmm. That sounds kinda squirrely, actually. That “authentication” piece is strange. MLB and the Hall of Fame authenticate things to within an inch of their lives now, so why Piazza’s jersey wasn’t authenticated in the 12 years the Mets had it I have no idea. I wonder if the Mets are saying that in an effort to cool the bidding a bit — who wants to be the fourth owner of an unauthenticated jersey? — but all memorabilia stuff comes with this kind of weirdness.
My thinking: no one really disputes that this is the jersey, the Mets should fix their mistake by going to the owner, telling him to name his price and to call off the auction. I’m not the most bullish person in the world when it comes to memorabilia, but this thing is genuine history that transcends baseball in ways that other game-worn items don’t. Open the checkbook, Jeff Wilpon. Make this right.