Work in Sports
Piazza wanted revenge, got splintered bat instead
Updated: Monday October 23, 2000 11:49 AM
By Ken Klavon, CNNSI.com
NEW YORK -- The opportunity arrived and passed.
For the better part of three months, the Mets -- and Mike Piazza in particular -- could only dream about exacting revenge on the evil Roger Clemens.
Ever since Clemens plunked Piazza in the head during a July 8 interleague meeting, the All-Star catcher had bristled at the mere sound of Clemens' name. If he could just have one more at bat, one more time in the box, mano a mano, he'd make Clemens pay for his sin.
Piazza had not one, not two, but three whacks at Clemens. The first at-bat was so laden with intensity that the moment reached its crescendo when both benches emptied.
This took place after Piazza's broken bat hurled uncontrollably toward Clemens in a splintering rage and, for whatever reason, the pitcher took a piece of the damaged lumber and heaved it toward an unsuspecting Piazza.
Riled afterward, Yankees manager Joe Torre was quick to defend Clemens.
"This is turning into a -----y story," he said. "Why would he do it? He's angry at [Piazza] so he'd screw over 24 other guys on his team?"
Said Clemens, who at first didn't deny throwing the bat Piazza's way: "After everything I had to listen in the past week -- I was just full of emotion. After the first inning I went to the clubhouse to settle down and said to myself, 'I've got to get control of my emotions.'"
But before he could, a startled Piazza took a few steps toward the mound glaring at Clemens before the mass of humanity could intervene.
"I think I was more confused and shocked," said Piazza. "It was bizarre. Obviously, I was a little angry."
Too bad it didn't carry over to his team before it was too late. For eight innings Clemens held the upper hand, making Sunday night's Mets look more like the bumbling '62 expansionists. It wasn't until he exited the game -- after giving up two hits and striking out nine -- that the Mets showed signs of life.
"It was little too late. We gave them too many insurance runs," said Piazza.
As the Mets trudge back to Shea Stadium down 0-2 in the battle of New York they are left to think about their own shortcomings. In this series, the Mets are supposed to be the little team that could. But it's more evident now that their train is running out of fuel.
Witness starting pitcher Mike Hampton. The NLCS MVP, who tossed 16 scoreless innings in two games against the Cardinals, imploded in the first inning, throwing an alarming 32 pitches. At one point in the inning, he threw nine consecutive balls. Five walks, four runs and six innings later, Hampton was gone. Three errors also didn't help matters.
"We have our work cut out for us. No one said this was going to be easy," said Mets manager Bobby Valentine.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the fence, Clemens was his vintage self.
Maybe it had to do with his pregame rubdown of Babe Ruth's plaque in Monument Park. Could it be the ghost of "The Bambino" that guided him through another outstanding outing? Nine days ago, in his last start, crafty veteran Clemens fooled the Seattle Mariners into a one-hitter in Game 4 of the ALCS.
"I had similar stuff that I had against Seattle," said Clemens.
But his performance was secondary to the shenanigans that took place in the first inning. Two questions were asked about his pitching, while eight others were about the bat-throwing incident.
"Look, I'm not going to keep addressing it. There was no intent," said Clemens.
By the same token, Piazza reiterated over and over that the play left him disoriented and confused.
At this point in the Series, perhaps he was speaking for the Mets as a whole.