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Playin' the Dodger Blues
Michael Bamberger
May 25, 1998
In the course of a few traumatic days, Mike Piazza's world turned upside down—and SI was there when he heard the news that his L.A. days were over
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May 25, 1998

Playin' The Dodger Blues

In the course of a few traumatic days, Mike Piazza's world turned upside down—and SI was there when he heard the news that his L.A. days were over

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Meanwhile, Hideo Nomo has slipped into the manager's office. "Nomo-san," Piazza says, shaking the pitcher's hand and speaking a few sentences of tourist Japanese with him. Piazza is fond of Nomo. When Piazza goes to Japan, which he does quite regularly, Nomo takes him all around. Nomo, with a certain formality and without a word, presents a jersey to Piazza. "You want me to sign?" Piazza asks. Nomo nods, shakes Piazza's hand and walks out of the room backward.

As game time approaches, the clubhouse is cleared of reporters and TV cameras, and the word comes down from Claire's office that Piazza will not have to suit up for the game. He goes to the clubhouse to gather a few things from his locker, and a receiving line forms almost immediately. The Latin players, led by Raul Mondesi, give Piazza immense bear hugs. Several players ask for autographs. Clubbies and trainers pose for pictures with him. Piazza smiles, loose, jovial. Then he walks down a runway, surrounded by security guards, and out of the stadium. The game is in its first inning. Some fans in the leftfield seats, and a small gathering on the fence of the players' parking lot, spot Piazza and start cheering for him, shrieking, clapping. Piazza never looks up. He raises his right hand shoulder high, in acknowledgment. He reaches for his car key, opens the door to his Cadillac and turns on the ignition. Immediately the radio goes on, and with it Rick Monday's voice, describing the game for a million Los Angelenos. Slowly, Piazza reaches for the radio dial and turns the game off. He slides in a tape. He wants to hear his music, not their game.

"I feel peace, knowing I didn't sell out my values," he says. "I feel like Patton, relieved of his duties, Omar Bradley ready to replace him. At least I can feel like I laid it all out on the line every day—I left my ass on that field—and I feel like life is one tremendous learning experience. I feel at peace. I feel calm. I'll remember the standing ovations, the people, the autographs. It's the end of a marriage. That's sad. But it's not a death. Leaves fall off trees. They grow back. There's a game going on, and I'm driving home. The hardest thing to come to grips with is to think that I might not be a Dodger anymore."

FRIDAY, 8:33 P.M.
While the Dodgers and the Expos continue playing at Dodger Stadium, Piazza has dinner at a pizza place in Hermosa Beach called Paisano. A little girl, eight or nine years old, on Rollerblades, adorable, skates up to Piazza's table and says, "Aren't you supposed to be at the ballpark tonight?" Piazza just smiles, signs a paper plate for her and says, "Yeah."

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