"I'm not saying," Claire answers. "It's not a done deal."
But almost immediately Piazza figures it out. He knows the Marlins are eager to deal outfielder Gary Sheffield, to unload his salary, so he has to be part of it. He won't find out until later that it's a two-for-five deal, that it's Sheffield, along with catcher Charles Johnson, third baseman Bobby Bonilla, outfielder Jim Eisenreich and minor league pitcher Manuel Barrios.
There are no hugs, no handshakes, no apologies, no statements of gratitude. Zeile's a native Californian, married to Julianne McNamara, a gold medalist in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. They have two young children and have recently moved into their dream house. He is stone-faced. Piazza just laughs. "I wish I could say it's been a little slice of heaven," he says. He walks out and into the silent, nearly empty clubhouse. But the word is already out. One player lingering in the clubhouse guesses that the Marlins will trade Piazza to the Yankees. Another guesses the Phillies. Piazza shrugs. He is ready to believe anything and nothing. "I'm with the Fishes," he says.
Piazza heads to his car. He declines to sign autographs for the throngs leaning on the parking lot fence. Instead he calls his agent, Dan Lozano, on a cell phone. Lozano, the only agent Piazza has ever had, is in a hotel room in Boston when Piazza reaches him with the news.
"You're lying," Lozano says.
"I'm not, dude," Piazza says.
"You're making this up, right?" the agent asks.
"Hey, at least I can stay in my crib," Piazza says. He owns a house—on a golf course, near the ocean—a half-hour drive from Pro Player Stadium, where the Marlins play. For Piazza that's the lone positive about being a temporary Fish, for Florida is a team in complete disarray.
It is nearly midnight. Thursday, May 14, 1998, is about to come to an end. Piazza sits behind the wheel of his Cadillac, at the foot of his driveway, in front of the town house he owns in Manhattan Beach, just talking, trying to sort things out. "I think there's a one-in-a-million chance that they're trying to scare me into signing a deal," he says. "They present this trade to me and then tell me tomorrow that it's fallen through, just to get me to sign. That's Fox's style, you know? Conquer and divide." A long day is drawing to a close. Piazza is in denial, too. Who can blame him?
FRIDAY, 11:00 A.M.