In his town house Piazza has two phone lines, plus his cell phone. They are all ringing constantly. Teri O'Toole, Piazza's housekeeper-cook-personal assistant, handles the barrage as if she has worked a switchboard all her life. (She is also Piazza's personal artist. When Piazza bought several expensive, modern, bright, abstract paintings, he instructed O'Toole to paint a couple of her own, in the same style, which she did, in his garage, and they are excellent.) On this peculiar day the background music in the town house is a Los Angeles sports radio station, 1150-AM, KXTA. The host, Jim Rome, is practically screaming the same line over and over: "You don't trade a Hall of Fame player!" Most of the callers agree with him. When Rome goes into a Godfather riff about how Fred Claire's going to wake up one morning and find the head of a horse in his bed, Piazza laughs uproariously.
In Piazza's bedroom two men with the ultimate niche job—they are valets and clothing advisers to professional athletes-are packing for Piazza, filling three boxes with fine silk shirts and Super 100 merlino wool suits and $500 shoes, all of them Italian. The three boxes, each the size of a small refrigerator crate, will be shipped to Piazza's home in Florida. They are also packing a suitcase that Piazza will take with him to St. Louis, where the Marlins are playing the Cardinals. Piazza is in the bedroom, too, trying on new suits in need of adjustments, commenting on the drape of the leg and the fit across the chest and a particular pimple emerging between his eyebrows. "I look like a f—-ing Cyclops," he says, and everybody laughs.
He has no idea where his life will take him next. His plan—to fly to St. Louis on Saturday morning and to dress in a Marlins uniform—is based on guesses and suppositions, on incomplete information. Anything could happen. Sheffield could sabotage the deal by invoking the no-trade clause in his contract. Florida could move Piazza before he plays even one game as a Marlin. The Dodgers could announce that the trade is off. All order has been stolen from Piazza's life, and in its place a drunken circus has erupted around him. But in the center there is Piazza, loose and focused.
Rome calls Piazza during a commercial break, and Piazza thanks him for what he has said, promises that when he's ready to talk about the trade, Rome will be the guy he will talk to. On the other line, the guard at the entrance to the development Piazza lives in announces the arrival of several TV crews. Piazza says, "Tell them to go away." He returns to Rome. "Bunch of gravy-trainers camped outside the gate here," he says. "Can you believe that?"
Dave (Bonesy) Dickinson arrives at the front door. He is a Dodgers clubhouse attendant, a close and discreet friend of Piazza's. One of his roles in the friendship is to screen the women interested in meeting Piazza, and that is a nearly full-time job, for Piazza is a good-looking guy with a sense of humor who is earning $8 million this year and who wears good suits well. Women are drawn to him. (In fact, every week, among the hundreds of letters Piazza receives, there are proposals for marriage and trysts. Some of the letters detail specific sex acts that the correspondents want to perform on Piazza. All of Piazza's mail is forwarded to a married, middle-aged woman in Seattle, the mother of a friend, and she never allows Piazza to see the explicit stuff, which is how Piazza wants it. "Better not to be tempted," he says.) Dickinson carries three Dodger-blue equipment bags into the town house, filled with nine bats, two mitts, shin guards, chest protectors and face masks. The two men hug. Dickinson is emotional, disbelieving, not quite able to form full sentences. "I'm gonna hire you away, dude," Piazza says. "Could you do that, man? How 'bout Miami, Bonesy? What do you think?" Bonesy slips out quietly, carrying a souvenir he has asked for, an All-Star batting-practice jersey Piazza has signed for him. Dickinson is not ready to think about his own future, not yet. He's still trying to absorb the fact that Mike Piazza is no longer a Dodger. Piazza calls out to him. "Tell the guys to...to take it easy," he says.
O'Toole hands Piazza a phone. She knows what calls Piazza wants to take. When Fabio—the Italian model, not much of a baseball fan—called, he got right through. ("Hey, Fabio, what's up? They're sending me to the Florida team. Can you believe that?") Now Dan Lozano is on the other line. The agent, excited, speaks so loudly Piazza has to hold the phone away from his ear.
"As of eight this morning, five teams had called Dombrowski, wanting to make a deal," Lozano says. Dombrowski is Dave Dombrowski, the Marlins general manager.
"What teams?" Piazza asks.
"He wouldn't say," Lozano says. "It gets better. The Dodgers want you to dress for tonight's game."
"I'm not going to the park," Piazza says. "It's gonna be a zoo there."