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Piazza is silent. The house is still and quiet for the first time all morning. The day is growing weirder by the minute. "I'm gonna take a shower," he says.
FRIDAY, 2:30 P.M.
Before he leaves for the park, Piazza speaks to his father on the telephone. They talk father to son, business partner to business partner, friend to friend. "I think it's personal, between Danny [Lozano] and Bob Graziano," the son says. Graziano is the team president, Fred Claire's boss. "Fred is so far out of the loop, it's not even funny. I think Danny beat them twice on the first two contracts, and Graziano wasn't going to let it happen again. Look, I feel totally proud of the way I handled everything. If I had taken their offer, I would have never been able to look at myself in the mirror. You know that. They could've made it easy on themselves, give me the seven years, pay me till 2050 with two-percent interest, I wouldn't have cared."
Vince Piazza says what Mike wishes he could say.
"No, no, you can't say that," Mike says. "You'd like to say that, but you can't. You got to take the high road. I'll talk to you. I'm fine. I'm fine. I'm all right. I'll talk to you. I love you."
Piazza hands the phone to O'Toole. "How come everybody is so worried about me?" he asks. "I just got my sorry ass shipped to another team, that's all."
He selects a shirt to wear, settling on a signed Mario Lemieux jersey, because, he reasons, Lemieux has class and Piazza wants to carry himself with class. He eats his lunch, gets into the Cadillac, tunes in to KXTA and drives to the park. It's 3:30 p.m. The game, against the Montreal Expos, starts at 7:05. Piazza imagines what the response would be like if he batted once as a pinch hitter and homered. That would be awesome, he concludes. He's cheerful.
He arrives in the players' parking lot at Dodger Stadium and sees that the place is crawling with TV news crews and reporters. Intent on not talking, he makes a dash into the stadium, running past microphones and lenses, escorted by security guards who are huffing and puffing to keep up with him. In no time, and with no comment, Piazza slips into Russell's office; two security guards are stationed outside the door. Now the vigil begins, waiting to find out if Sheffield will sign, waiting to find out if he will have to suit up for the game, waiting, waiting. The rumor in the bowels of the stadium is that Sheffield's flight to Los Angeles was delayed and that a Fox corporate jet went to pick him up, and that he and his agent are in the stadium, meeting with the Dodgers bosses.
Eric Karros comes into the manager's office. Karros and Piazza came up through the Dodgers organization together. They were Rookies of the Year in consecutive seasons. They shared a house in Manhattan Beach. For a long time they were best friends. In recent years they have grown apart. Piazza became one of baseball's most significant and recognizable figures, while Karros's career unfolded less spectacularly. Karros got engaged—he plans to be married in November—while Piazza's bachelor life continues to thrive. The two men (teammates, for the moment, anyway) are sitting on a couch. Karros says, "You know what's strange? You're the marquee player in the deal, but you're not the one holding it up." Piazza looks at his old friend and sees his sadness. In that moment a friendship has been made whole again.
Lasorda arrives. He has had a long day. His first call, early in the morning, was from a radio station, asking him to comment on the news. "He was a dear friend, and this is a terrible loss," Lasorda said. He thought the question was about the death of Frank Sinatra, but it was about the Piazza trade. In the new regime Lasorda has been relegated to the role of team ambassador. That was the first he had heard about the trade. Later in the day, when asked about the deal, he adopted the company line, saying that he was sorry to see Piazza go but that the team has to act in its best interests, protect its future. In Russell's office he's a different man. He gets right in Piazza's face and says, "Before you're out of this game, you'll break every offensive record ever set by a catcher, you'll have a harem, and you'll have more money than you'll know what to do with." The two men hug, and Lasorda kisses Piazza on the cheek.