Mike Piazza rounds the bases on his two-run home run in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves in New York on Sept. 21, 2001.
The Mets have exhibited a rare blend of stupidity and short-sightedness that should be preserved in a time capsule so that future generations can marvel at their ignorance.
If the news that the team sold the jersey worn by Mike Piazza on the night of the first professional sporting event in New York City following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks wasn’t appalling enough, here’s a more disturbing revelation: The Mets are not in possession of any game-worn jerseys from that magical night.
The team shamelessly profited with a 9/11 fire sale a few years ago, an embarrassing display of greed that defies logic. For a star-crossed franchise with precious few memorable moments, the Mets’ 3-2 come-from-behind win over the rival Braves on Sept. 21, 2001, resonates for reasons that stretch far beyond a baseball diamond.
The magic of that night had little to do with the sport itself. Piazza’s two-run home run in the eighth inning was the signature moment that prompted a cathartic release and promoted healing that seemed unimaginable 10 days earlier.
“I stood in the dugout when that ball went out,” former Mets manager Bobby Valentine told The News Thursday. “It’s more than a home run. Much more than that.”
The game became a symbol of strength in the wake of tragedy. It was a defiant message to all the evil out there: Our way of life goes on.
An FDNY cap and jersey worn by reliever John Franco and an NYPD cap worn by Valentine reside at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, reminders of a special few hours that galvanized all of us.
The Mets traded a piece of their history for a quick buck.
Some mementos from that stirring night should have been displayed at the 9/11 Memorial in lower Manhattan or Citi Field. The others should have been sold with all the proceeds going to 9/11 charities.
The Mets had other ideas after getting back the memorabilia from that game and many more from rogue clubhouse manager Charlie Samuels, who pleaded guilty to stealing $ 2.3 million worth of team memorabilia in 2012.
The team’s decision to sell memorabilia for their own financial gain from the most transcendent game in their history boggles the mind. They became tone-deaf profiteers, who squeezed out every last dollar at a private sale, lining their pockets by ringing the cash register with one jersey sale after another without any regard to the meaning of that night.
Alfonzo. Zeile. Ventura. Ordonez. Cha-ching!
It’s enough to make you throw up.
The Mets “brain trust” (and we use that term loosely) obviously didn’t value the indelible moments at Shea Stadium on that Friday nearly 15 years ago. The moving pre-game ceremony laced with tears so vivid in our memory meant little to them. The chants of USA! shaking the foundation have been forgotten.
The bottom line for the Mets was cold hard cash. The team managed to receive less than $ 50,000 from a private collector for the iconic Piazza No. 31 jersey, prompting any clear-thinking person to wonder: Was it worth it?
There’s no telling how little they actually received for the other game-worn jerseys or any other memorabilia from that night that they might have sold.
New York Mets players bow their heads during a moment of silence at Shea Stadium on Sept. 21, 2001.
The private collector with the Piazza jersey auctioned it off Thursday for $ 365,000 to three die-hard Mets fans, who plan to display it at different times at Citi Field, the 9/11 Memorial and the Hall of Fame.
“There is significant symbolism to this,” said one of the buyers, Anthony Scaramucci, founder and co-managing partner, SkyBridge Capital. “This is part of New York narrative. It’s a message to young people. You’ve got to step back to the plate and you can hit home runs in your life, no matter what is going on. You have to have that level of resilience.”
The meaning of that night should never fade away. It helped us find our way again.
It let us know that it was OK to cheer and celebrate and feel joy even as we grieved the thousands of innocent people who lost their lives.
It helped us heal.
The Mets should be ashamed and embarrassed for exploiting it all.