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Mike Piazza: A catcher's cool career in pictures

Big League Stew

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He was drafted as a favor in the 62nd round of the '88 draft by his godfather, Tommy Lasorda.

He made the act of squatting behind a plate for three hours cool for the first time since a man named Johnny Bench did it in the '70s.

He was the first — and most likely the only — player to be both beaned and made the target of a thrown bat in the World Series by Roger Clemens.

He was the best hitting catcher of all time.

He was a Florida Marlin for five glorious games.

He pulled off a mullet for most of the '90s.

Yes, Mike Piazza had a hell of a career.

There are certain days when I feel old and many of them have to do with the retirement of certain baseball players. And while I thought watching Cal and Tony go into the Hall of Fame gave me a little bit of lower back pain, that was nothing compared to hearing today's news that Piazza is finally giving up the dream and retiring after 16 mostly great seasons in the Major Leagues. Piazza is 39 years old? Guess I'm that much closer to applying for Social Security I'll never receive.

I suppose that many of you know what I'm talking about.

I have never been the biggest Dodgers fan, nor do I particularly like the Mets. But when it came to Piazza, it didn't matter. I liked everything about him. I liked the way he proved everybody who passed him over in that '88 draft wrong. I liked the way he acted in the spotlight. I liked the way he seemed like both a larger-than-life figure and a normal everyday guy at the same time. I liked looking at his power numbers in the newspaper. I liked watching him in All-Star Games. I loved having him as a perennial catcher on my keeper league fantasy team.

But after all of that, what I'll like most is seeing him get into the Hall of Fame and then watching him on whatever TV outlet that snaps him up. There are certain guys you feel like you grew up with and, for me, anyway, Piazza is one of those guys. He always seemed like a cooler older cousin ... a man crush before Tom Brady even invented such a thing.

Anyway, here's to thanking Mike for taking us along for the ride and wishing him the best of luck in whatever he decides to do.

Mike Piazza: A career in pictures

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