Piazza knocks Vin Scully in book
LOS ANGELES -- Former Dodger catcher Mike Piazza has written a new book titled "Long Shot" which chronicles his exploits as a 62nd round draft pick who eventually became great enough to be considered the best hitting catcher of all time. He will likely be elected to the Hall of Fame in the next few years.
But the Dodgers and Piazza had an acrimonious breakup in 1998, when Piazza was traded to Florida because the team felt he was demanding too much money for a long-term contract extension. He was traded by the Marlins to the New York Mets just eight days after being sent to Florida, becoming one of the most revered stars ever to play for the Metropolitans.
Piazza's book was just released for sale to the public, and it's already causing controversy in the baseball world.
Piazza wasn't elected to the Hall of Fame in 2013, allegedly because there are suspicions that he took performance-enhancing drugs -- charges he refutes in the book, co-written by Lonnie Wheeler.
But that actually pales in comparison to the firestorm of emotion brought on when Piazza took on the greatest Dodger off all -- announcer Vin Scully, accusing the play-by-play icon of sabotaging his reputation with Dodger fans during broadcasts around the time of the 1998 trade.
"The way the whole contract drama looked to them -- many of whom were taking their cue from Scully -- was that, by setting a deadline and insisting on so much money, I was demonstrating a conspicuous lack of loyalty to the ball club," Piazza said. "I understood that."
"And Scully's voice carried a great deal of authority in Los Angeles."
The catcher didn't help his cause with a newspaper interview on Opening Day, trashing the Dodger front office for hesitating to give him a new contract extension.
"On top of that, Vin Scully was crushing me," Piazza said in the book.
Scully told the Los Angeles Times that Piazza's accusations were untrue.
"As God is my judge, I don't get involved in these things," Scully said. "I can't imagine I would ever put my toe in the water as far as a player and his negotiations.
"I have no idea where he is coming from. I really have no idea. I can't imagine saying something about a player and his contract. I just don't do that, ever. I'm really flabbergasted by that reference."
Some are wondering if Piazza just wanted to create buzz for the book with the charges against the beloved Scully, but as someone who covered Piazza during his entire tenure with the Dodgers, I can assure you that his feelings about Scully were -- and obviously still are -- very real.
It was May 15, 1998 and all hell was breaking loose at Dodger Stadium.
I was the afternoon drive talk show host on the Dodgers' flagship radio station and a sometimes pre-game contributor. As the show began that day, there were strong rumors that the Dodgers and Piazza had reached the final impasse in their negotiations, and that word came down from ownership that Piazza would be gone by the end of the day.
So, after doing my show leading into the pre-game segment, I walked down to the clubhouse, only to be told that when he arrived at Dodger Stadium that Friday, Piazza holed up in manager Bill Russell's office. Reporters were led to believe that Piazza had been sent home to await word from his new team -- whichever one that would be.
That didn't ring true to me, so I walked out to the parking lot and saw Piazza's car in its normal parking space. I immediately called Russell's private office phone and he answered. I asked him to put Piazza on -- and he did, with Piazza laughing and saying he wasn't coming out and he wasn't talking to anyone else until it was over.
Piazza seemed somewhere between upset and relieved about the possible trade, and even said he'd heard he was going to Cincinnati, and that was fine with him. I stayed in touch with Piazza during the game -- something that could NEVER happen with today's security protocols for MLB clubhouses, and he kept asking me if I had heard any of the broadcast and what was being said. I told him I didn't, and that's when he told me almost word-for-word what he would write in his book fifteen years later.
He said he felt Scully was constantly making him look bad and turning the fans against him, and that he didn't understand why. Piazza was also tired of the way the Dodgers had treated him through the whole negotiation.
When he told me he was assured that he'd be traded before the end of the game, it was the only time I heard a tinge of regret in his voice. "It will be a relief to put this behind me," he said, "but I never wanted to leave (the Dodgers)."
But he did, his departure turning May 15th into one of the worst days in Dodger history.
For years, his former manager and close family friend, Tommy Lasorda, has been trying to talk Piazza into coming back and being a part of the Dodger organization once again. Lasorda says that every time he brings it up, Piazza says no because he's concerned that he'll get a negative reaction.
Piazza's criticism of the man voted the Most Popular Dodger ever just turned concern into absolute certainty.