1998 Ultra Millennium Men Mike Piazza

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Mike Piazza (along with Ken Griffey Jr.) entered baseball’s Hall of Fame in 2016.  While Piazza played for five teams during his prodigious career, he is mainly remembered as being a member of the Los Angles Dodgers and the New York Mets.  At the same time, because Piazza’s 1998 stint with Florida was so brief (five games in total), his duration as a Marlin has become memorable in its own way.

Piazza did not play well as a Marlin, but a couple of interesting things jump out when looking at his statistics.  First of all, in only 19 official plate appearances, Piazza posted a slash line of .278/.263/.389.  That’s right, Piazza’s on-base-percentage was actually lower than his batting average (Piazza had one sacrifice fly but did not walk nor get hit by a pitch while with the Marlins).  Hey, funny things happen when working with small sample sizes, and Piazza’s slash line is a prime example.  Also, did you know that in his long and amazing career, Piazza managed to hit only eight triples?  From 1998 through 2001, he hit only one.  And you guessed it; Piazza smacked this three-bagger as a Marlin during an away game at St. Louis on May 18, 1998.  For what it’s worth, I graduated from high school six day later.  Quite interesting.

img_4155Over the years, card companies have created a plethora of Mike Piazza Marlins cards, as was noted in a 2012 article in the New York Times.  However, I’m always going to prefer Piazza’s 1998 Marlins cards.  Piazza’s 1998 Marlins cards seem to be telling Mike’s story as it happened in real time.  His post-1998 Marlins cards, on the other hand, seem a bit contrived to me.  For instance, when Fleer created this Millennium Men insert card for its Ultra brand in 1998, it seems possible to me that Piazza was still in the middle of his stint with the Marlins (we can’t say that about any of Piazza’s post-1998 Marlins cards).  Everybody expected that Piazza’s stay with the Marlins would be short, but nobody knew exactly how short.  If Fleer Ultra Series 2 “went live” a week or two earlier than it actually did, would Mike be featured as a Dodger?  Similarly, if these cards were produced a week or so later, would Piazza be shown as a New York Met?  And so, it got me wondering, how many of Piazza’s 1998 insert cards (non-parallels) feature him as a member of the Marlins?  I bet that there are not too many examples.  Let me know if you are aware of any.

Millennium Men inserts were a slightly tough pull from 1998 Ultra Series 2 (1:35 hobby packs).  These cards are interesting in that they are actually tri-folds.  I haven’t broken the seal on my Piazza copy (and do not plan to do so), so I actually do not know what the card looks like on the inside.  But from what I can see on the outside, 1998 Millennium Men are good looking cards.  Still, I would have preferred it if Fleer had not tinted Piazza’s card greenish/teal (all cards in the set are tinted in alignment with the team colors).  In most cases I prefer natural and fully-vibrant color shots.  Still, this card is a winner, and I am glad that I recently found it when opening up a box of 1998 Ultra Series 2.

Piazza is the classic example given when baseball fans try to come up with a list of Hall-of-Fame caliber players who played very briefly with a team during his prime.  Are there any other examples out there?

Word of the Day

ameliorate – to make (something, such as a problem) better, less painful, etc.; trying to ameliorate the suffering of people who have lost their jobs; this medicine should help ameliorate the pain


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