USA TODAY Sports Weekly
Hall of Fame preview:
Mariners chose Griffey first overall amid great fanfare, while Piazza was an afterthought for Dodgers
As highest- and lowest-round picks chosen for enshrinement, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza carved uncommon Cooperstown paths.
“I don’t know how we all missed on Mike.”
Bobby Cox was musing about Mike Piazza, who vaulted from 62nd-round draft pick to the baseball Hall of Fame.
“Sometimes the lower draft picks are the best ones,” says the former Atlanta Braves manager, who was enshrined in Cooperstown in 2014. “You never know.”
The 2016 inductions, which will be held July 24, will feature the highest and the lowest draft picks ever chosen for the gallery of immortals.
Ken Griffey Jr. was picked first in the amateur draft by the Seattle Mariners in 1987, while a year later Piazza was almost an afterthought, with 1,389 others chosen ahead of him.
“Not every first-round (pick) is a surefire thing, and not every high draft pick is a guy who’s not going to make it,” says Hall of Fame left-hander Tom Glavine, who won 305 games during a career spent mostly with Cox and the Braves, “but it’s so representative of what baseball is.
“All different shapes and sizes can be successful in this game. Those two guys epitomize that as much as anybody.”
Piazza never felt the burden of the 62nd-round selection.
“I don’t feel like that was extra pressure,” he told USA TODAY Sports. “But when I was starting to develop and making my mark as a ballplayer, there were nuances of nepotism because of my relationship with (then-Los Angeles Dodgers manager) Tommy Lasorda and the fact he and my father were close.
“Once I proved I could play, those thoughts dissolved.”
Piazza’s father, Vince, grew up with Lasorda in Norristown, Pa., and suggested to him that the Dodgers draft his son. They did, as a favor to the future Hall of Fame manager, but didn’t contact the young slugger for almost a month