Fisk, Bench, Berra, Carter gather

Updated: June 18, 2004, 6:54 PM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- In a convention of Hall of Fame catchers, Carlton Fisk, Johnny Bench, Gary Carter and Yogi Berra gathered Friday night to honor Mike Piazza, who earlier this season broke the home run record for catchers.

Piazza snapped Fisk's mark of 351 homers on May 5 and entered play Friday with 355 while playing the position. Now, he is primarily a first baseman.

He caught for the first time since May 23 on Thursday and was behind the plate again for Friday night's game against the Detroit Tigers.

"It's a real honor that these men changed their schedules to come here," Piazza said. "It's a tribute to the game, to the position of catcher. It's a celebration of the game and the position of catcher more than the home run mark.

"I guess I feel like I'm retiring."

Piazza said he feels all of his home runs are special. Overall, he has 372, 56th on the career list and two short of Rocky Colavito.

"I think hitting home runs is the single most difficult thing to do in sports," he said.

Fisk said he knew Piazza was approaching the record when this season began. "I was cheering for him," he said. "I appreciate his talent. I had seen him the day before at first base. There's only one place on the field you're supposed to get run over. I told him, 'Get back behind the plate. You'll get hurt at first base.'

"Only we as catchers can fully appreciate what it means to go behind the plate every day and put some offensive numbers on the board. Mike has met that challenge."

Fisk's most famous home run was his 12th-inning winner in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series. He said there were other memorable ones.

"My first major league hit was a home run in Tiger Stadium," he said. "Up until a few days ago, I was the oldest major leaguer to hit a grand slam. Now it's Julio Franco."

"You're losing all kinds of records this year," Bench said.

Bench recalled the first time he saw Piazza hit.

"He looked like he made the ball stop," Bench said. "George Foster was like that. Barry Bonds, too. So fast through the hitting area."

Bench is third on the catchers' home run list with 327, followed by Berra (306), Lance Parrish (299), Carter (298), Roy Campanella (239) and Ivan Rodriguez (234).

Parrish, now the Tigers' bullpen coach, and Rodriguez, now catching for Detroit, joined the ceremonies along with Hall of Famer Tommy Lasorda, Piazza's first manager, and Hall of Famer Ralph Kiner -- a longtime Mets broadcaster.

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press