September 22, 2001 11:51 AM

The No. 7 subway train was on the tracks Friday night, packed with eager — though unusually quiet — New York Mets fans. America’s favorite pastime had returned to the city that was the first target of the attack on America. New Yorkers packed the 41,235-seat house at Shea Stadium in the first home game since the catastrophe. And it was a night worth waiting for. Mike Piazza gave all of New York a home run from the heart, launching a two-run drive in the eighth inning that lifted the Mets over the Atlanta Braves 3-2 and further tightened the NL East race. Piazza had already doubled twice when he hit his 34th home run, a monstrous drive over the center-field fence off native New Yorker Steve Karsay (3-4). It was a highly emotional night (also a night of heightened security), dedicated to paying tribute to the victims of the World Trade Center attack. The players also donated their Friday night salaries to the families of the victims. “I’m just so happy I gave the people something to cheer,” Piazza said afterward. “There was a lot of emotion. I’m just so proud to be a part of it tonight.” Diana Ross opened the game with “God Bless America,” Mark Antony sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” and Liza Minnelli helped keep the blood pumping during the 7th inning stretch with her trademark number, “New York, New York.” (which replaced “Take me Out to the Ballgame”). When Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, an unrepentant New York Yankees fan, thanked the Mets for their pay donation, the crowd cheered, “Rudy! Rudy!” Joked the mayor: “I think the city will be back to normal when they start booing me again at Shea Stadium.”

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