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Willie Mays's greatest catch

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  • Willie Mays's greatest catch

    I was reading a story about Willie Mays in an old baseball magazine. He was asked if his catch in the World Series was his greatest catch. He said no, that was actually a faily easy catch, but that he made a couple of catches against the Dodgers that were much more difficult. Does anyone know what catches Willie was referring to?

  • #2
    This is certainly one of them.

    http://www.thing.net/~grist/l&d/lmetcalf.

    I saw the play on TV, and more than 50 years later, I still don't believe it.

    It is the best outfield play I've ever seen.
    Last edited by shlevine42; 11-11-2005, 06:32 PM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by shlevine42
      This is certainly one of them.

      http://www.thing.net/~grist/l&d/lmetcalf.

      I saw the play on TV, and more than 50 years later, I still don't believe it.

      It is the best outfield play I've ever seen.
      Thank You for the reply. One thing, I never thought of Billy Cox as being particularly fast on the basepaths. He was quick with his reflexes, but I never thought of him as being fast.

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      • #4
        I was at the game, on a "freebie" from either the PAL or CYO. It was a weekday game and it was an almost surreal play; not only the fact that Mays got to the ball, which, hit by a right handed batter, was curving away from him, but, as we were sitting in the upper deck behind third base, when he whirled and threw, the ball appeared, initially, to be heading halfway up the third base line and then seemed to "bend" towards the plate and Westrum, beating Cox by a considerable margin.

        The similiarity in this play and the Wertz play is that, in both instances, Mays got off an amazing throw after an incredible catch. It was the best play I ever saw, by the best player I ever saw.
        After 1957, it seemed like we would never laugh again. Of course, we did. Its just that we were never young again.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by chiefpaddy
          I was reading a story about Willie Mays in an old baseball magazine. He was asked if his catch in the World Series was his greatest catch. He said no, that was actually a faily easy catch, but that he made a couple of catches against the Dodgers that were much more difficult. Does anyone know what catches Willie was referring to?

          Willie didn't think the Wertz catch was particularly difficult nor great. He DID feel the throw he made after making the catch was exceptional.

          The greatest catch I ever saw Willie Mays make, there were many, was a game at CandleStick. At that time they had a steel link fence around the outfield.

          I can't remember the opposition, much less the batter, but a high long drive was hit to rightcenter field. May had to run forever to get there. The camera focused on the RF'er which was one of the Giants many young talented outfielders they had (Gary Matthews; Maddox; Bonds; Ollie Brown; etc). The RF'er seemed to be looking up watching as the ball went over the fence.
          All of a sudden Mays at full tilt comes into the picture, leaps, climbs the fence, slams into the steel top rim of the fence; reaches over....and hauls in the ball!
          I was awestruck, dumbfounded. The announcers were struck silent for a short time and then began exclaiming on the catch. The young RF'er appeared dazed at first and then knelt down to Willie who was hurt and laying on the warning track.
          To me it was the single greatest catch I ever saw.

          Yankees Fan Since 1957

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          • #6
            Originally posted by yanks0714
            Willie didn't think the Wertz catch was particularly difficult nor great. He DID feel the throw he made after making the catch was exceptional.

            <...>
            Exactly. The Catch was (relatively) easy - in center field at the Polo Grounds you could run forever. But the throw!

            A photograph of a throw just doesn't have as much impact though.

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            • #7
              The best catch I ever saw by Wille Mays was at Ebbets Field in 1954. With two out in the ninth inning Bobby Morgan hit a line drive to left center. It looked like a "tee shot" from the box seat area. Mays running full speed dove, fully extended himself and caught the ball. In so doing, his momentum caused him to slide on his stomach across the warning track where he hit his head against the wall. Mays lay prone for several minutes apparently either stunned or knocked out. Durocher and Doc Bowman ran out to check on Willie. Jackie Robinson also ran out. Mays eventually got up but from a distance it looked like he might have killed himself - but he held the ball.

              As previously cited, the catch in 51 where he threw Billy Cox out at the plate was a great play. Another catch I saw was in Pittsburgh. Rocky Nelson hit a scorching line drive to left center. Mays was swung around to right center. Mays took off at the crack of the bat and caught the ball "bare handed" in left center.
              Last edited by GIANT; 11-19-2005, 02:44 PM.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by yanks0714
                Willie didn't think the Wertz catch was particularly difficult nor great. He DID feel the throw he made after making the catch was exceptional.

                The greatest catch I ever saw Willie Mays make, there were many, was a game at CandleStick. At that time they had a steel link fence around the outfield.

                I can't remember the opposition, much less the batter, but a high long drive was hit to rightcenter field. May had to run forever to get there. The camera focused on the RF'er which was one of the Giants many young talented outfielders they had (Gary Matthews; Maddox; Bonds; Ollie Brown; etc). The RF'er seemed to be looking up watching as the ball went over the fence.
                All of a sudden Mays at full tilt comes into the picture, leaps, climbs the fence, slams into the steel top rim of the fence; reaches over....and hauls in the ball!
                I was awestruck, dumbfounded. The announcers were struck silent for a short time and then began exclaiming on the catch. The young RF'er appeared dazed at first and then knelt down to Willie who was hurt and laying on the warning track.
                To me it was the single greatest catch I ever saw.
                I think this catch at Candlestick by Mays was against the Reds. Bobby Tolan hit the ball. Phenomenal play.

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                • #9
                  Best Catch by Willie Mays not in World Series 1954

                  I will relate a story from my childhood, which may be a bit wordy, but I hope some readers will appreciate it, from a historical point of view. I don't claim to have seen the majority of games Willie played, I can only tell you, as best I can, of one of the most phenomenal plays I ever witnessed.

                  The best catch I ever saw Willie Mays make was not in the World Series of 1954. I have seen clips of that but it pales in significance on a whole level to the one I saw in person. The best one I saw him make was at the Polo Grounds in a double header against the Pittsburgh Pirates. It happened in Game 2.

                  It was, I believe in 1957, when I was 10 years old. It was the only time I got to see Willie play live at a stadium. I was a big Yankees fan and saw Mantle, etc. play a number of times especially against the Boston Red Sox. However, my favorite all around player was Willie Mays. I was thrilled to
                  get the chance to see him. I was in Little League, and loved playing the outfield, so I kept my eyes glued on Willie Mays, hoping to learn how to play like him. My vantage point was along the third base line, maybe 2/3
                  of the way to the base from home plate.

                  The batter was someone I never heard of- but he was a pretty big man at 6' 3" and 205 pounds. At ten years of age, he looked huge to me. His name was Frank Thomas. He killed the Giants in the first game with two, or possibly three, home run blasts. My recollection was three, but it was a long time ago. But they were high and deep- no cheap shots here. They were way out there. Willie might as well have been sitting in a lawn chair.

                  So the second game started and eventually, Frank Thomas got up to bat again. I looked out to see where Willie was, to see how he positioned himself against this power hitter. I looked to deep center field and I couldn't find him. I looked to left center and didn't see him, nor did I find him deep in right center. I started scouring the whole outfield, and I was stunned to see him playing super super shallow center field, only just off to the left of the second base bag and not more than about 30 feet off the infield.

                  My ten year old mind couldn't fathom what was going on- (maybe this was trying to psych out the hitter, but I had no concept of anything like that, at the time).

                  He had both his hands on his knees, staring intently at the pitch going in to Thomas.

                  At the crack of the bat, he looked at the ball going off the bat, did a 180 and as he sprinted full speed, took a quick look at the ball way way up in the sky. Within the first 10 yards or so, he lost his hat from the sprint. This was another tremendous blast. It looked like another home run on its way.

                  He just sprinted as fast as he could heading for dead center field. I never thought he could catch up to the ball, yet alone catch it. I was sitting there with my mouth open, watching him eating up ground. I think the entire time, he only took two or maybe three more looks up at the ball, the entire distance. The reason was, he didn't have time to look any more. It was a total race.

                  I don't know how he managed to track the ball that whole distance, but he caught it in a basket catch over his head at the foot of the green doors in dead center field, the deepest part of the park, where the players came out from the locker rooms.

                  I never saw another catch to match that one. The 1954 World Series catch was no big deal in comparison to this one. Some people say things like, a great catch has to have obstacles to contend with. Well, I can't believe he was able to catch up from so close to the infield, track a ball so high up at the same time, that it was hard to see in the sky, and haul it in at the threshold of the center field wall.

                  For Thomas, it would have been an easy home run to either right or left center field. It would have been deep in the stands. But dead center field had a long extension of field, back to the wall. If it wasn't hit so high and so far, maybe Mays would never have caught up and made the catch. But I don't think anyone else could have made that catch, and it was unforgettable experience.
                  Last edited by Yesteryear Fan; 07-11-2007, 12:00 AM. Reason: Want to be as accurate as possible without exaggeration

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                  • #10
                    I do not know the dimensions of the field at the Polo Grounds. Such a great catch should not be handicapped by faulty recollections of placement and distances. Mays could have been farther out in the outfield than my estimate of 30 feet- could have been 60 or more. But he was playing very shallow. How fast could he sprint to the centerfield wall ? I don't know. All I can say and believe is that the height of the blast allowed him the time to cover the distance. Aside from pride and competiveness, I have no idea why he even considered playing the ball, being so far out of position.He could have easily just let the deeper players in right or left see if they could make a play. Whatever drove him to give his all, against the odds, with no hesitation, makes the memory of this play so exceptional. There was a competiveness between Mays and Thomas, according to Thomas in an interview, who won a big bet ( in the money of those days) from Mays by catching one of Mays hardest throws bare-handed. Maybe that was the motivation for Mays effort here. I just don't want the account given here to be more incredulous than it really was, because of my youthful error of recall of depth perception from my vantage point from 50 years ago. I can only say I would love to see it again, a great play stands on its own. No embellishment is necessary.

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                    • #11
                      Willie May's Greatest Catch Additional Data

                      At the time of my original posts on what I considered Willie Mays greatest catch, I did not have some of the information on my account of his catch in game 2 against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957.

                      I tried to edit my posts to reflect this new information, but was unable to,
                      being instructed to refresh and sign in again, which deleted my editing.

                      The exact game date was a Sunday doubleheader on July 7, 1957. The fans attendance was 10,825. The distance to the dead centerfield wall from home plate was 475 feet.

                      My original first post was uncertain about whether Frank Thomas hit 2 or 3 home runs in the first game. As it turns out, he hit 2 in the first game off
                      of Worthington, each with a man on. However the number three was correct for the day, as he hit another homer in Game 2, the game in which Willie made the great catch.

                      As it turned out, the Giants lost both games, 10-6 and the second one 8-1.
                      Willie went 0-4 in both games. But the scores didn't matter to me. I was thrilled to have been there. I am grateful that my father, who worked for the Post Office Department, managed to take me to the games. Post Office
                      workers didn't make much money in those days.

                      I made two posts about this event. I was not certain of the field dimensions
                      in my second post, so hopefully that deficiency has now been corrected. In the second post, I made mention of Mays losing a bet to Frank Thomas on a bare handed catch. The amount of the bet, according to Thomas, is that he won $100 from Willie.

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                      • #12
                        I have always been of the opinion that Mays' catch in the '54 WS has been greatly overrated. It was a great play in general more than it was a great catch in particular, IMHO. He knew he could pretty much run forever in center field at the Polo Grounds, and once he took off running, he knew it would stay in the park and that it was high enough for him to get under it fairly easily. Those are his own words, as I remember them, paraphrasing, of course.

                        The reason this catch gets so much credit as one of the greatest ever, IMO, is because it happened in the WS. And, of course, the great throw afterward. I have also seen Mays make a great catch or two. Mays used to diliberately wear a cap that was a size too large, so that it would fly off his head when chasing down a fly ball. He was an admitted showman. I once read where he admitted to one sportswriter (after he retired, of course) that there were times when he was running after a fly ball and his cap stayed on his head, so he would swat it off his head with his right hand as he ran. Then, of course, there were his basket catches. A true entertainer!! :applaud:
                        Last edited by Dodgerfan1; 07-31-2007, 07:29 AM.
                        Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours. - Yogi Berra

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