When the ball finally settled into Say Hey Kid’s gauntlet, there wasn’t much anyone could say. The shocked faces at the Polo Grounds captured on TV broadcasts did most of the talking. Broadcaster Jack Brickhouse called it an “optical illusion,” but this wasn’t a trick to the eyes. Although they couldn’t know for sure at the time, they had just witnessed what is still considered the greatest defensive game ever made, considering the circumstances and degree of difficulty. It occupies a very important place in the history of baseball known simply as The Catch.
To hear Willie Mays say it, and he’s been asked to remember it countless times over the years, you’d think this was just another spring practice, untracked in the eighth inning of a 1954 World Championship tie-in game.
“Everyone said, ‘Okay, it was hard,'” Mays said. “I said no, it was an easy catch.”
However, it’s a game that kids across the country have tried to recreate from sandboxes to Little League playgrounds, Willie Mays basket. Although Mays maintains he got the ball all the way through, The Catch didn’t come together without a bit of training. The Hall of Fame center player mastered basketball during his two-year service in the military.
“When I got out of the army, Leo [Durocher] He said you could do it, but don’t miss the damn ball. I missed two. Ten years later, “I remembered Mays in ’24: Life Stories and Lessons from Say Baby’.”
How could he know that one of the ones he didn’t miss, the one that Cleveland racket Vic Wertz didn’t miss, would be talked about for decades? According to Arnold Hanno, who wrote a biographer of Mays and was present at the match, Wertz’s drive was “as hard as I’ve ever seen a ball fall.” Playing in the middle to try to cut off the run on anything in front of him, Mays immediately turned his back and rushed toward the top of the cavernous Polo Grounds.
“I always played shallow when I was young. I didn’t think nobody could hit my head with the ball. That’s the way I felt when I played in midfield,” Mace recalls. “When he hits you the ball, in my mind, I would always catch the ball.”
It’s hard to believe that for Mays, hunting wasn’t the most impressive part of The Catch. This would be the throw, which is probably overlooked because it wasn’t fully captured by the camera.
With the runners in first and second, two goals had to be scored if Wertz’s hit went down, potentially three depending on the carom. But when Larry Dube, who was at second base, saw that Mays had a chance to beat her, he slipped back to second, thinking he might be able to take two bases on a higher mark due to the Polo Grounds’ distinct proportions. Mays quickly dispelled that idea, making the basket spin and in one motion and launching the ball to second base, snapping his hat in the process. Only those who saw it live can explain how perfect the throw was, but it prevented Doby from taking anything more than a third and initially prevented the runner from progressing.
Thanks to the catch Miss And the Throwing in, the Giants were able to escape the inning unscathed, preparing a tenth inning round and, ultimately, a four-game World Championship victory.
So there are probably catches that have been made since then with less likely to catch, requiring faster running speed or greater distance. maybe. But will there be someone creative or likable across generations? Not if Say Hey Kid has anything to say about it.
“Now, if you want to try basket fishing, that’s your decision,” Mace wrote in “24.” “But if you get hit in the head, remember I warned you.”