The Catch

From BR Bullpen

The Catch is a term that is used to describe multiple memorable defensive plays, often by outfielders. It is most commonly used in reference to Willie Mays' catch of a ball off the bat of Vic Wertz on September 29, 1954, during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series. Even today, with modern outfielders who have finely-honed skills and carefully-improved athletic bodies, such a catch and throw would be extremely difficult; but in Willie's time, a catch of this nature (especially because captured on film) simply seemed impossible.

Willie Mays and The Catch[edit]

"To keep my momentum, to get it working for me, I have to turn very hard and short and throw the ball from exactly the point that I caught it. The momentum goes into my turn and up through my legs and into my throw." - Willie Mays, describing his thinking process while he's running back to make The Catch

Retrosheet Boxscore and Play by Play

The New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians met at the Polo Grounds in New York City in the opening game of the 1954 World Series. In the top of the eighth inning the score was tied 2-2 with the Indians at bat. Giants starter Sal Maglie walked Larry Doby to lead off the inning and then gave up a single to Al Rosen. Giants manager Leo Durocher then summoned lefty reliever Don Liddle to face left-hander Wertz with men on first and second.

With the count at two balls and a strike, Wertz crushed Liddle's fourth pitch to deep center field, about 10 feet to the right of the clubhouse runway in dead center. The ball traveled about 420 feet, which in most stadiums would've been either over the wall or off the wall for extra bases. A home run would have given the Indians a 5 - 2 lead going into the bottom of the eighth. However the cavernous Polo Grounds, with its rectangular shape, allowed Mays to make a flat-out on-the-run facing-the-bleachers catch to make the out, even though he had been playing shallow since Liddle was a groundball pitcher. After catching the ball, he immediately spun and threw the ball with a mighty heave to the infield. Doby, who was at second when the ball was hit had ran off the crack of the bat and had to scramble back to second to tag up. So instead of scoring on a long sacrifice fly, Doby was only able to make it to third and Rosen remained on first. The play prevented the Indians from taking the lead.

Liddle was then relieved by Marv Grissom, to whom he supposedly made the famous remark "Well, I got my man." Hank Majeski was to pinch-hit for Dave Philley but after the bullpen switch was made Dale Mitchell came off the bench to hit. Mitchell walked to load the bases with two outs. Jim Hegan hit a long fly ball to left field, but the wind was blowing in allowing Monte Irvin to catch it. The game remained tied until the bottom of the 10th, after a walk and steal by Mays followed by an intentional walk to Bobby Thompson, Dusty Rhodes pinch-hitting for Irvin poked out a 260 foot home run just inside the foul pole for a Giants win. The New York club would go on to sweep the Series.

The Catch is often considered to be one of the best and most memorable plays in baseball history because of the difficulty of the play and the importance of the game itself. It was named #9 on a list of Baseball's 25 Greatest Moments by The Sporting News. However, it has been argued that The Catch is remembered so well because it was made in New York City, by a player for a New York team, and on television in a World Series game. Other catches of similar caliber are less celebrated because they came in regular season games or in other cities. Mays himself did not believe "The Catch" to be the best defensive play he ever made. [1]

The Call[edit]

"There's a long drive way back in center field . . . way back, back! It is . . . oh, what a catch by Mays! The runner on second, Doby, is able to go to third. Willie Mays . . . just brought this crowd to its feet . . . with a catch . . . which must have been an optical illusion to a lot of people. Boy!" - Jack Brickhouse, NBC

Otis Nixon - July 25, 1992[edit]

Retrosheet Boxscore of the Game

The Catch is also used by Atlanta Braves fans to describe a catch made by Otis Nixon against the Pittsburgh Pirates in Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.

On July 25, 1992, the Braves were ahead 1-0 over the Pirates in the top of the ninth. Gary Varsho pinch-hit for Gary Redus and grounded out to Mark Lemke for the first out of the inning. Jay Bell then singled, bringing up Andy Van Slyke, who was 0-2 with a walk on the day. He clobbered one of Alejandro Pena's offerings to deep right-center field. With the stadium in a loud murmurr, Nixon raced back to the warning track, tracking the ball. Before he got to the wall, he leapt towards it and dug his left foot into the wall, pushing himself upward. He reached just over the wall and caught the ball. The stadium erupted in cheers as Nixon landed and threw the ball back to the infield and getting congratulations from David Justice.

"He caught the ball! He caught the ball! I don't believe it!!" Skip Caray exclaimed as Nixon threw the ball back to the infield, Caray didn't say anything for several seconds, since he was unsure if Nixon had caught the ball or not.

After the catch, Kent Mercker replaced Pena and Orlando Merced pinch hit for Lloyd McClendon. Merced walked and that brought up Barry Bonds, who ended up grounding to Brian Hunter.

The Braves' only run came on their only hit, a solo home run by Justice in the second inning.

So not only was Nixon's catch one of the most exciting plays in Braves history, it also saved the game for them.


  1. Joe Morgan (May 4). "Mays was Mr. Everything". ESPN. Retrieved August 3, 2006.

Further Reading[edit]

  • Arnold Hano: A Day in the Bleachers (San Francisco; Arion Press; 1955, 1982, 1995, 2006)

Related Sites[edit]