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The Greatest Play Ever Made | Sept. 29, 1954 | "The Catch"

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Completely inspired by campy 50s movie posters.

The wiki description captures it well:

The Catch refers to a memorable defensive baseball play by Willie Mays on September 29, 1954, during Game 1 of the 1954 World Series between the New York Giants and the Cleveland Indians at the Polo Grounds in New York on a ball hit by Vic Wertz. The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth inning. Starting pitcher Sal Maglie walked Larry Doby and gave up a single to Al Rosen. With runners on first and second, Giants manager Leo Durocher summoned left-handed relief pitcher Don Liddle to replace Maglie and pitch to Cleveland's Wertz, also a left-hander.

Wertz worked the count to two balls and a strike before crushing Liddle's fourth pitch approximately 420 feet to deep center field. In many stadiums the hit would have been a home run and given the Indians a 5-2 lead. However, this was the spacious Polo Grounds, and Giants center fielder Willie Mays, who was playing in shallow center field, made an on-the-run over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track to make the out. Having caught the ball, he immediately spun and threw the ball, losing his hat in characteristic style. Doby, the runner on second, might have been able to score the go-ahead run had he tagged at the moment the ball was caught; but as it was, he ran when the ball was hit, and then had to scramble back to retag and only got as far as third base. (Rosen stayed at first on this play.) Liddle was then relieved by Marv Grissom, to whom he supposedly remarked "Well, I got my man!" (The next batter walked to load the bases, but the next 2 batters were retired to end this half-inning with no runs scored.)

Did you catch the part where it said he caught it around four hundred and twenty feet? That's outstanding, but that's only part of the beauty. Yes, it's the distance, but it's also the over-the-head-catch, it's the recovery, it's the throw to the cut-off man. It's the fact that Mays never believed it was his greatest play, much less the greatest in baseball history.

One of my favorite baseball photos of all time was used as reference:


Finally, here's a wonderful account of The Catch from James Hirsh's "Willie Mays: The Life The Legend" that also provided inspiration for this, especially the zany base running lines.

Want this as a print? Check out "The Catch" and other posters over at my print shop.