Willie Mays Makes an Incredible Catch!

Willie Mays Makes an Incredible Catch!

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 Willie Mays Makes an Incredible Catch!

“That was the finest catch I have ever seen, and the finest catch I ever expect to see” – Branch Rickey, commenting on a catch made by Willie Mays.

…And no, we’re not talking about “The Catch” off the bat of Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series. This one may even have been better!

This one happened 66 years ago today, July 24, 1951 in a game between the Giants and Pirates at cavernous Forbes Field. 20-year old rookie Willie Mays was unable to reach across his body to make a catch with his glove of a sinking, 457-foot blast to deep center off the bat of Pirate Rocky Nelson. So, reacting on instinct, Willie just stuck out his bare hand and grabbed the ball while running full speed!

Pirates’ General Manager Branch Rickey was in attendance that day and witnessed the incredible catch. He immediately sent a note down to the Giants” dugout: “That was the finest catch I have ever seen, and the finest catch I ever expect to see”  That was quite a statement, considering Branch Rickey had been around baseball since the Dead Ball Era and had seen a more than a few great plays. Willie always said that the famous over-the-shoulder, back-to-the-infield catch in the 1954 World Series was not even the best he ever made. I wonder if he had this one in mind!

Click on the link to see our photo tribute to Willie, featuring some of our favorite Willie Mays pics: http://www.baseballhistorycomesalive.com/happy-birthday-willie/

In addition to his remarkable defensive abilities and strong, accurate throwing arm, he was a tremendous offensive ballplayer, and a proven winner with four pennants and a World Series championship on his resume. The “Say-Hey Kid” combined all of baseball’s key offensive and defensive skills into the “total package.”

Mays hit 660 home runs, fourth all-time. His speed made him one of the few players with 300 steals and 500 home runs. His defensive skills won him 12 Gold Gloves, even though the award wasn’t started until he was six years into his career. Over his 22 years in the majors (1951-1973), he hit .302 with 3,283 hits (11th all-time), 1903 RBI’s, .a 557 slugging percentage, a lifetime .384 on-base percentage, and 338 stolen bases. He and Hank Aaron are the only players to hit 600 home runs and collect 3,000 hits. Willie hit over 35 homers in 10 seasons, hit 40 homers six times, and won five slugging crowns.

Willie Mays is one of only five National League players to have had eight consecutive 100-RBI seasons. In addition he won four stolen base and three triples titles, six top-three finishes in National League batting races, and he played in a whopping 24 All-Star games (tied with Stan Musial and Hank Aaron for most ever). He won two MVP Awards, and was a two-time All-Star game MVP. His lifetime total of 7,095 outfield putouts remains the major league record.

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Gary Livacari

Photo Credits: All from Google search

Information: Excerpts edited from the Willie Mays Wikipedia page, and This Day in Baseball History.

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I’m a baseball historian who also loves to write. My forte is identifying ballplayers in old photos, and my specail interest is the Dead Ball Era.

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