September 29, 1954: Wille Mays’s Catch
I’m playing a shallow center field. It’s the eighth inning, the score is tied and I don’t want Larry Doby scoring from second base. One run could be the ball game. The ballgame could be the series. You never know. Wertz hits it. A solid sound. I learned a lot from the sound of the ball on the bat. Always did. I could tell from the sound whether to come in or go back. This time I’m going back, a long way back, but there is no doubt in my mind. I am going to catch this ball. I turn and run for the bleachers. But I got it. Maybe you didn’t know that but I knew it. Soon as it got hit, I knew I’d catch this ball. But that wasn’t the problem. The problem was Larry Doby on second base. On a deep fly to center field at the Polo Grounds, a runner could score all the way from second. I’ve done that myself and more than once. So if I make the catch, which I will, and Larry scores from second, they still get the run that puts them ahead. All the time I’m running back, I’m thinking, ‘Willie, you’ve got to get this ball back into the infield.’ I run fifty or seventy-five yards – right to the warning track- and I take the ball a little toward my left shoulder. Suppose I stop and turn and throw. I will get nothing on the ball. No momentum going into my throw. What I have to do is this: after I make the catch, turn. Put all my momentum into that turn. 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 I caught it. The momentum goes into my turn and up through my legs and into my throw. Larry Doby ran to third, but he couldn’t score. Al Rosen didn’t even advance from first. All the while I was running back, I was planning how to get off that throw. Then some of them wrote, I made that throw by instinct.