Greatest Defensive Moment in Baseball History

By Michael Benson - "Willie Mays 1954 World Series Catch" - At the Polo Ground, the one on 155th Street, the clubhouses and the New york Giant's front office were in the center field. The field was shaped like a horseshoe fence popped-up close down the lines and mile and half to center.

Willie Mays 1954 World Series CatchTwin staircases led the ballplayers from deepest center up the clubhouse entrances. The clubhouse wall was 60 feet high. Three stories, no one hit a ball over it. in fact, no ball ever struck the clubhouse wall on the fly. Up top over clubhouse, Giant owner Horace Stoneham had a private office, were he'd occasionally drink till dawn with his thirsty sports writer friends and wake hour later to the painful sounds of batting practice.

From the grandstand looking out toward center, fans could see faces looking out the window that formed the unreachable straightaway center wall. It was just to the right field side of the alley leading back to the clubhouse steps, that Willie Mays made the greatest catches. Hard to believe, we know one thing for sure. Our greatest living ballplayer never made one more important.

The catch, a proper noun, it in all likelihood saved the Giants Game One in the 1954 World Series. May's New York Giants vs. Cleveland Indians. The score was tied 2-2 in the top of the eighth inning, men on first ans second, Vic Wetrz at the plate, Don Liddle on the mound, Wertz hit low drive to straightaway center. Mays turned his back to home plate and dashed toward the center field bleacher. A study of the film shows that Mays sneaks one peak over his shoulder but never breaks stride, and the ball comes over hs head as May makes a two hand catch in from of him.

Willie Mays 1954 World Series Catch GloveWillie Mays' Glove: Where triple goes to die. Mays was about 460 feet from the plate, he must have started running for the place where the ball was going to come down while Liddle was still in the middle of his windup. And he was cruising at the end, he probably would have made the Cach even if he hadn't been wearing a glove.

Of course, it wouldn't have been Mays if had hadn't flown off. There was no time for Mys to congratulate himself for his spectacular play. He had a tagging up runner to worry about and he was a long way from the infield. Mays made The Catch and whirled to make The Throw, all in one motion. The Throw was a strike to second base, which prevented Larry Doby from scoring.

Track and field records are broken every day, all athletics have improved greatly over the past 45 years. Could today's slick young outfielder make The Catch routinely? We'll never know, there is no such thing as 460 feet from home plate anymore. In most park that'll put you four, five rows deep in the parking lot. The devaluation of the homer has limited our ability to measure an outfielder's skills.