The Catch still amazes

It's hard to believe that it's been 50 years since Willie Mays made The Catch.

Originally Published: September 29, 2004
By Joe Morgan | Special to ESPN.com

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It's hard to believe that it's been 50 years since a young center fielder named Willie Mays made The Catch.

Willie Mays
Willie Mays tracked down this ball to make The Catch in the '54 World Series.
I didn't see The Catch on television -- I was only 11 years old -- but I've seen the replay of it many times.

In Game 1 of the 1954 World Series, Vic Wertz of the favored Cleveland Indians hit a drive deep to center field at the Polo Grounds, where center stretched 483 feet, and the 23-year-old Mays ran it down at the warning track. It was the eighth inning of a 2-2 game, and there were no outs.

After the New York Giants won Game 1 in 10 innings, they went on to sweep the mighty Indians, who had won 111 games that season (then an AL record).

On his Top Ten this week, ESPN anchor Chris Berman said it was the greatest catch ever. I don't agree with that, though, because Mays told me it wasn't the best catch he had made. But it was in the spotlight of the World Series, where everything is magnified.

Mays told me that he made two or three regular-season catches that were better than The Catch ... but they weren't made in October or on national TV. So it's fair to say it's the best catch ever in the World Series, but I don't think it's the best catch ever -- in fact, I know it isn't, based on what Mays has said.

Here's what impresses me the most about Mays' play: He told me he knew he was going to catch the ball all along.

Mays said his main thought was getting the ball back to the infield, because there were no outs and runners were on first and second. So his main concern wasn't whether he'd catch it but how he'd get the ball back in, since he was running so fast to straightaway center. As it turned out, Mays was able to turn immediately and throw the ball toward second base (holding the baserunner at first, while the baserunner at second advanced to third).

That's impressive to me -- he was thinking of how to execute his next move even as he ran the ball down.

Mays told me that he made two or three regular-season catches that were better than
The Catch.
The Catch is definitely the most magnified play in World Series history. It's the greatest postseason catch I can recall. When speaking of defensive plays, it's the one we put on a pedestal, and rightfully so.

Remember, though, that great plays were made before television and before SportsCenter ... but we didn't see them.

I've seen some great plays on Web Gems highlights made by both outfielders and infielders, yet I saw similar plays made in my playing days that didn't get the same notoriety because there was less media attention then.

So let's call The Catch the greatest postseason play we've ever seen. As amazing as it was, I'm not surprised that Mays made The Catch, because I've always felt that he's the greatest player in baseball history.

Morgan chat wrap -- ESPN baseball analyst Joe Morgan stopped by on Oct. 1 for an ESPN.com chat.

An analyst for ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball, Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan won back-to-back MVP awards with the Reds in 1975 and '76 (the Reds won the World Series both years).