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If you like Willie Mays's story, you might also like:
Hank Aaron,
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar,
Yogi Berra,
Julius Erving,
Frank M. Johnson,
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Willie Mays
Willie Mays
Profile of Willie Mays Biography of Willie Mays Interview with Willie Mays Willie Mays Photo Gallery

Willie Mays Interview (page: 6 / 8)

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  Willie Mays

Tell us about the famous catch you made in the 1954 World Series.

Willie Mays: People talk about that catch and, I've said this many times, that I've made better catches than that many times in regular season. But of course in my time, you didn't have a lot of television during the regular season. A lot of people didn't see me do a lot of things.

Willie Mays Interview Photo
Willie Mays Interview Photo

I think the key to that particular play was the throw. I knew I had the ball all the time. In my mind, because I was so cocky at that particular time when I was young, whatever went in the air I felt that I could catch. That's how sure I would be about myself. When the ball went up I had no idea that I wasn't going to catch the ball. As I'm running -- I'm running backwards and I'm saying to myself, "How am I going to get this ball back into the infield?" I got halfway out. As I'm catching the ball I said, "I know how I'm going to do it." I said, "You stop..." -- I'm visualizing this as I'm running. It's hard to tell people that -- what I'm doing as I'm running. I know people say, "You can't do all that and catch a ball." I said, "Well, that's what I was doing. Okay?" I was running, I was running. I'm saying to myself, "How am I going to get this ball back in the infield? "So now as I catch the ball -- if you watch the film close -- I catch the ball, I stop immediately, I make a U-turn. Now if I catch the ball and run and turn around -- Larry Doby which is on second, Al Rosen on first -- Larry can score from second. Because Larry told me -- I didn't see this, Larry had told me many times -- "I was just about home when you caught the ball, I had to go back to second and tag up and then go to third." So he would have scored very easily. So I said, well -- as I'm running, I've got to stop and make a complete turn. You watch the film and you'll see what I'm talking about. I stopped very quickly, made a U-turn, and when I threw the ball I'm facing the wall when the ball is already in the infield. So when you talk about the catch, more things went into the play than the catch. The throw was the most important thing because only one guy advanced, and that was Larry, from second to third. Al was still on first. And that was the key. To me it was the whole World Series.

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Do you think that was your greatest catch?

Willie Mays: I made a catch in Ebbets Field, off of a guy by the name of Bobby Morgan. And it was in the tenth inning, bases loaded, a ball was hit over the shortstop -- on the line -- over the shortstop. Now you've got to visualize this. Over the shortstop. I go and catch the ball in the air. I'm in the air like this, parallel. I catch the ball, I hit the fence. Ebbets Field was so short that if you run anywhere you're going to hit a fence. So I catch the fence, knock myself out. And, the first guy that I saw -- there were two guys -- when I open my eyes, was Leo and Jackie. And I'm saying to myself, "Why is Jackie out here?" Jackie came to see if I caught the ball, and Leo came to see about me. So I'm saying to myself, "This guy is thinking very cool." I'm talking about Jackie, now. He wasn't even on the field, he was in the dugout. Now this is my thinking, he may have a different reason. That was my best catch, I think. It was off of Bobby Morgan in Ebbets Field. I caught a lot of balls bare handed, which I felt was good, but that was my best catch I think.

What about the great catch in the All-Star Game?

Willie Mays: That wasn't hard. That was a long fly ball. That was just a "time catch." You know what a "time catch" is? It's like when you're riding. You ride it in slow motion, then you pick up the speed. I knew I could catch it if it stayed in the ball park, but it was just going over the fence. That wasn't a hard play, it was just a time catch.

What were some of your other favorite plays?

Willie Mays: I made a catch in Yorktown that -- they had a little-bitty fence. It wasn't a fence, it was a canvas. I jumped the fence. As I'm jumping, I catch the ball as I'm falling over. It was a canvas fence. What made it so hard -- here's the downgrade, and there was a hill that you had to go up, and you had to run up this hill and then you had to catch it over this fence. And then as I'm going up, it made it much easier for me, because as soon as I go up, I continue going up, I kept running, and then I leap. As I'm leaping, I catch the ball -- a line drive -- I catch it over my head and fell over the fence. That's one. Nobody never paid no attention about it because it wasn't a big deal. That was in the minor leagues. Who's going to know about that?

Did you ever misjudge a fly ball?

Willie Mays: I misjudged one in 1971, in Dodger Stadium. Maury Wills hit a ball. I don't know if I misjudged. Maybe I didn't see it. I'm charging in, and the ball hit about 20 feet over my head. Maury Wills knew I could always catch his ball all the time. He gets a triple. He gets on third and he said, "Thank you very much." I missed two fly balls, ten years apart. One was in the Polo Grounds, and one was in Pittsburgh.

What was it like playing against your old team, the Giants, after you were traded to the Mets?

Willie Mays: That was one of the hardest things I ever had to go through. I was traded on a Thursday and they didn't let me play until Sunday, when the Giants came to town. In the seventh or eighth inning I hit a home run.

I get to first base, there's McCovey, he shakes my hand. Now I got to go to second. Now when I leave him I go to second, there's Tito, there's Chris. They both get in my path, for touching second base. When I get to second they said, "Chico, what's happening with you? Sit here and talk to us for a minute." I said, "Man, get out of here." Now my legs started getting wobbly because I'm realizing who I'm playing against. So I get to third, there's a kid named Al Gallagher, we call him Dirty Al. And he gets there, he throws dirt on me. Now, I get to third and look in the dugout, not in the Mets dugout, in the Giants dugout, and they're all clapping. So now I said to myself, from third base to home plate, that's a long ways. And my knees start shaking and I'd never shaken in baseball in my life. So now I started running, but I'm not running. I'm like, "When am I going to get to home plate?" I get to home plate, and Tom Haller is there, and he shakes my hand. Now I began to make a right, like going to the visiting club. I said, "Hold it! Wait a minute!" I thought right away. I had to make the right and I had to go behind the umpire and go over to the Mets dugout. I'm saying to myself, I don't know how I got round that. A writer asked me the same thing you asked me, "How did it feel?" I couldn't explain that it was so exciting to do that and have so many guys love you the way they did. I didn't think I could get through with that.

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This page last revised on Dec 06, 2013 13:13 EDT
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