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Bob Feller on Willie Mays' catch in the '54 Series: "Meh"

Apr 15, 2010, 5:45 PM EDT

Willie Mays catch.jpgI missed this last week, but my buddy Vince Grzegorek pointed me to a two-part interview of Bob Feller from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which the living legend disses Willie Mays’ amazing catch of Vic Wertz’s fly ball in the 1954 World Series:

PD: The 1954 World Series?

BF: The first thing that comes to mind has to be the Dusty Rhodes’
bloop home run.
PD: Not the Willie Mays catch against Vic Wertz?

BF: A lot of center fielders could have caught the ball Mays caught.
He put on the act pretty good; he always did. He let his hat fly off,
then threw the ball back to the infield. The ball was hit into a small
wind. The ball came down like a popup. He was playing shallow, but Vic
Wertz was the hitter, so he should not have been playing shallow.

PD: So you’re not impressed by the catch.

BF: Not at all. Not at all.

Feller has a habit of saying arguably impolitic things about famous stuff that happened during his heyday. I still can’t get over the fact that, when asked about Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech a couple of years ago Feller said “He’s wrong. I am. I’m still alive.”  Yikes. But you know what? When 91 years-old you reach, so opinionated you shall be too.

As for the catch, many people think of Mays’ play as the stuff of legend. But Feller was there and didn’t view the thing through newsreel nostalgia. I’ve watched the catch as objectively as possible and I still think it’s great, but it’s probably worth listening to Feller about this. I’ll grant that maybe he still harbors some resentment over his heavily-favored Indians team losing that Series, but it’s also possible that he saw that catch a little bit differently — and a little more realistically — than the rest of us did.

  1. Jeff - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:04 PM

    Bob Feller: Still a jackass.
    Captcha: backside picked

  2. TC - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:11 PM

    Always liked Mays’ throw back better than the catch itself.
    For sheer acrobatics, though, Endy Chavez’ catch for the Mutts a few years ago in the playoffs is probably the best I’ve ever seen.

  3. JE - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:25 PM

    Craig, do you think that the catch is viewed in such a mythical light in part because it is perhaps the first great postseason catch shown on live television?

  4. JE - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    By the way, Feller’s quotes are awesome!

  5. mgflolox - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:27 PM

    FWIW, Willie himself wasn’t all that impressed with the catch either. If you look closely at the replay, you can see him tap his glove as he’s running back for the ball. He knew he had it all the way,

  6. Floyd - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:43 PM

    I have to admit, I’m largely with Feller on this one. I’ve always been a little underwhelmed by that catch. He WAS out of position, and beyond that, if he could reach the ball without diving, then it wasn’t THAT hard to get to it.
    I think it’s a very good catch, no question. And the throw after makes it better. But I’ve seen this referred to as the greatest defensive play in baseball history. And I don’t see it.

  7. Ryan - Apr 15, 2010 at 6:56 PM

    I love Bob Feller. Mays was a great player yes, and it was a great play, but I think events like this erroneously become the stuff of legends through outside influences, media probably. If Monte Irvin or Don Mueller had made that catch, would we be talking about it still?

  8. The Common Man - Apr 15, 2010 at 7:17 PM

    Heresy! To the rack with you all!
    recaptcha: Heinz still (as opposed to Hunt’s, I suppose)

  9. wpcorbett - Apr 15, 2010 at 7:46 PM

    Mays always said he “had it all the way.” The more impressive feat was the throw–spinning 180 without taking a step, firing about a 450-foot strike to prevent Doby from scoring from second.
    That said, Feller has been an old fart since he was 26, when he said Jackie Robinson would never make it. Feller was the Lebron James of his time and then some, because when he made the majors at 17 baseball had no competition as the dominant sport. Probably the largest ego–and one of the greatest players–in history.

  10. sklein11 - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:19 PM

    Feller is a miserable old bastard, and before that he was a miserable young bastard. He may be right about May’s catch, but only in the stopped clock sense.

  11. RobRob - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    I could understand why a guy full of piss like Bob Feller has always been would be upset about 54 years of hearing about that catch.

    The bigger question from that game is what the hell was Bob Lemon doing at the plate in the top of the 10th with the go-ahead run on 3rd?

  12. sklein11 - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:40 PM

    Having just spoken ill of the man, I read the interview and he wasn’t a miserable old bastard at all. Maybe he’s mellowing.

  13. t ball - Apr 15, 2010 at 8:56 PM

    Nah, Feller is just an ass who can’t stand to have anyone other than himself praised.

  14. upperdeck4 - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:14 PM

    The catch was great; the throw was only arguably better. If you think that the catch was routine, listen to Jack Brickhouse’s call. He tracked it and was amazed. The ball was hit more on a line; read the book by Arnold Hano, A Day in the Bleachers for a good description of the catch. Bobby Feller has always been bitter because, among other things, he never won a WS game, and he was wrong about J. Robinson.

  15. Shawn Moore - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:27 PM

    >The bigger question from that game is what the hell was Bob Lemon doing at the plate in the top of the 10th with the go-ahead run on 3rd?

  16. scatterbrian - Apr 15, 2010 at 9:52 PM

    I agree with the newsreel nostalgia aspect, and think the crowd reaction shot after the catch adds to it. That one guy leaning backward dumbfounded with his hand on top of his head is just as much a part of that play in my memories of watching it.
    I also agree with what JE said above. It was basically the first Web Gem.
    reCaptcha: removing $100,000 – yay Tax Day.

  17. Ron - Apr 16, 2010 at 4:36 AM

    If you want to use a replay of a call in a play-off game as proof that something was great, I’ll refer you to Chip Carey and the Minnesota Twins, courtesey of last’s year play-in game.
    Emotion does not make for a great play. The physical aspect of it does.
    It was a 445 foot fly ball, in a park with the biggest centerfield in the game. What made it great wasn’t the catch. Wilie Mays was known for basket catches. What made it great was, as others have said, the distance he had to go to get there, and the throw.
    It did, however, provide one of the great baseball stories of all time. Don Liddle was a lefty pitcher brought in to face Vic Wertz. He gave up the long fly that Mays caught, and then was replaced by another pitcher when a righthanded batter came into the game.
    Liddle goes to the bench, throws his gove down, and says, “Well, I got my guy”.

  18. packer baseball - Apr 16, 2010 at 6:11 AM

    Jim Edmonds catch was the greatest catch ever.

  19. izzy - Apr 16, 2010 at 9:35 AM

    I guess that Feller is still bitter about losing the 54 WS., and I think he is wrong about the catch – it was a great catch and throw -one of the best in WS history.
    Thing is, Mays made better catches All the time – every year he made crazy catches and made great throws – he once threw out a guy at home plate from over 400 feet away.!

  20. izzy - Apr 16, 2010 at 9:40 AM

    Feller probably is still bitter about losing that WS…the Indians were heavily favored and the Giants swept them. Mays’ catch and throw was one of the best in WS history. The incredible thing is Mays probably has 15-20 catches that were better – every year he was making crazy catches and throws – one year he threw a guy out at the plate from over 400 feet !

  21. pedro - Apr 16, 2010 at 6:01 PM

    so of all the catches made in the hstory of teh outfield this is teh best? please. Ichiro made a better catch last week…

  22. RONALD K. MARSH - Apr 21, 2010 at 10:59 AM

    Feller is racist scum bag, like Alvin Dark, Dixie Walker, Casey Stengel, Bobby Bragen, Andy Pafko,and Eddie Stanky. There are many more that come that don’t come to mind now, but all these people antaginosed Jackie Robinson. None of them should even be mention has ball players!!!!!!

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