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Monday, March 20, 2017

Ranking top 10 homer-stealing catches

When I was a kid—and maybe you used to do something like this, too—we would practice making home run-robbing catches. It wasn’t exactly authentic. The walls were chain-link fences, and they were probably no more than four-feet high. And these weren’t actual home runs we were saving but were, instead, thrown balls. The idea was to throw the ball high enough to clear the chain-link fence and potentially end up in the Zepkin’s yard (where it might end up in the Zepkin granary of lost baseballs) but low enough to be caught by a fantastic play.


——————-


What we found was that the key to an amazing home run saving catch is ... timing. I don’t mean timing on the fielder’s part, though that is certainly a part of it. No, I’m talking about overall timing. Everything has to be just right. The ball has to be hit at exactly the right launch angle. The fielder has to be in exactly the right position and get exactly the right kind of jump on the ball. A great home run catch is a perfect storm, precise clockwork. It’s a little miracle, really.

cardsfanboy Posted: March 20, 2017 at 03:40 PM | 39 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: homerun robbing catches, joe posnanski

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   1. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 20, 2017 at 09:44 PM (#5420340)
I have no problem with the Chavez catch being ranked number one. The reasoning is perfect for why it's there.

However, I'm pretty sure that one of the greatest forgotten catches was by Devon White.
No, not the World Series one (TRIPLE PLAY, goddamnit!), but one he made less than two weeks before the baseball strike in 1994.

Look at how far ABOVE and BEHIND the wall White is when his glove makes contact with the ball.

Jays fans talk about Rajai Davis' or Kevin Pillar's home-run stealing catches as the best by Blue Jays, but White's is FAR more amazing.

P.S. I'd love to know the StatCast numbers for the distance/speed/time that White had for this catch. It doesn't involve a dive or a leap, but sweet jeebus that's a long run. I've fallen down the Devon White YouTube hole and I can't escape...
   2. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 20, 2017 at 10:12 PM (#5420349)
I still think Mays in the '54 World Series belongs in any top 10 list of catches.

First, the context: 2 on, nobody out, top of the 8th, game tied, the Indians pitching in complete control. If Mays doesn't make that catch, the Indians are ahead 4-2 with a runner on third, nobody out, and the Giants on the ropes. It was only the first game of the Series, but the momentum of the entire Series was completely turned around. In that respect, it was fully the equal of Kirk Gibson's home run, which was also in the first game of that World Series.

Second, the catch itself: Mays himself downplayed it, but unlike those catches in the videos, Mays had to turn his back fully to the ball, take his eye off the ball while he ran back, and make a perfectly timed over the shoulder catch without having been able to follow the ball every step of the way. He didn't have to leap, but 99% of Major League outfielders either never reach that ball or they put their glove out in the wrong place, and the ball bounces off the glove and falls in safely.
   3. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 20, 2017 at 10:20 PM (#5420352)
I still think Mays in the '54 World Series belongs in any top 10 list of catches.


This was a list of home-run-stealing catches. Mays catch is definitely one of the top 10, but it wouldn't qualify in this list (unless there was no outfield fence and the ball just kept rolling and rolling...
   4. Mefisto Posted: March 20, 2017 at 10:38 PM (#5420356)
If Mays didn't make that catch, there's a good chance Wertz would've had an inside the park HR.
   5. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 20, 2017 at 11:05 PM (#5420367)
Thanks for the Devo links, RTG.

Devon steals 2nd, 3rd, and home
   6. villainx Posted: March 20, 2017 at 11:42 PM (#5420376)
I can only imagine the spike in Baseball Ref for Devon's page following the great links.
   7. Obo Posted: March 20, 2017 at 11:47 PM (#5420377)
I was looking for that Devon White catch in the article. Thanks for posting the link, RTG. As I recall White was acting all nonchalant afterwards but then he put his glove up to his face and the cameras caught a reverse-angle view of him making a "wow" face at one of the other Jays fielders.
   8. Misirlou doesn't live in the restaurant Posted: March 20, 2017 at 11:54 PM (#5420379)
I can only imagine the spike in Baseball Ref for Devon's page following the great links.


Guilty. I was recalling a Bill James essay comparing White's 1991 to Cecil Fielder's. Fielder, after leading the majors in HR and RBI for a second straight year, famously grumped about losing the MVP to Cal Ripken (who had of course, one of the great modern seasons). James, never one to pick the low hanging fruit, went on to show that not only was Fielder less valuable than Ripken, but he was less valuable than White. And he was convincing, and 20 or so years later, WAR proved him correct, as White had a 6.2, Fielder a 3.7.
   9. Rennie's Tenet Posted: March 21, 2017 at 12:02 AM (#5420382)
Is Mays' s catch over Bonds in 1970 not over the fence, or did it just not get included on the list?
   10. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 21, 2017 at 12:08 AM (#5420385)
The absence from the list of Sam Rice's catch, only the most famous defensive play in the first 50 years of the sport and the only one which retained an air of mystery a full 50 years later, is disappointing.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 21, 2017 at 12:24 AM (#5420391)
And on the list of all-time homer saving catches, Derrick Salberg's is pretty damn high, particularly given the context. It was the final out, turning what would have been a walk-off loss into a win, in a tournament game, thus extending his retiring manager's career by at least one game.
   12. PreservedFish Posted: March 21, 2017 at 12:57 AM (#5420397)

Jays fans talk about Rajai Davis' or Kevin Pillar's home-run stealing catches as the best by Blue Jays, but White's is FAR more amazing.


Each of those guys had enough just time to do that stutter step thing and line up his magnificent leap, and each caught the ball near his physical limit. I don't see a really big difference between them. They're all tremendous.

I can't tell if Matthews Jr's amazing basket catch (#2 on the list) is the result of an imperfect route, or if it was somehow actually the best way to catch the ball. I'd watch it again but I keep having to watch a 15 second commercial for beet chips.
   13. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: March 21, 2017 at 01:08 AM (#5420401)
I can't tell if Matthews Jr's amazing basket catch (#2 on the list) is the result of an imperfect route, or if it was somehow actually the best way to catch the ball.


I don't think the route was perfect, but the way he caught the ball allowed for greater reach compared with the much backhanded play.
   14. Ardo Posted: March 21, 2017 at 03:19 AM (#5420413)
It was an inconsequential game (and a Brewers loss), but I was lucky enough to see this grab by Carlos Gomez in person.
   15. Lassus Posted: March 21, 2017 at 08:28 AM (#5420430)
I can think of no bittersweet memory that is more bitter, even this morning, than Endy's catch. Even reading about someone else reading about it causes me to make a face like I'm caught in a warehouse full of 10,000 tons of years-old chocolate.


I'm glad Wise's catch made it. I might have put that #1.

I thought Jones' catch the other day was obviously great, but it really didn't strike me as an all-timer.
   16. Mefisto Posted: March 21, 2017 at 08:49 AM (#5420437)
@9: It was over the fence. It should be on any list.
   17. Don August(us) Cesar Geronimo Berroa Posted: March 21, 2017 at 09:14 AM (#5420442)
No mention of Eric Davis... sigh...

I distinctly remember him robbing Jack Clark of a couple of home runs (not in the same game, but, the same series). I can never find video of them though.
   18. Scott Lange Posted: March 21, 2017 at 09:56 AM (#5420463)
Was that Edmonds catch at the SABR game during the SABR convention in Cincinnati? If so, I was there, and it was right in front of us in the SABR section. I definitely remember it being an over-the-wall catch, which ticked me off because it seemed unfair to have a player I despised pull that sort of stunt right in front of me, but I had no idea it was a memorable catch on a historic level. I was travelling for the convention, so I probably never saw a replay, and never really understood it from the larger perspective- just saw a glove appear from behind the fence and catch the ball.
   19. Scott Lange Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:12 AM (#5420476)
OK, having watched them all now, I think I agree with Chavez at #1. Its right up there with the Kerry Wood home run, also in game 7 of the NLCS, in terms of greatest moments in baseball history that were reduced to a footnote when the wrong team won the game. The Carlton Fisk home run too, maybe, although their loss came the next day.
   20. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:14 AM (#5420479)
I still think Mays in the '54 World Series belongs in any top 10 list of catches.

This was a list of home-run-stealing catches. Mays catch is definitely one of the top 10, but it wouldn't qualify in this list (unless there was no outfield fence and the ball just kept rolling and rolling...


Well, with Vic Wertz running the bases it probably would've been only a triple, but with most runners that 483' CF would've been more than enough distance for an inside the park homer.

OTOH you were right to point out the distinction, since even if Wertz had been able to circle the bases this would've qualified as a homer-stealing catch only on a technicality.
   21. Barry`s_Lazy_Boy Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:15 AM (#5420481)
Is Mays' s catch over Bonds in 1970 not over the fence, or did it just not get included on the list?

No mention of Eric Davis... sigh... I can never find video of them though.

I think a good video clip of the play determines whether or not it makes a modern list.
   22. Mefisto Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:26 AM (#5420491)
There's video of Mays' catch over Bonds here.
   23. Morty Causa Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:29 AM (#5420494)
One of my most memorable and beautiful home run snatch-catches used to be a highlight on the old NBC Game of the Week intro. This was in the late '70s. It was a catch made by Fred Lynn. As I remember, a ball is tagged hard, and Lynn turns his back to the oncoming ball, running full blast toward the fence, maybe taking one look back. When he gets to the fence at full gallop, he continues without breaking stride, gets a toehold up on the fence and goes up as if he is going to climb the fence, then, still not turning around, snatches the ball as it passes over his shoulder and head.
   24. Perry Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:36 AM (#5420502)
@9: It was over the fence. It should be on any list.


Debatable. I think it was going to be just short.
   25. ERROR---Jolly Old St. Nick Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:41 AM (#5420512)
There's no surviving film of it, but the most amazing catch I ever saw in the pre-video age was by Larry Doby against the Nats in 1954. Here's how BB-Reference's Bullpen bio page described the play:

On July 30, 1954, he made what is regarded as one of the greatest catches in Indians history. Playing the Washington Senators, he robbed Tom Umphlett of an apparent game-tying home run by leaping above the fence at Cleveland Municipal Stadium near the 380-foot mark and backhanding the ball with the top of his glove, his torso entirely above the fence. He then came down on the awning above the bullpen located behind the fence, bounced off it and fell back onto the playing field still holding the ball. Left fielder Al Smith raced over and retrieved the ball from the knocked-out Doby's mitt to keep the baserunner from advancing.


Emphasis added. That "knocked-out" was quite literal. Doby was stretched out on the field, temporarily unconscious. How he ever held onto that ball was nothing short of a miracle.
   26. There are no words... (Met Fan Charlie) Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:42 AM (#5420513)
I was in the Shea Stadium bleachers for Endy's catch. My seat was at a stupid angle: Chavez was beneath and essentially behind me. We didn't know what happened until we saw the fans in the LF field boxes start jumping up and down and a guy sitting behind me used his cell to call home and find out.
   27. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 21, 2017 at 10:43 AM (#5420516)
OK, having watched them all now, I think I agree with Chavez at #1. Its right up there with the Kerry Wood home run, also in game 7 of the NLCS, in terms of greatest moments in baseball history that were reduced to a footnote when the wrong team won the game. The Carlton Fisk home run too, maybe, although their loss came the next day.


Dave Henderson, and most especially Alfonso Soriano feel their pain.

Fisk and Hendu and Chavez and Wood get invoked periodically, and not just by their teams' fans. But when's the last time you heard ANYONE mention the (yawn) Game 7, 8th inning, 1-1 pitcher's duel, World Series-winning HR, off clutch god Curt Schilling, that wasn't?
   28. JAHV Posted: March 21, 2017 at 11:05 AM (#5420533)
I love the catch Trout made on Montero, but I still prefer this one for pure majesty and athleticism. Just incredible.

Mike Trout catch
   29. Mefisto Posted: March 21, 2017 at 11:12 AM (#5420541)
Debatable. I think it was going to be just short.


I have still photos of the catch. Mays' entire hand, from the wrist up, is over the fence. Bonds' glove was not high enough to catch the ball.

What makes this incredible is that (a) Bonds was 3" taller than Mays; (b) Bonds was 15 years younger; and (c) Bonds held the CA state record in the long jump at the time. In addition, Mays hit his stomach on Bonds' knee when they came down and had the wind knocked out of him, but held onto the ball.
   30. Joe S. Posted: March 21, 2017 at 11:32 AM (#5420558)
I think this catch by Kevin Kiermaier Kiermaier Catch (coincidentally to rob Machado of a would be homer, very similar to the one stolen by Jones) is much better than the Jones catch. Kiermaier is substantially higher off the ground and fully extended to make this catch.
   31. ESPaul Posted: March 21, 2017 at 01:35 PM (#5420656)
Have always been quite partial to this Lofton catch. You can see the basketball player in him with that hang time. Sounds like Pos considered it.

What a great idea for a piece, by the way.
   32. madvillain Posted: March 21, 2017 at 01:52 PM (#5420666)
I'm glad Wise's catch made it. I might have put that #1.


Was sitting in a cubicle at work with a bunch of baseball fans in NYC when that happened. It was sweet, had most of our department tuned in. Going back to work was difficult.
   33. Ziggy: The Platonic Form of Russell Branyan Posted: March 21, 2017 at 02:48 PM (#5420701)
I was at the game linked in 28. My favorite part about it is how excited Trout was about his own catch. Like he can't believe his own athletic ability. (Us O's fans can't either.)
   34. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 21, 2017 at 03:05 PM (#5420716)
My favorite part about it is how excited Trout was about his own catch. Like he can't believe his own athletic ability.


At that point in his career, I wouldn't have believed it either.

That was halfway through his ROY season. I'm pretty sure that highlight was played at least once a game between innings in every stadium in MLB for the rest of the season.
It's pretty much when he went from "He's really good." to "He's f*cking amazing!" in a lot of fans' minds.

Have always been quite partial to this Lofton catch.


It reminds me of the Pillar catch because of the stutter-step and perfect timing while using the wall as a step.

I think this catch by Kevin Kiermaier Kiermaier Catch (coincidentally to rob Machado of a would be homer, very similar to the one stolen by Jones) is much better than the Jones catch.


And this is exhibit #whatever of why Pillar is only the second best fielding centerfielder in the American League East with the first name Kevin who was drafted after the 30th round.
   35. Random Transaction Generator Posted: March 21, 2017 at 03:10 PM (#5420725)
I was recalling a Bill James essay comparing White's 1991 to Cecil Fielder's. Fielder, after leading the majors in HR and RBI for a second straight year, famously grumped about losing the MVP to Cal Ripken (who had of course, one of the great modern seasons). James, never one to pick the low hanging fruit, went on to show that not only was Fielder less valuable than Ripken, but he was less valuable than White. And he was convincing, and 20 or so years later, WAR proved him correct, as White had a 6.2, Fielder a 3.7.


White led the team in WAR (bbref) in 1991, and led ALL Blue Jays in total WAR for their three-year playoff run (1991-1993).
Yet he's almost always an after thought by Jays fans when talking about those teams (behind Alomar, Carter, Olerud, Molitor, Henderson, Winfield, Stewart, Morris).
   36. Khrushin it bro Posted: March 21, 2017 at 03:20 PM (#5420736)
Josh Reddick made two good catches to rob Morse in spring training one year. The first one especially
   37. Hank G. Posted: March 21, 2017 at 09:40 PM (#5420926)
What a great idea for a piece, by the way.


I guess, but when I saw “Top Ten homer-stealing catches”, I was expecting “spectacular”, not “most crucial”. One of them wasn’t even a catch, and wouldn’t have even been a homer if a fan had not reached into the field of play to catch it. A couple others looked pretty routine (for a ML outfielder). Really, none of them impressed me nearly as much as the Mike Trout catch, where his glove was close to 12 feet above the ground. The fact that Posnanski included it as an honorable mention indicates how spectacular it was, since the game itself was unimportant.
   38. cardsfanboy Posted: March 22, 2017 at 12:37 AM (#5421026)
When I saw this article, there was two catches I was hoping to see, the first and third. I knew the overrated Mathews catch would make it (seriously that catch made him 50mil.... and it was a bad f'ing route)

Beyond that, I think that the situation does matter, and there is a reason why the Endy catch matter the most.
   39. Jose is El Absurd Pollo Posted: March 22, 2017 at 12:47 AM (#5421030)
Haven't read the article or the comments but I'll say the best I ever saw was a game save from Terrence Long of all people. Saved a walk off home run from Manny Ramirez by leaping high above the bullpen wall at Fenway. He covered a ton of ground to get there.

Ends Chavez though, man that was one of the few times I've yelled out loud at home watching a game I had no rooting interest in, that was something else.

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