Most current Giants fans are aware of Kevin Mitchell’s
bare-handed catch against the Cardinals in St. Louis
during the 1989 season. It was an impressive
glove-less grab of a long foul ball off the bat of Ozzie Smith.
But the catch was made in foul territory.
So, when I came across these comments by Giants’ manager Bill
Rigney to the press in 1958 about a catch Willie Mays
made in 1957 against the Pirates, my jaw dropped in disbelief…
“Willie Mays is the world’s greatest athlete,” said Rigney.
“He is that today, and he was just that in 1956 and
1957. His motions are so smooth; I even get a kick out
of the silky way he puts on his coat. He is the only man
I know who can win a game for you in every department
of the game, except pitching. They talk about his
impossible catches. In 1957 we were leading Pittsburgh by a
couple of runs in the late innings and the Pirates loaded
the bases. Roberto Clemente smashed one that should
have been a triple. No other center fielder in the National
League could have gotten that ball; I swear it, but we
know Willie. We watched him start the chase to his right.
We waited for him to punch the glove, his instinctive
signal that he’s got it. We waited some more. It was a
tremendous wallop and I groaned to myself, ‘Dammit,
there goes another ball game.’ But hold it! To this minute
I don’t know how but Willie got there except he didn’t
have time or room to put out his gloved hand. Know what
he did? He reached up with his bare hand and clutched
it for the out.
“Amazing is right! After that stunner to retire the side,
Willie trotted to the dugout where he placed the ball in
my hand. He smiled just a little bit, from the corners, and
he said, ‘Here’s something for you, skipper.’
“Can you blame me,” Rigney exulted, “if I say Mays is
Not at all skip.