OK.. In an earlier post I had Bill Rigney’s description of a bare-handed catch Willie Mays made against the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1957. Here’s another witness to Willie’s amazin’ catch from 1957 teammate, Whitey Lockman.
Lockman played for the Giants from 1945-1958, and was a Giants coach from 1961-1964. He also coached for the Reds and managed the Cubs from 1972-1974. He also worked in the front office for the Cubs, Expos, and Marlins :
“When Mays joined us in May it didn’t take long to realize that he was something special. His athletic ability was the thing that impressed me initially. And, as you may recall, he didn’t tear it up offensively right away. But his defensive abilities – his quickness, his coordination, his reflexes, the way he played center field, the way he ran the bases – oh my God, I had never seen anything like it. He was that outstanding. And by that time I had been around the big leagues five or six years and had seen some pretty good ball players.
Everybody talks about the catch Mays made in the series off Vic Wertz but it wasn’t his greatest catch. He made a bare-handed catch once in Pittsburgh that was astounding, off Roberto Clemente, in deep left center. A line drive. He stuck up his right hand. Remember the play Kevin Mitchell made a few years ago? It was better than that. Mitchell’s was a foul ball, a fly ball in the left field corner. But Mays” was a shot off Clemente’s bat in left-center. I mean it was going, and Mays was racing, with his back to everything, and reached up with his right hand and caught it. I thought, oh, my God, that’s not human.
Mays was the best player I ever saw. No question. None. I can’t say nobody came close. But I’m talking about five things that a position player can do –hit, hit with power, field, run, and throw. I’ve never seen anybody do all those things as well as Mays. I’ve seen some guys do one of them, maybe, better. You know what I mean? I’ve seen better hitters than Willie. But I’ve never seen anybody do all those things as well, and as consistently, as Willie.”