|Friday, May 4
Updated: May 7, 4:07 PM ET
Top 10 plays of all time
By Jayson Stark
And now, the rest of the top 10:
2. Devon White's catch
Had the play ended there, it would have been great enough. But White bounced off the fence, turned and fired the ball back to the infield for what should have been a triple play. Except second-base umpire Bob Davidson blew the call as Deion Sanders was tagged by third baseman Kelly Gruber just before diving back into second base. The next day, after seeing the replay, Davidson admitted he'd gotten it wrong.
It would have been the first triple play in a World Series since Bill Wambsganss, in 1920. So had Davidson gotten the call correct, there would be a reverance for this play far exceeding its current stature.
Scully's call: "Justice swings and a drive to center. Going back is Devon White. To the walllll ... Leaps in the air. And makes a circus catch. Pendleton has passed the runner at first. So he's automatically out. Now, on a throw to (second), they have Deion Sanders hung up. He dives -- but he just got back, just avoiding a triple play."
3. Brooks Robinson robs Lee May
Sixth inning. Tie game. No outs. Nobody on. May led off the inning with a sizzling one-hopper that whizzed over the bag fair, then hooked into foul territory on the way to the left-field corner. Until the great Brooksie got in the way.
Robinson didn't even dive. He came from fair territory, at the back of the infield dirt, all the way across the line. He lunged. He made an impossible backhanded catch. Then he did a wheeling 180 and somehow got enough on a one-hop throw to first to beat May by half a step.
Robinson went on to make about eight plays worthy of anyone's highlight reel, won the Series MVP award and got a new car from Sport Magazine out of it. To which Johnny Bench said: "If he wanted a car that badly, we'd have given him one."
Robinson robbed Bench three times in the Series -- including a Game 3 play that Curt Gowdy called this way: "Would you believe THAT? This guy's in another world."
4. Gionfriddo robs DiMaggio
Without the play Dodgers backup outfielder Al Gionfriddo made in Game 6 of the 1947 Series, only the Gionfriddo family would know he ever played in the majors. Instead, his moment still lives on, more than half a century later.
Game 6. Sixth inning. Dodgers leading 8-5, but trailing the Yankees in the Series, 3 games to 2. Gionfriddo had just gone in to play defense to start the inning. Then, with two on and two outs, the great Joe DiMaggio hit what appeared to be a game-tying three-run homer.
But just before the ball would have disappeared over the fence into the left-field bullpen, Gionfriddo snatched it out of the sky with a twisting one-handed catch, his cap flying as he spun. The scene of DiMaggio kicking the dirt in frustration is one of the enduring Series film clips of all time.
Gionfriddo never played another game in the big leagues. But his contribution to modern American sports culture is this: When Chris Berman does those back-back-back-back calls, he is paying homage to Red Barber's famed call of Gionfriddo's catch:
"Swing -- and belted to deep left-center. Back goes Gionfriddo. Back, back, back, back, back, back. He makes a one-handed catch against the bullpen. Whoaaahhhh, doctor."
5. Sandy Amoros' catch
Game 7. Sixth inning. The Dodgers led, 2-0, and were 12 outs from their first Series title. But the Yankees put two on, with no one out. As Yogi Berra came to the plate, Dodgers manager Walter Alston motioned Amoros, playing left field, to shade toward right. But Berra sliced a ball toward the left-field corner that had the look of a game-tying two-run double.
But Amoros sprinted toward the corner, grabbed the ball with his glove hand as it crossed the foul line, then whirled and doubled a stunned Gil McDougald off first.
The play preserved Johnny Podres' fabled Game 7 shutout. But it also preserved the place of an otherwise-nondescript man named Sandy Amoros in baseball history.
"What made Amoros' catch great," Scully said, "was that he caught it on the dead run, one-handed, with his arm extended. If he hadn't been left-handed, he wouldn't have caught it. And if he hadn't caught it, the Dodgers might never have won a World Series in Brooklyn."
6. Walt Weiss' miracle
It wasn't a World Series. Only the '99 Division Series. But in a game between the Braves and Astros that stretched out over 12 pulsating innings and nearly 4½ draining hours, the defining moment came in the bottom of the 10th inning of Game 3, courtesy of a man who didn't even start.
The Astros, a team that had never won a postseason series, loaded the bases with no outs. In stomped John Rocker to get a force at the plate for one out. But then, with the infield still in, Tony Eusebio smoked a rocket through the middle that was clearly going to win the game and give the Astros a 2-1 series lead.
Except Weiss somehow lunged, gloved it and -- as his glove was falling off and he was toppling to the ground himself -- put the throw home right into Eddie Perez's mitt for the second out.
Chipper Jones' grateful review: "I still can't believe Walt Weiss made that play. That's the greatest play I've ever seen."
7. Williams robs Kiner
It came in the 1950 All-Star Game. First inning. Ralph Kiner hitting. Kiner crunched a long fly ball to left. Williams made a leaping catch, thunked against the wall at Comiskey Park and fractured his elbow.
He then stayed in the game until the eighth inning, even driving in the run that put the American League up, 3-2. That was the good news.
The bad news was, he didn't play again until Sept. 15 (and drove in 97 runs that year anyway). But the Red Sox faded to third place, despite scoring 1,000 runs.
Williams later said he knew he'd hurt himself the moment he hit the wall but didn't think it was serious until the next day:
"I held the elbow in my lap on the flight to Boston, and felt every bump on the ride through Sumner Tunnel," he told the Boston Herald's George Sullivan in 1999. "Every bounce, I let out a yelp. The next morning I went to Fenway and (trainer) Jack Fadden took one look and sent me to the hospital for X-rays. Pretty soon two doctors came out, looking serious as hell, and one said, 'It's serious, very serious. We've got to operate.' That hit me like a bomb."
8. Dwight Evans saves 'The greatest game ever'
Game 6, 1975 World Series. Bernie Carbo had already hit his celebrated game-tying pinch homer. Midnight was approaching. And the Reds were batting in the top of the 11th inning.
With one out and Ken Griffey Sr. on first base, Joe Morgan thumped a long line drive to right that easily could have been the Reds' version of Carlton Fisk's homer. But Evans wouldn't let that happen.
The ball was hit directly over his head, so it was extremely tough to track. But Evans made a remarkable lunging catch at the wall, then unleashed his bionic throwing arm to double Griffey off first, end the inning and make Fisk's golden moment possible.
Evans' recollection: "It was gone if I didn't get it. I was playing him deep, and when the ball was hit, I didn't think I had a chance. But I had to give it my best shot. I think it was a row or two up in the stands. I turned around to see where I was and just stabbed it."
9. Sam Rice's catch
Game 3. Eighth inning. Senators leading the Pirates, 4-3, with the Series tied at a game apiece. Pirates catcher Earl Smith hit a long fly ball to right-center field, where temporary stands had been set up to provide seating for more spectators at packed Griffith Stadium in Washington.
After a long run, Rice planted at the wall, jumped and appeared to catch the ball as he literally fell into the laps of the fans in the temporary bleachers. For 15 seconds, there was no signal from the umpires, and Rice remained tangled up in the crowd. Then he climbed back onto the field and held up the ball. Whereupon Smith was ruled out. And the Pirates might still be complaining.
Did he catch it or not? Eventually, Rice decided to mail a letter to the Hall of Fame -- to be opened only after his death, nearly a half-century after the catch itself. When the letter was opened in 1974, Rice had written: "At no time did I lose possession of the ball."
10. The 'real' greatest Mays catch
And Vin Scully, who was there for that one, too, will testify he's right.
"The Giants were playing the Dodgers at Ebbetts Field," Scully remembers. "The Giants were ahead by one run. Two outs. Bottom of the ninth. Bases loaded. And Bobby Morgan, the young third baseman for the Dodgers, hit a high line drive to the gap in left-center field.
"Your first thought was that it was an extra-base hit, and the Dodgers were going to win it. But Mays went racing to the warning track, which was made of gravel in those days, and made a diving, full-extension catch as the ball was sinking.
"Then, after the catch, he bounced on his chest, right into the base of the concrete wall, and knocked himself unconscious. He rolled over on his chest, then laid there on the gravel. So Henry Thompson, who was playing left, came over and held the glove up with the ball inside. And only then did they signal Morgan was out.
"And that," Scully says, "was the greatest single play I have ever seen."
But it wasn't a play made on the World Series stage. Few other people saw it. And it hasn't been shown a billion times in the last 50 years. So that catch has faded into just a few memory banks. And it's The Catch that lives on.
So maybe it wasn't the greatest play ever. Maybe it wasn't even Mays' greatest play ever. It was a play that somehow transcended its time and its place and transformed itself into a real-life fairy tale.
We believe in this fairy tale. And sometimes, that's all that matters.
Aw heck. Send in your own by going to the "Greatest defensive plays" message board. We'd love to hear them all.