Sport: Baseball (MLB)
Event: 1954 World Series, Game 1, New York Giants vs. Cleveland Indians
Date: Sep. 29, 1954
Location: Polo Grounds, New York, New York
Photographer: Frank Hurley
Original source: New York Daily News
Bottom line: In today’s baseball game, basket catches are uncommon but not unexpected. But in the mid-1950s, no one had ever seen anything like it. And Willie Mays pulled it off in the eighth inning of a World Series game.
Playing in shallow center field, the ball was hit 420 feet, and Mays had to sprint with his back to home plate. That batted ball would be a home run in any of today’s MLB ballparks, but stadiums were more spacious back then.
With no chance of catching the ball using the traditional over-the-head grab, Mays was forced to basket catch it, and he then quickly spun around and threw the ball to the infield to hold the runners on base.
The game was tied at the time, and the Giants went on to win in extra innings before sweeping the Indians.