Willie led the
league by hitting .345. He hit 41 home runs. He knocked in 110 runs. He won the
Most Valuable Player Award. He fielded like only Willie Mays could field.
Take that great
catch off Vic Wertz in the first game of World Series. When the ball was hit, I
hollered, "Stay in the park, he'll catch it." He caught it over his
head, like a ballet dancer. The hardest catch in the world, even for an
infielder. When the ball game was over, Frank Gibbons of the Cleveland Press
said to me, "Leo, that was some great catch."
"Routine," I said.
gathered around me couldn't believe they'd heard me right.
routine. I've seen him make so many catches better than that I knew he had it
all the way."
Aw, come on, they
said. It's got to be the best catch you ever saw. It was the ball game.
I hadn't said it
wasn't a great catch. I hadn't said it wasn't the ball game. All I'd said was
that it was a routine catch for Willie Mays. "Look," I said, when they
kept hammering at me, "what are you asking me for? I didn't catch it.
There's Mays right over there. Why don't you ask him?"
wasn't highly educated, but I wish I could have thought to say what he said.
"Willie," they asked, "how do you compare this catch with other
catches you've made?"
compare 'em," Willie said. "I catch 'em."
In 1955, halfway
through my last game as manager of the Giants, I motioned for Willie to come
into the little toilet we had at the far end of the dugout. Two men could
barely squeeze in, so we were standing nose to nose. "Now, son," I
said, "I want to tell you something. You're just great. You're the best
ballplayer I've ever looked at."