Willie Mays's Catch Recollected

IT was 40 years ago this month that Willie Mays, the Say Hey Kid, made what surely is the most memorable catch in baseball history - the running, back-to-home-plate grab of a Vic Wertz drive in the 1954 World Series. Mays has said he made many catches that were as ``good, if not better'' than the one that started the New York Giants on a shocking sweep of the powerful Cleveland Indians.

Still, in this writer's estimation, Mays's grab stands out, even in this age of nightly video highlights. It's one thing to make a running, diving catch with the ball in front of you, or to scale the outfield wall to try to head off a home run. But it's quite another to catch a ball as it falls right over your head. That is probably the most difficult play in baseball, and Mays did it running full tilt, in the deepest reaches of New York's cavernous Polo Grounds.

Mays, who now lives in San Francisco, has signed a lifetime contract with the Giants to represent the club in various ways. He also owns a chain of chicken restaurants.

As a San Francisco star, Mays once sought out a prominent local high school athlete in hopes of steering him away from a life on the streets. His name: O. J. Simpson.

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