The last time the Giants, representing either New York or San Francisco, won the World Series was in 1954. In game one against the Cleveland Indians, slugger Vic Wertz hit what was surely a hit, that is until Willie Mays made an incredible catch. Here is an article celebrating the 50th anniversary of that catch.
Catching up with Vic Wertz's 1954 World Series Drive: Willie Mays' catch of Cleveland slugger's deep fly was outstanding regardless of how far the ball actually traveled
Baseball Digest, Oct, 2005 by Bill Deane
It happened on September 29, 1954, in Game 1 of that year's Fall Classic. Giants' budding superstar Willie Mays made the catch on a drive hit by Indians' slugger Vic Wertz. The ball was driven anywhere from 450 to 480 feet, depending on which source you believe.
Trust this source: the ball traveled about 415 feet.
Virtually every published source claimed Wertz's drive went at least 450 feet. "The ball had traveled 460 feet," according to The Sporting News, while New York's Newsday described it as "a 470-foot poke." As time has gone on, descriptions of the fly ball have gone as high as 480 feet, presumably based on the posted center field distance.
Vic Wertz of an extra hit. The Giants, thanks
to pinch-hitter Dusty Rhodes' home run, beat the
Indians 5-2 in Game 1 of the World Series.
John Pastier, an architecture critic and a member of the Society for American Baseball Research, has studied this issue for decades. His methodology has included studies of photographs and park diagrams, and application of architectural calculation methods. "I'm not yet positive about the correct distance," Pastier says, but "I've never seen a published estimate of the distance that wasn't wildly overstated. I'd give the range for the catch as 405' to 420'."
Ron Selter, another SABR member and a ballpark student, has also invested considerable time into this subject. Selter's research indicates the bleacher corners were actually about 432 feet from home, and he convinced Lowry to revise his book accordingly. Selter estimates the distance of Wertz's fly ball "in the range of 415-420 feet."
The ball would have been a home run in almost any other big league park. It would have been a triple against almost any other outfielder. The situation and the play itself warrant its label as the greatest World Series catch ever. We needn't hyperbolize it by adding 65 feet to the distance.
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