Bob Feller on Willie Mays' catch in the '54 Series: "Meh"

23 Comments

Willie Mays catch.jpgI missed this last week, but my buddy Vince Grzegorek pointed me to a two-part interview of Bob Feller from the Cleveland Plain Dealer in which the living legend disses Willie Mays’ amazing catch of Vic Wertz’s fly ball in the 1954 World Series:

PD: The 1954 World Series?

BF: The first thing that comes to mind has to be the Dusty Rhodes’
bloop home run.
PD: Not the Willie Mays catch against Vic Wertz?

BF: A lot of center fielders could have caught the ball Mays caught.
He put on the act pretty good; he always did. He let his hat fly off,
then threw the ball back to the infield. The ball was hit into a small
wind. The ball came down like a popup. He was playing shallow, but Vic
Wertz was the hitter, so he should not have been playing shallow.

PD: So you’re not impressed by the catch.

BF: Not at all. Not at all.

Feller has a habit of saying arguably impolitic things about famous stuff that happened during his heyday. I still can’t get over the fact that, when asked about Lou Gehrig’s “luckiest man on the face of the Earth” speech a couple of years ago Feller said “He’s wrong. I am. I’m still alive.”  Yikes. But you know what? When 91 years-old you reach, so opinionated you shall be too.

As for the catch, many people think of Mays’ play as the stuff of legend. But Feller was there and didn’t view the thing through newsreel nostalgia. I’ve watched the catch as objectively as possible and I still think it’s great, but it’s probably worth listening to Feller about this. I’ll grant that maybe he still harbors some resentment over his heavily-favored Indians team losing that Series, but it’s also possible that he saw that catch a little bit differently — and a little more realistically — than the rest of us did.

Major League Baseball needs to make an example out of José Ureña

Daniel Shirey/Getty Images
8 Comments

We’re about an hour and a half separated from the first pitch of Wednesday night’s Marlins/Braves game that featured Marlins starter José Ureña hitting Braves outfielder Ronald Acuña on the elbow with a first-pitch, 97.5 MPH fastball. The benches emptied, Ureña was ejected, and the game went on. Acuña left the game not long after to tend to his injured elbow.

After the game, when the Marlins speak to the media, they will almost certainly deny any ill intent towards Acuña, who had hit leadoff home runs in three consecutive games against them. When they do so, they will be lying. Watch how catcher J.T. Realmuto sets up on the first pitch.

ESPN Stats & Info notes that Ureña’s 97.5 MPH fastball was in the 99th percentile in terms of velocity of the 2,125 pitches he has thrown this season. It was also the fastest pitch Ureña has ever thrown to begin a game. Ureña put a little extra mustard on this pitch, for some reason.

Ureña has a 6.8 percent walk rate, which ranks 37th out of 95 starters with at least 100 innings of work this season. The major league average is eight percent. Control isn’t typically something with which he struggles.

Furthermore, Acuña isn’t the only player who has drawn Ureña’s ire:

Ureña wanted nothing to do with Hoskins — even though Hoskins has yet to get a hit off of him — in his August 4 start at home against the Phillies, walking him twice which included a few up-and-in pitches.

Ureña will almost certainly be fined and suspended for his actions on Wednesday night against Acuña. But will his punishment be enough to deter him and others from wielding a baseball as a weapon? Probably not. On June 19, when Marlins starter Dan Straily intentionally threw at Buster Posey, he received a five-game suspension and manager Don Mattingly was suspended one game. If you look at Straily’s game logs, you can’t even tell he was suspended. He started six days later on June 25 against the Diamondbacks and again on July 1 and 6. Because starters only pitch once every five days, it was like he wasn’t even suspended at all.

Major League Baseball needs to levy harsher punishments on players who attempt to injure other players. A 15-game suspension, for example, would force Ureña to miss at least two starts and it would inconvenience the Marlins enough to more seriously weigh the pros and cons of exacting revenge. The Marlins couldn’t work around it the way they did Straily by pushing back his scheduled start one day.

Major League Baseball also needs to make a legitimate effort to do away with this culture of revenge against players who are just a little bit too happy. Batters get thrown at when they flip their bats, when they yell at themselves in frustration, and even when they’re just hitting well. Baseball’s stagnating audience is very old, very white, and very male. It is not going to bring in fans from diverse backgrounds by keeping this antiquated culture that prevents baseball players from showing their personalities and being emotive. In the event Acuña needs to go on the disabled list for a couple weeks, that’s two weeks that Acuña isn’t on SportsCenter’s top-10, isn’t on the front page of MLB.com, and isn’t in articles like this. The culture of revenge is actively harming MLB’s ability to market its bright, young stars. If ending this culture of revenge doesn’t hit MLB from a moral angle, it should absolutely hit home from a business angle.