Thoughts on Willie Mays stumbling around the outfield

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Mike Vaccaro has a column up today talking about Derek Jeter in twilight and he notes that the touchstone reference for an aging athlete is “Willie Mays falling down in the outfield” or “Willie Mays stumbling in the outfield” (as I’ve often heard it) during his final season with the New York Mets.

If you hear some people talk about it, you’d think he spent the entire 1973 season constantly stumbling out there, in need of help from paramedics and stuck in a half-dumbfounded state for months. As Vaccaro notes, however, this was actually a one-time deal. The meme springs from one play in the 1973 World Series. On a day when everyone was having trouble in the outfield due to the hazy sky.

History is tough like that, though. And, obviously, when you have a stumble like that during the World Series — back when everyone watched the World Series — it’s going to hold a little stronger.  Still: kinda nuts that Mays has that hung on him so much. Surprising how strongly a single play resonates. And it says something — something not altogether flattering — about the person relating the story. About how it’s hard for them to watch athletes get old and how that discomfort is what should decide whether or not they hang it up.

I wonder what Willie Mays thought about the night after the game he stumbled. I wonder if he felt good and vital and dandy. Or if he thought “well, that sucked, but tomorrow is another day.” Or if he carried with him all the  psychic weight that those who tell the tale seem to want him and other aging athletes to carry.

Video: Nolan Arenado collects 200th career home run

Nolan Arenado
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The Rockies fell 9-6 to the Orioles on Saturday, but the loss wasn’t without its bright spots. Case in point: Third baseman Nolan Arenado passed a significant career milestone on an Andrew Cashner fastball in the third inning, slugging the ball a projected 394 feet into the left field stands for his 200th career home run.

Arenado is the 34th active player to join the 200+ homer club and the first to do so since the Braves’ Freddie Freeman crossed that threshold on May 19. The three-run shot was the infielder’s 14th of the season and third since Friday, when he went deep twice against Orioles rookie John Means and reliever Shawn Armstrong. Following Saturday’s performance, he’s batting a robust .333/.377/.632 with 30 extra-base hits, 42 RBI, and a 1.009 OPS through 220 plate appearances.

He isn’t the only Rockies slugger making history, either. Arenado’s feat trailed that of Trevor Story, who clobbered an 0-2 pitch from Armstrong during the seventh inning of Friday’s 8-6 win. The two-run blast was his 100th home run in 448 career games, making him the fastest shortstop to reach the mark in MLB history.

The Rockies will vie for the series win as they round out the series on Sunday, with right-hander German Márquez scheduled to take the bump against fellow righty David Hess at 3:10 PM EDT.