10/22/2002 9:14 pm ET
Mays happy Giants are in WS
By Tom Singer / MLB.com
SAN FRANCISCO -- It has taken a long time, but Willie Mays is finally back in a World Series being played in San Francisco.
The Giants immortal is hoping for a better outcome than in 1962, when the G-Men's title hopes settled in New York Yankees second baseman Bobby Richardson's glove, along with Willie McCovey's line drive.
"If we can win, you'll really see something. It's something (the city) has been really waiting for," Mays said at a casual, wide-ranging press conference prior to Tuesday night's Game 3.
Mays, once estranged by the club with which he spend the bulk of his Hall of Fame career, has gradually returned into its embrace, a reconciliation begun when godson Barry Bonds joined the Giants.
Feeling close to the current crop, Mays finds it easy to derive personal satisfaction from its success.
"It's enjoyable, because I've been with these guys for the last three, four years," Mays said. "To see their faces now and see how happy they are getting this opportunity ... it's just rewarding to see how happy they can be.
"That makes me happy. You don't see a sad guy in the clubhouse. You see everybody laughing and having fun."
Mays had a lot of fun in his own heyday, especially in 1954, when the New York Giants shocked the potent Cleveland Indians with a four-game World Series sweep.
Nearly a half-century later, it remains the first event Mays thinks about when reflecting over his career.
"I only got four hits. I had a lot of walks," remembered Mays, adding, "made a great catch."
Eh, yes he did. Talk about downplaying his backwards basket catch of a drive into the Polo Grounds canyon by Vic Wertz -- a play spectacular enough to be on the list nominated as baseball's Most Memorable Moment. The outcome of the international voting on that will be announced prior to Wednesday night's Game 4.
Only, that catch doesn't even rank as Mays' own favorite. Instead, he opted for a 1951 throw from right-center to nail the Dodgers' Billy Cox at home plate to preserve a win and enable the postseason playoff that culminated with Bobby Thomson's "Shot Heard 'Round The World."
"That's one of the plays I thought was better than 'The Catch,'" Mays agreed. "We had a meeting the day before and Leo (Durocher) said, 'Any ball that goes up in the air Willie has to catch.'
"The ball was on the right-field line. Actually, it wasn't a fair ball. I caught the ball, made a complete turn and guys were saying, 'What happened to the right fielder?'
"When (Carl) Furillo hit the ball, I went full-speed to make the catch. I hit the cutoff man's (chest) before hitting the ground, because I knew I had to get rid of the ball very quickly. It was like a basketball player, doing a 360."
Even if it does not rank at the top of his own list, Mays recalled every detail about "The Catch", and the circumstances around it.
"In 1954, I was very cocky," he said. "Everything that went in the air, I thought I could catch.
"When the ball was hit off Don Liddle, as it's coming over the infield, I said to myself, 'Two men are on.' I keep talking to myself as I'm running, telling myself, 'I got to get this ball back to the infield.'
"In my mind, I never thought I'd miss it. And if you ever see the play, look at the way I catch the ball -- like a wide receiver going down the sidelines.
"There wasn't even a cutoff man out there. I think I threw the ball back into second base on the fly. So, yes, I thought I was going to make that catch, but the key was getting it back into the infield."
You had to smile at Mays' remark, "if you ever see the play ..." Who hasn't seen it, and marvelled? The Catch has "impossible" and "sensational" written all over it.
Apparently, you can add a new subtitle in Mays' name: "I had it all the way."
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.