MLB Then and Now: The Say Hey Kid vs. The Kid

Joe GrimaldiCorrespondent IApril 10, 2010

OAKLAND, CA - APRIL 08:  Ken Griffey Jr. #24 of the Seattle Mariners looks on against the Oakland Athletics during an MLB game at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on April 8, 2010 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Center field. That vast, green expanse where fly balls go to die. Where the swiftest, most athletic players thrive and make jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring plays on a daily basis.

Just ask Vic Wertz.

On Sept. 29, 1954, Mr. Wertz hit a prodigious drive out to center field in the Polo Grounds. It looked for sure like Wertz's drive was going to break the 2-2 tie between the Giants and the Indians, giving the Tribe all the momentum in Game One.

But, on the eighth day, God said, "Let there be Mays."

Sprinting toward the 483 sign on the center field wall, Willie Mays made an unbelievable basket catch, then spun and threw a strike to the infield to prevent the Larry Doby from scoring from second.

In a moment that is now simply known as "The Catch" (with all due respect to Dwight Clark) Wertz was reduced to a latter-day Craig Ehlo, a victim of a superhuman descending to the field for twenty-two saintly years.

Mays, already the best player in baseball, was vaulted to the status of a god, residing comfortably on baseball's Mt. Olympus, blessing the likes of Torii Hunter and Franklin Gutierrez.

While the Say Hey Kid's reign ended in 1973, his heir apparent was on his way. By 1989, baseball's savior had arrived at the Kingdome, as the baseball gods saw fit to give way to the second coming of Willie Mays.

Simply heralded as "The Kid," Ken Griffey Jr. had a five-year peak that even Mays was hard-pressed to challenge.

With time enough to reflect on Mays' phenomenal career, and Griffey seemingly entering the twilight of his, there is time now to compare two of the greatest players to ever step foot on a ball field.

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