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Distorting the Record

Edgy DC
Oct 12 2005 02:00 PM

This was from a small town paper (Midland Daily News), commenting on the tired theme of aging athletes, and whether they should continue past their days of grace:

Then, there was Willie Mays. How sad that was. Arguably the greatest player in the history of the game returned to play for the New York Mets when he was in his 40s.

He looked like a reject from a men's slowpitch team. He threw under-handed and couldn't track down lazy fly balls because he had no speed left in his once swift legs.

Leave the rest of this mild distortion aside for a moment. Did he actually thow underhanded? I wrote the guy and asked him to clarify, and he wrote back "Actually it was more of a submarine motion - that's what I remember from the World Series with the A's. I was a teen at the time, so I'm going back 30 years in my mind."

Is he confusing Mays with Rusty Staub?

Oct 12 2005 02:01 PM

I don't think Willie Mays played in that WS, didn't he graciously retire before the season was over?

Edgy DC
Oct 12 2005 02:04 PM

No, he played. Lost a fly in the sun. He went 3-10 in the post-season, but with no walks and no extra bases.

Two ribbies, though.

Oct 12 2005 02:07 PM

Yep, I checked, you're right

Oct 12 2005 02:40 PM

I saw Willie play for the Mets (and earlier). I don't recall him throwing underhand when he had to make a play on a runner. But he might have done it when throwing the ball back to the infield after making a catch. It was not an uncommon practice in those days.

As players get older and if they experience a degradation in their throwing arm, they try to "save" their arm for when they have to make a throw.

For example, I saw Joe DiMaggio play in his last few years. In his prime he had an excellent arm. But I later read that as he got older, he had arm problems. To try to hide that fact, during pre-game practice he would make one long throw, to show the other team that they'd better not try to run on him. It apparently worked.


Oct 12 2005 02:42 PM

the only thing I could find online..

]Too much of our perception of Willie is also influenced by his disastrous return to New York in 1972 as a member of the Mets. Roger Angell complained that Mays, "has so far resisted the clear evidence that he should retire ... His batting reflexes are gone, and so is his arm ... His failings are now so cruel to watch that I am relieved when he is not in the lineup. It is hard for the rest of us to fall apart quite on our own; heroes should depart."

Edgy DC
Oct 12 2005 02:46 PM

Yeah, Willie definitely liked to show off and wing the ball in undehanded after catching a routine fly when he was younger, but clearly that isn't what the guy was referring to, but rather a submarine motion to compensate for a debilitation or discomfort in his arm.

I'm definitely thinking he's got Rusty in mind.

Returning to an underhanded flip to save his arm is a possiblity, though.

Oct 12 2005 02:59 PM

Rusty had a shoulder injury and threw underhand. I don't recall Mays throwing that way. I think the author is mistaken.