September 17, 2021

A play for its time: Ron Swoboda’s catch in the 1969 World Series (Baseball Essential)

For baseball fans of a certain age, the play is etched into our memories.  

It is the top of the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 1969 World Series. Brooks Robinson of the Baltimore Orioles hits a drive that looks like it will find the gap in right-center. The crowd at Shea Stadium roars.  New York Mets right fielder Ron Swoboda comes in from off the screen. Swoboda dives and catches it — just before the ball hits the ground. The crowd noise becomes deafening.

The play from 50 Octobers ago seemed to us to be one for the ages. But I wonder if it is a play for the aged?

Do fans under the age of 45 see the grainy footage of the catch that Swoboda made and say, “Meh”?

A good play, they might think — a great play, even. But plays every bit as good show up on YouTube or one of the nightly highlights shows all the time. With much better quality video.

The Athletic did a story on Swoboda’s catch last summer and tried to apply modern measurements to rate the play’s difficulty. An interesting idea.

But I think it doesn’t quite hit the mark. I think there is more to the play than its degree of difficulty, although that is important.

So what’s all the fuss about?

A magical…

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