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Wise Catch


Yes, I know, I’m way late on this, but as I already explained earlier this evening, my trip to New York two weeks ago has completely wrecked my blogging. And in fact it was because of my traveling that day that I didn’t see the catch in the first place. I’m referring of course to White Sox outfielder Dewayne Wise’s historic catch two weeks ago tonight of the fly ball that Tampa Bay Ray batter Gabe Kapler hit to open the top of the 9th, thereby preserving the perfect game that pitcher Mark Buehrle would complete two batters later.

As you may recall, I landed at JFK around 5:00 PM two weeks ago, with Joel due to land 52 minutes later. But he didn’t arrive for over 3 hours. The good news, for him, is that while he was stuck in Boston on his JetBlue flight as it awaited permission to take off, he was able to watch the game on the small TV screen in the seat in front of him, on ESPN via satellite. The good news for me is that I wasn’t stuck on an airplane any longer. But I didn’t have access to TV, so I missed the excitement. Well, if only I knew, I could have followed the game, pitch by pitch, on my iPhone.

In any case, once Joel arrived, as we drove off in our rental car, he asked if I heard about Buehrle’s game. A no-hitter, I asked? No. A perfect game? Yes. And in the hotel that evening, I saw the highlight of the game, Wise’s catch. I can’t find the video on youtube or I would embed it in this post. You can see it, if you haven’t, by going here.

This past Sunday’s NYT had an excellent article by Tyler Kepner on the catch and on other great catches in baseball history. See also the accompanying slide show with photos of Wise’s catch and seven more. (Of those shown, I’m partial to Dewey Evans’ catch in the sixth game of the 1975 World Series.)

From Kepner’s article:

Wise had started in center field on opening day, but separated his shoulder a week into the season. Relegated again to the bench, he was not starting on July 23, a day game after a night game, and he did not stretch.

After six innings, with the White Sox ahead, 5-0, Wise started getting loose in the batting cage behind the dugout. He regularly comes in for defense when Chicago is winning, and as he stretched, Wise heard on the radio that Buehrle had retired all 19 hitters so far. Wise had not realized it was a perfect game and scurried back to the dugout, peeking at the scoreboard for confirmation.

With the Braves in 2004, Wise had pined for a chance to break up Randy Johnson’s perfect game, imagining himself chopping a ball in the dirt and beating out an infield single. He wanted to be ready for his next chance to contribute, and with Buehrle on the mound, there would be no time to waste when the ninth inning came.

“I know how quick he warms up, so I ran out there,” Wise said. “I think I made four throws.”

His rapid warm-ups over, Buehrle stared in at Kapler, a muscular outfielder who had not seen a pitch over the middle in his first two at-bats. With a 2-2 count, Buehrle missed with a changeup, and Kapler made solid contact.

Kapler put his head down and ran hard. So did Wise. He had lots of ground to cover.

“When I first came in the game I’m playing shallow, which I normally always do,” Wise said. “I didn’t want to give up a bloop hit to ruin the perfect game with a broken-bat single or something like that. They were going to have to earn it.”

At first, Wise said, he did not think he had a chance. But when he felt his foot hit the warning track, he took two more steps and jumped. The sunglasses perched on his cap flew off and the ball hit the top of the webbing of his PRO 302-4JB.

Because his back met the wall just as the ball met the glove, Wise did not know if he had caught it. Only on his way down did he see the ball escaping, like Humpty Dumpty about to splatter to earth, perfection in the balance. He stabbed at it with his bare left hand and secured it in midair. Buehrle took care of the rest.

“Man, we’re going to be forever linked,” Wise said he told Buehrle. “Every time they talk about your perfect game, they’re going to talk about the catch out there. We could be 50 years old, 60 years old, and they’re always going talk about it, man. When we get old and retire, our kids can see us on TV, see you pitching that perfect game and me making that catch.”

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