Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Greatest Defensive Play in Baseball History? Certainly, the best in New York Mets' history -- and, certainly, the most important. After Oliver Perez walks Jim Edmonds with one out in the 6th inning, manager Willie Randolph consults with him, but decides to leave him in the game. Then, the Cards' Scott Rolen hits what should have been a tie-breaking two-run home run. This wasn't just robbery -- this was Grand Larceny. The ball was hit hard and long, fast enough that left-fielder Endy Chavez couldn't get back to the fence in time to set and leap for it. Instead, Chavez took off, leaping at a full sprint, from the middle of the warning track. His glove went up and over, and beyond the fence, to snag the ball and pull Rolen's smash back into play. Then, Chavez came down and threw the ball into the infield to double off the stunned Edmonds.

Win or lose (I am making this post with the score tied 1-1 after six innings), Chavez' play will be remembered as one of the most extraordinary plays in baseball history, because it was a great play and because it may have been the most decisive play in the National League Championship Series. The only way the play could have been more memorable is if it had come in the ninth inning, especially if the Mets were clinging to a one-run lead. Then, it might have supplanted Willie Mays' catch and throw in the '54 World Series as the most memorable defensive play in baseball history - more memorable even than any walk-off home run.

This year, ESPN looked at the all-time best defensive plays for each team, before coming up with the best plays of all-time. Chavez' play will move to number one in Mets' history, the next time ESPN does their all-time web-gem review. Given the circumstances, it will be one of the most memorable plays ever -- up there with Derek Jeter's flip to home in the A.L. playoffs years ago, and the Willie Mays' play mentioned above.

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