May 5, 2011
CENTER FIELD: Hard as it seems to believe, Willie Mays turns 80 this Friday.
Who knows if the Giants will repeat—it seems unlikely at this point, but it's a long season, as they say. In any case, this should be an occasion to rejoice in the memories of the Say-Hey Kid.
Say what you will about legends like Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, DiMaggio, Hank Aaron or the rest, there's no question in my mind that Willie is not only the greatest living ball player, but the greatest of all time.
He could do it all—hit for power, make astonishing, hard-to-believe catches like his famous snag against Vic Wertz in the 1954 World Series against the Cleveland Indians (typically, Willie said it wasn't one of his more difficult plays) and be a base-running threat, unusual, then and now, among sluggers.
He was also, of course, a great showman—his hat fell off, as usual, in his famous Wertz catch—the throw afterwards, which kept Larry Doby from advancing to home to put the Indians ahead, was almost as usual. Of contemporary players, only Rickey Henderson comes to mind for sheer versatility, but Rickey's off field antics and unusual, er, attitude threatened to overcome his real-world accomplishments. (Willie also tried to coach his godson, Barry Bonds, to modify his attitude to fans and the game, to no avail, obviously.)
There's only one Willie.
Here's a link to a celebration of him by the Trenier Brothers.
And here's some video of The Catch. Still amazing.
PHOTO FINISH. It's fitting, and timely, that the Osio Cinemas will be showing "The Big Bang Club,'' a about four wartime photographers who shot the first free post-apartheid election in South Africa in the '90s. Filmmakers say the project tells the story of "four young combat photographers - Greg Marinovich, Joao Silva, Kevin Carter and Ken Oosterbroek—bonded by friendship and their sense of purpose to tell the truth''—at considerable risk to their own skins. Two of them won Pulitzers for their efforts, but prizes are trivial compared to this kind of commitment to their craft. The film, based on a book by Marinovich and Silva, stars Ryan Phillipe , Malin Akerman and Taylor Kitsch. It's even more relevant because of the recent deaths of conflict photographer Tim Hetherington, who also directed and produced "Restrepo,'' the Academy Award-nominated documentary about the Afghanistan war, and Chris Hondros, of Getty Images, while covering the war in Libya.
In the midst of the recent hilarity of the White House Correspondents Meeting (as much more serious meetings were taking placed, we now know, behind the scenes), President Obama took a moment to honor the journalists who've put their lives on the line in the call of duty.
Their service to their profession, and the truth, remains an example to the rest of us.
Here's a link to a New York Times multi-media feature about the photographers depicted in "The Bang Bang Club.''