By now, I'm sure you've seen it. If not live on television, then on Sportscenter, or perhaps as a blip on MLB Network as they replay that same hour-long highlight reel till the cows come home. But chances are you know it's 2015, and that you don't have to trot over to the ol' boob tube in order to be so graciously given access to a fifteen second slice of baseball history like it's 1953 or something. And before they are all violently pulled from an "advanced" media department terrified of reality, you probably saw it in a GIF, a vine, or even just a screenshot floating around on the tweeters or the book face, or one of the vine thingies.
You've seen it, so I don't need to show it to you again, although I'm going to do exactly that because, ah heck. It robbed Felix of the ever-elusive win 20, took a three-run homer away from the man with only the second best redemption story of the season, and it ended up sealing the book on yet another dismal one-run loss by the Mariners in what was supposed to be a season filled with literally anything else.
And yet, just, yeah, let's watch it again:
First there was that obnoxious back-to-the-wall grab in front of yet another yellow sign from 2012, which has been turned into a bumper for MLB Tonight as well as any other three-second moments in our rapid-fire televisual media landscape. And now, there was this catch, late in what very well could be a last-second Angels push towards the last Wild Card spot, an iconic moment to be remembered not only by Los Angeles sports fans but also the collective unconscious of Baseball itself, with a capital B and a seemingly museum-like reverence for moments of past glory.
Just think about it. Baseball is full of little incidental moments like this, from Kirk Gibson pumping his arm to will himself around the bases in the 1988 World Series, Randy and the bird, A-Rod batting away the tag from Bronson Arroyo, and even Endy Chavez, future member of the Seattle Mariners Hall of Fame, earning himself a plaque outside Citi Field for something if not inherently jaw-dropping then something timed better than Randy's bird pitch ever could have been.
And that's kind of the miracle about this game. It is a game in which outcomes obviously predicate narratives--but also a game, unlike any other, where isolated moments can carry with them so much meaning that it seems all time before and after comes to a halt, that truth and meaning and all those artificially produced concepts all begin to be exposed for the facade they are when a season's worth of linear progression stops, dead in its tracks, as the baseball man steps up onto the wall like it's the floor and then calmly scoops the ball out of the air like it was also on the floor. Just, stop it.
It's not about robbing win 20 from Felix, it's not about taking a dinger away from Jesus Montero. There will be time for those again and again, because after these little isolated moments of baseball miracle, time keeps going, on and on, in either direction. There's a good chance Felix gets at least one more shot at a 20 win season, and hell, Jesus Montero is probably going to hit another dinger before the season ends anyway. But part of the beautiful thing about this game, as it today limps its way into browning leaves and blustery breeze, is the ability to allow us to just stop and consider little moments like this, apart from any narrative, for the aesthetic objects that they are. And if you can't do that, then, well, pretend this was literally anyone else and maybe you'll get a little bit of that.
Now, of course, we could talk about history. We could talk about Jesus Montero being on the wrong (or right?) side of history last night, struggling to do everything he could to right the ship and bring his career back on track only to be swatted in the face by the Golden Boy who looks as if he's never had to struggle with anything or anyone in his entire life (ok, he is from New Jersey, but you get my point here).
The point is that you might know Vic Wertz' name, but what's more likely is that you do not, but you still know what that black and white photo refers to up there. This single event, from windup to the throw back in the infield, lasted only nine seconds, and yet they are probably nine of the most sacred and revered seconds in all of baseball history. Ken Burns devoted several minutes to them in his brisk little sports movie, and they even have their own Wikipedia page.
"The Catch" they are called, and your parents and grandparents, most likely, recall them. They recall those seconds not because they watched them happen at the park, or live on television, although they could have. No they recall them because they were living through the teenage years of a rapidly expanding media climate in which the collective eyes of a nation began looking not merely to what was standing there, in front of them, but rather outward, upward, all around and liked together through the common bond of shared experience around media events.
It took only three years for this change to begin to happen. In September of 1951, baseball fans were listening to their local boys on radio stations like KDKA and WMAQ--one month later, they were all huddled around their individual television sets watching--for the first time--the same game, the same moment. Whereas before it was Vin Scully sharing lived experience only as far as the towers of WMGM AM and WOR-TV could reach, now there were millions and millions of television sets, all tuned to the same event, hearing from coast to coast the same words, The Giants Win the Pennant, The Giants Win the Pennant!
Three years later it was Willie Mays making the catch live on NBC, and then it was in newspapers, and talked about on the radio, and you know about it--you! sixty years later!--because of the unique moment in which it happened. It helped that it was in the World Series, to be sure. Heck, Endy's catch wouldn't have made a modicum of impact had it occurred in a late June interleague game against the Royals or something. But still, out of everything that happened in Major League Baseball during 1953--Al Rosen unanimously winning AL MLB, Anheuser-Busch buying the Cardinals, The Braves in Milwaukee, Mickey Mantle allegedly hitting a ball 565 feet, Red Sox scoring 17 runs in one inning, the St. Louis Browns' final season--the one you remember is The Catch. You remember it because it was on television and then it was in the newspapers, and then it was replayed and replayed on its magnetic video strip ad-nauseum for more than half a century until even last night, when Mike Trout did a similar thing during a regular season game which to my untrained eyes, seemed even more impressive.
But alas, 2015 is not 1953. For how great the pervasive televisual media landscape in which we live can be--and please believe me, I'm not Get-Off-My-Lawn-ing here--it's not really suited to the particular kind of historical magic Willie Mays catch suggested. For how many thousands of unauthorized Vines and streamable clips were posted last night, there were tens of MLB sanctioned GIFs, spread through their official broadcasting arms and picked up by ESPN and online channels like Yahoo! or FOX Sports. In fact, you'd kind of have to be trying not to pay attention to have missed this in the fifteen-or-so hours since it happened. Something seems...different this time.
And this is by no means a value judgement. Seriously, the 1950's were awful, segregation was still the law of the land and there was a national draft law on the books for pointless wars and women were expected to be less than full citizens and my god I LOVE MY CELL PHONE DO NOT TAKE IT AWAY FROM ME. But what it is, is different--for even if this catch occurred in the World Series, it wouldn't have its own Wikipedia page. It wouldn't be remembered one hundred years later. Don't believe me? Ok, well, do you remember the bullpen cop catch from the 2013 World Series? You do now because I just brought it up. Nahhhh, don't try and make excuses, you just plum forgot, buddy.
And if that's what it takes to make you feel better about Felix getting robbed of 20 wins, of Mike Trout once again inflicting pain and suffering to our beloved franchise of fools and losers, well then take it and hold it real close and don't you forget it. That's because this catch--easily the best of the season--will be completely forgotten when the Mariners are good again, be it next year, or three years, or even ten years. Or when the Mets are good again (hey!). Or when just the next thing happens which every social media site, late night news broadcast, podcast, and pundit demands you pay attention to. None of that is meant to take away from Trout, because for crying out loud, it was incredible. But we no longer have one box in the house.
Our current media climate now demands your instant attention, forgetting the laundry list of historical moments which stood for something more in the past. We are no longer encyclopedias, we are tabletop scanners, picking up whatever passes by in our social media feeds only to be replaced by the next great catch, the next Bartolo Colon at bat, the next bullpen cop.
And this isn't bad. No! I like it, really I do. But it also should help to remind you that sometimes the best way to respond to having something like this happen to your team is to just take a moment, revel in its glory, and then move on to the next thing. And if you don't like that then here, watch Ketel Marte hitting his first career home run. You can bet he'll remember that even long after Trout's catch has faded into the abyss of time.