Mays in centerfield

It is 1958. July. About dusk. I’m standing in deep centerfield of the baseball diamond at Jones Memorial Park. I can hear music coming from the ice cream place across the street, behind me. I’m not really daydreaming but I’m not completely focused on the game, either. I might be closer to the ice cream place than to home plate.

A sharp “crack” yanks me back to the game. The crowd is yelling and looking in my direction. But up. A high, fly ball is coming my way. I frantically search the sky. If I don’t get a visual lock on the fly ball, it could land at my feet. It could smash into my face and kill me. I spot it. Coming straight down. It seems almost motionless, just getting larger and larger. There’s no time to raise my glove hand but I manage to get it open at my waist. Two thousand miles to the west, another Mays is standing in centerfield, Candlestick Park, executing a far more relaxed version of this same maneuver.

Back at Jones Memorial Park, the ball ricochets off my bony, ten-year-old chest and into my glove. Because of the distance and the angle, the crowd sees only Mays, in deep centerfield, making a perfect “basket catch.” But we’re not related.

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