How wiffle ball helped Kevin Mitchell make iconic barehanded catch


Believe it or not, wiffle ball had a helping hand in one of the most iconic catches in MLB history.

Former Giants outfielder Kevin Mitchell, in a recent interview with NBC Sports Bay Area's Amy Gutierrez, recalled how he made the shocking barehanded catch against the St. Louis Cardinals in 1989. It seemed to even catch him by surprise, because he wasn't expecting Ozzie Smith -- himself one of the great defensive wizards in the game's history -- to slice a ball down the left field line. 

"We (were) playing Ozzie in the gaps," Mitchell told Gutierrez. "We weren't even supposed to be pitching him outside because he hits the ball to left field (well). I felt I couldn't get to it with my glove and I just put my hand up. You know, as a kid, you play in the boys clubs and you always used your hands in wiffle ball. It was just something that just happened. I don't know, what was I thinking then. I just hoped that Ozzie wasn't mad at me, he wasn't really pissed at me."

Mitchell was a man well ahead of his time. 

He hit the types of homers that would have made him a superstar in an era where highlights are king, and dropped juicy quotes like "You go up to swing the bat. Only the mailman walks" that a modern audience on Twitter would eat up. And on this day 31 years ago, he made the catch that would have been one of the most viral sports moments of the year had it happened today. 

Mitchell's barehanded grab would have him trending for hours in 2020. Even in 1989, it was a big deal.

[RELATED: Clark recalls homer off Nolan Ryan]

The catch was part of a memorable season for Mitchell and the Giants, one they celebrated last year with several events at Oracle Park. Mitchell had come over in a 1987 trade with San Diego and developed into a superstar. He slugged 47 homers, drove in 125 runs and won the National League MVP award for a team that lost to the A's in the World Series. 

"I was blessed to be playing for the San Francisco Giants," Mitchell said. "After leaving the Padres, my hometown, I didn't know where I was going. After playing (in San Francisco) as a rookie I told myself I would never want to play in Candlestick because of all the wind, but as I went over there I had to face whatever was in front of me and, by having teammates like I did have, they made it fun for me and I felt like I had a home and felt like I had a lot of brothers to play with. That's what gave me the motivation to go out there and play."

Giants fans that want to show their appreciation for Mitchell's iconic catch can head over to the Breaking T website to buy this incredible shirt, which you can buy here.

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