Baseball centers around a wide range of elements, all coming together to allow the game to play out as we have all come to love. From pitching to hitting to baserunning to fielding, these key role players all determine the outcome of any game.
However, one of the elements that often goes under the radar is the importance of fielding and how a great defensive play can not only save a run or two from scoring but ultimately change the game’s momentum.
The best baseball plays all saved runs while also being spectacular to watch. From homerun robbing catches, barehanded fielding plays, glove flips, and diving catches, many different plays stand out. One that stands out as one of the best came from the great Willie Mays. In addition to Mays’s catch, other great baseball plays include:
- Tim Salmons over the head diving catch.
- Mike Trout’s homerun robbing catch.
- Derek Jeter’s flip to Jorge Posada.
- Ozzie Smith’s barehand play at shortstop.
These plays all deserve a spot on the “best baseball plays of all time” rankings list.
Here’s a look at our top 10.
10 Best Baseball Plays of All-Time
1. Willie Mays – “The Catch”
There can only be one winner in the “Best Baseball Plays of all time” list, with Willie Mays’s “The Catch” taking home the top overall spot.
During the 8th inning of the 1954 World Series, Vic Wertz drives a ball to center field, which looks to have gotten past Mays in center field.
However, Mays makes a great break on the ball before making a basket-style over-the-head catch to save runs from scoring and eventually moving up on the base paths.
2. Tim Salmon – “Superman Catch”
While Willie May’s catch was spectacular, as it came in the World Series, Tim Salmon accomplished a similar style catch while diving like superman toward the center field fence.
With the game tied 1-1 with the Kansas City Royals at the plate, David Howard drove one to center field with two runners on. Despite being over his head, Salmon broke deep before diving like superman toward the center field wall to make the catch.
While being one of the greatest baseball plays of all time, it often gets overshadowed because it took place during the regular season.
3. Mike Trout – Home Run Robbing Catch
Another Angel outfielder landing on the list of the best catches of all time is the Los Angeles Angels All-Star Center Fielder and MVP Mike Trout.
With the Angels playing the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards on June 27th, 2002, JJ Hardy hit a ball that looked like a home run over the right-center field fence.
However, Trout had other plans as he soared, with nearly half his body above the fence to rob Hardy of the home run.
4. Brooks Robinson – Backhanded Robbery of Lee May’s
The human vacuum cleaner Brooks Robinson was known for a long list of great defensive plays throughout his career and 16 consecutive Gold Glove awards.
However, one play that stands out is Robinson’s play during the 1970 World Series against the Cincinnati Reds.
Lee May hits a ball that Robinson fields behind the third base bag going into foul grounds. Robinson immediately throws to first to beat May’s to first for the out.
5. Ozzie Smith – Barehand Diving Grab
Landing at number five on the 10 Best Baseball Plays of All-Time list is “The Wizard of Oz,” Ozzie Smith and his barehanded diving grab created by Smith’s ability to react to the hit.
With Smith ranging up the middle for a ball of the bat of Jeff Burroughs, Smith dove for the ball before it took a bad hop forcing Smith to grab it with his barehand before retreating to his feet to beat the runner to first base for the out.
A few years later, Smith created another memorable play before doing a back flip which is also one of the most memorable moments in baseball history.
6. Derek Jeter – “The Flip”
The dynasty of the New York Yankees reigned supreme from the mid-1990s through the early 2000s. However, one play that saved that history and potentially helped them win a divisional series against the Oakland A’s was “The Flip.”
With Jeremy Giambi heading the plate, Jeter cut off an off-balance throw to the plate before flipping it to Jorge Posada, who would tag Giambi out at the plate.
Whether or not the tag was in time or late is debatable, but the play still goes down as one of the best in baseball history and the history of the New York Yankees.
7. Al Gionfriddo – Home Run Robbing Catch
As the New York Yankees trailed the Brooklyn Dodgers 8-5 in game 6 of the 1947 World Series, Joe DiMaggio made his way to the plate.
DiMaggio would take a ball to deep left-center, where Al Gionfriddo would make a game-save-robbing catch of what may have been the game-tying home run.
Gionfriddo made the one-handed catch while helping save the Dodgers lead and win during Game 6.
8. Devon White – Robs David Justice of Extra Bases
Diving catches, home run-grabbing catches, and on-the-run catches are all fantastic plays that have filled up the history book of Major League Baseball.
One of those oft-overlooked on-the-run catches is that of Devon White of the Toronto Blue Jays, performed during Game 3 of the 1992 World Series.
David Justice would drive a ball to deep center field, prompting White to make a jump play before running into the fence. This jump would result in a double play that was very nearly Triple Play.
9. Ken Griffey Jr – Spiderman Home Run Robbin Catch
Ken Griffey Jr, or “The Kid,” was one of the most extraordinary players during his playing days and one that could do it all on the field. Griffey Jr could hit for power, hit for average, run the bases, and play Gold Glove award-winning defense.
In a game against the New York Yankees on April 26th, 1990, Jesse Barfield of the New York Yankees drives one to deep left-center field. Griffey Jr raced to the fence before jumping, making a spiderman style leap, taking the ball out of the sky, and robbing Barfield of what looked to be a sure home run.
Griffey Jr would make more great defensive plays over the years, including one where he Spiderman’s himself into the wall to take extra bases away off another player’s bat.
10. Rey Ordonez – Glove Flip Double Play
It is hard to leave Rey Ordonez off the list when he turned in highlight-reel defensive plays at shortstop nearly every night of the week.
One play that stands out came with a runner on first base. The ball was hit up the middle, and Ordonez made a glove flip to the second baseman to start the 6-4-3 double play with Carlos Baerga, who would nab John Olerud at first base.