With no teams of interest to me in the NHL playoffs I have been watching a lot of baseball recently. Even some basketball. I could not help but notice that the one-time unwritten rule of fly ball catching, namely to use two hands, has been all but erased from the game.
This was something that coaches pounded into the heads of young players from day one. Once you have a position under a fly ball, get both hands, thumb alongside thumb, ready to cradle the ball safely. It was a standard move for outfielders. Obviously there are situations when this is not possible, but when it is, there is no excuse for not doing so. Even Willie Mays used two hands when he made his famous over the shoulder catch.
Today players wait for the ball to come down and casually put up one hand and snag it, like they were shagging flies on a playground. I think it is the fielding version of the bat flip. An attitude thing. I suspect that at some point a manager or coach suggested strongly that two hands should be used and was probably told by some young phenom to speak to my agent!
But sometimes the old ways are the best ways.
On July 28, 1991, in front of 45,500 people in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Montreal Expos’ pitcher Dennis Martinez did the ultimate for a pitcher, he threw a perfect game. That day his left-fielder was Ivan Calderon. Ivan liked to be a bit of what was in those days called a hot-dog, a showman. He used to catch routine fly balls by bringing both hands together at chest level then throwing out both arms catching the ball in the process. This required perfect timing lest Ivan end up with the ball embedded in his sternum.. As the game went on and Martinez was retiring batter after batter, and the tension built as a perfect game became a possibility, Calderon stopped doing his trademark catch and went back to the good old two hand catch. God forbid he should blow a pop and cost his pitcher the perfect game. Very sensible.