In Game 2 of the 1972 World Series, the Oakland A’s clung to a 2-0 lead in the 9th inning against the Cincinnati Reds. With a runner on base and nobody out, a fly ball was launched toward the wall in left field, which could have easily driven in a run and changed the game. Instead, Joe Rudi made a leaping catch that has since been etched into immortal team lore. The A’s went on to win the game, and the series, and the next two World Series after that.
In Game 2 of the 2020 AL Wild Card Round, the A’s had an early 4-0 lead in the 3rd inning but the Chicago White Sox had set the table for a rally. With two on and nobody out, a fly ball was launched toward the wall in left field, which could have easily driven in a run and changed the game. Instead. Mark Canha made a leaping catch that might, someday, be etched into immortal team lore, depending on how the rest of this postseason goes. The A’s went on to win the game, but we’ll have to wait to see what happens in the series much less the month of October.
The stakes were different this time, but not necessarily any lesser. Rudi’s catch came in the World Series, but it was still early in the series and nobody would have been eliminated yet no matter how it turned out. Canha’s was only in the first round of a four-round bracket, but if the A’s had lost then their season would have been over.
Furthermore, Rudi’s catch came later in a closer game. But while Canha’s came with a bigger lead, the fact that it was earlier meant that it still could have swung the tide for the rest of the afternoon — a 4-2 lead in the 3rd feels much different than 4-0, and maybe Chris Bassitt doesn’t get to stay in as long.
Regardless of your feeling on a comparison of the impact of the catches, their physical similarity is undeniable. Rudi had his back more toward the plate because he got a bit turned around during his route, but they both got some serious air in nearly the exact same spot in left field.
We’ve seen this play go wrong before too, in the 2014 Wild Card Game. Jonny Gomes and Sam Fuld collided at the left field wall in the 12th inning in Kansas City, and the “triple” that landed led to the winning rally. Not this time. Today we got the good Rudi version.
The hero of the day was Bassitt, no question. His pitching performance saved the A’s season. But Bassitt’s hero was Canha, who saved the 3rd inning and paved the way for the rest of the day. May we one day offer this crucial play a different comparison to Rudi’s catch, as a key part of a championship run.