It was not often that a player would get the best of Willie Mays but that is what happened 50 years ago today when Roberto Clemente threw out a 37 year old Mays trying to go first to third on a Willie McCovey single.
Mays would always remember the play because according to him it was the only time he had ever been thrown out at third base. Mays recalled the play in an interview he gave back in 1988:
"Roberto Clemente threw me out on a bang-bang play at third. I should have remembered what a tremendous arm he had."
James K. McGee of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote this:
"Willie Mays, leading off the 7th, lined a single into left for the Giants' first hit. When Willie McCovey, the next hitter, bounced a single over Donn Clendenon's outstretched glove into right field, it appeared the dam had been broken and runs would flow. Then came the key play of the game. Mays rounded second base and slowed down to draw a throw from right fielder Roberto Clemente. Mays, either overestimating his own speed or underestimating the power and accuracy of Clemente's arm, was thrown out trying to reach third. Maury Wills tagged him as he slid by."
Here is how the play looked within the boxscore of Baseball Reference:
|Bottom of the 7th, Giants Batting, Behind 0-2, Pirates' Al McBean facing 3-4-5|
|b7||0-2||0||---||SFG||Willie Mays||Al McBean||-7%||76%||Single to LF|
|b7||0-2||0||1--||O||SFG||Willie McCovey||Al McBean||6%||82%||Single to RF; Mays out at 3B/RF-3B|
|b7||0-2||1||1--||O||SFG||Jim Ray Hart||Al McBean||3%||85%||Groundout: P-1B; McCovey to 2B|
|b7||0-2||2||-2-||R||SFG||Jack Hiatt||Al McBean||-12%||74%||Single to CF; McCovey Scores|
|Frank Johnson pinch runs for Jack Hiatt (C) batting 6th|
|b7||1-2||2||1--||O||SFG||Jesus Alou||Al McBean||5%||78%||Groundout: 3B-1B|
|1 run, 3 hits, 0 errors, 1 LOB.|