Perhaps the only thing more exciting than seeing a ball hit hard is seeing a defender seemingly fly through the air to catch it. Baseball is a sport known more for its mammoth home runs and great pitching performances than its catches, but the sport has seen its fair share of dazzling grabs.
From Pittsburgh's Turner Ward crashing through a wall to make a catch to Willie Mays' unforgettable basket catch at Polo Grounds, some of the most exciting plays in the history of baseball have been defensive.
Today, we will go through each team's greatest defensive play ever. Feel free to leave comments on which play you think is the best in your favorite team's history.
Author's note: Many of the videos used in this slideshow are contained in this video. I would suggest watching the plays one by one in the slideshow and then watching the video.
I couldn't find a video of this one, but many Diamondbacks fans will remember Steve Finley's running catch of a Shane Spencer drive in the second inning of Game 7 of the 2001 World Series.
Although it wasn't a game-changing play or anything spectacular, it was a quality play to keep the game close.
Finley made a lot of great plays for the D-Backs, but this one might have been the most important.
At 1:48 in the video, you can see this catch.
In a 6-4 victory over the Houston Astros on August 10th, 1999, the most spectacular catch in Braves history was made. A young center fielder by the name of Andruw Jones tracked down a hard-hit fly ball at full speed.
Where most other outfielders would let the ball bounce off the wall, Jones sacrificed himself.
He caught the ball mid-stride and, in a burst of Spiderman-like energy, seemingly became one with the wall.
It was an awesome, awesome catch.
This play can be found at 0:39 in this video.
What more can possibly be said about the brilliance of Brooks Robinson?
He was the greatest defensive player of all time, a class act and a player not many fans will ever forget.
This play from the 1970 World Series, in which he backhands a Lee May grounder and guns him out, is an absolute gem.
He makes Evan Longoria look like Edwin Encarnacion.
The catch can be found at 0:26 in the video.
Interleague play has been criticized a lot, but if nothing else, it helped to produce this stunning catch.
With the Mets visiting the Red Sox, New York slugger David Wright hit a rocket into left-center field at Fenway Park. It looked like major trouble for the Red Sox.
However, Coco Crisp, the Sox center fielder, flew through the air in full extension, plucking Wright's bid for extra bases out of the air.
It was a phenomenal catch.
This wasn't exactly a baseball-related play, but Rick Monday's actions on April 25th, 1976 deserve high recognition.
Monday, the Cubs outfielder, noticed that a father and son had run onto the field with the intention of burning an American flag. Monday ran in from his position, and just before the flag could be lit on fire, he snatched it away.
It was an incredibly patriotic thing to do, and Monday received a great ovation from Dodgers fans when he came to bat later in the game.
Of all people to end Mark Buehrle's bid for a perfect game on July 23rd, 2009, it wasn't going to be Gabe Kapler.
Or was it?
Tampa Bay's well-aged outfielder smashed a Buehrle pitch with no one out in the ninth inning.
The ball appeared to be heading for the bleachers in left-center field, but White Sox center fielder Dewayne Wise made one of the most spectacular and important catches in baseball history.
Wise leaped at the wall and snagged Kapler's drive, preserving what would end up becoming the 18th perfect game in history.
Surprisingly, I couldn't think of or find many spectacular plays that the Reds have made. Just about the best I could find was this one, a diving catch by Reds third baseman Ryan Freel.
Freel was tracking down a line drive and laid out his entire body before making the catch.
To add some extra points, he also crashed into the camera well.
We all love it when players sacrifice themselves for one little out.
Go to 1:00 in the video to see the catch.
On August 4th, 1996, Cleveland Indians right fielder Kenny Lofton made one of the most incredible catches at the wall that you will ever see.
The Indians great scaled the wall in front of the bullpen and brought back a B.J. Surhoff home run bid.
Cleveland fans will surely agree that this was the greatest catch in the team's history by one of the greatest outfielders to play for the Tribe.
You can watch the video here.
Then-rookie shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, less than a month into his first full season, pulled off the 13th unassisted triple play in major league history.
With the Rockies and Braves tied at five apiece, Chipper Jones hit a line drive that was caught by Tulowitzki.
The shortstop touched second base to double off Kelly Johnson and then tagged out Edgar Renteria, who was running on the play.
That's quite a way to start off a major-league career.
With one out in the bottom of the ninth inning at Progressive Field in Cleveland, Justin Verlander was (big surprise) hurling a shutout.
Cleveland outfielder Grady Sizemore had every intention of ending the shutout, though, as he pounded a Verlander pitch into dead center field.
Curtis Granderson, however, scaled the high center field wall and took away Sizemore's bid for a home run with an awesome catch.
The catch sealed the shutout and proved to be one of the greatest catches in Tigers history.
For Marlins fans, this was one of the defining moments of the 2003 World Series season.
In the NLDS, the Marlins led the San Francisco Giants two games to one. With the Marlins clinging to a 7-6 lead at home in Game 4, J.T. Snow barreled around third base on a two-out single, attempting to score the tying run.
But Mr. Marlin, Jeff Conine, made a tremendous throw.
Pudge Rodriguez caught it and tagged out Snow at the plate, preserving the win and sending the Marlins to the NLCS.
Ignore the stupid kid's commentary and appreciate Big Puma.
The greatest defensive play in Houston's history was made by an unlikely hero.
Lance Berkman is known more for his bat than anything, but the former Astro made a terrific catch climbing Tal's Hill in Houston.
It certainly wasn't the prettiest catch ever, but it was an impressive job navigating the hill by the big guy.
It goes without saying that Bo Jackson was a hell of an athlete. The former running back and outfielder made a lot of spectacular plays both on the gridiron and on the baseball diamond. But his finest play also happens to be the best defensive play in Royals history.
On June 5th, 1989, Jackson ran down a Scott Bradley hit in left field. With Harold Reynolds running from first, Jackson uncorked a phenomenal throw that reached catcher Bob Boone, who tagged out a stunned Reynolds.
This catch can be seen at 2:30 in the video.
On June 10th, 1997, the Angels faced the Kansas City Royals at roomy Kauffman Stadium.
With two men on in the fifth inning, Kansas City's David Howard launched a deep drive to center field. Jim Edmonds, playing a shallow center, raced back to the warning track.
As the ball descended, Edmonds was still running in a full sprint to the wall.
Facing the wall, Edmonds laid out in full extension and made an absolutely insane catch.
Note: Play can be found at 5:20.
In the 1955 World Series, the Brooklyn Dodgers finally topped the New York Yankees to win the championship.
There were many great performances in this series, but a play that often goes unappreciated is Sandy Amoros' sixth-inning grab of a Yogi Berra line drive.
Leading 2-0, the Dodgers faced a threat from the Yankees. The Yanks had runners on first and second.
Berra drilled a line drive slicing down the left field line.
Amoros, Brooklyn's left fielder, ran at a full sprint to track down the ball, catching it with a fully extended right arm. He then threw it to the infield to double off a runner.
Robin Yount was known more for his great bat than for his glove (although that wasn't bad either).
However, Yount made a sensational catch with historic implications in 1987.
The Brewers were playing the Baltimore Orioles, and Milwaukee pitcher Juan Nieves had a no-hitter going with two outs in the ninth.
It was Yount who secured the final out of the game with a beautiful diving catch to preserve the no-no, which was just about the only great thing Nieves ever did in the majors.
To see this catch, go to 0:50 in the video.
The 2002 All-Star Game was one of the most bizarre baseball games in history for a variety of reasons.
From its juiced-up cast to Bud Selig's infamous calling of the game with the score tied, the '02 game in Milwaukee is something that will live forever.
The highlight of the game, however, was Torii Hunter scaling the wall and pulling what would have been a Barry Bonds home run into his glove.
After the play, Bonds jokingly put Hunter over his shoulder. Good times.
There are great catches, and then there are catches that transcend greatness. This catch by Endy Chavez in the 2006 NLCS was the latter.
With the Mets and Cardinals tied 1-1 in the seventh inning, Scott Rolen hit a deep fly ball to left-center field.
The ball appeared to be heading out, but left fielder Endy Chavez made one of the greatest catches in baseball history, not breaking stride before leaping at the wall to save a home run.
Of course, the Cardinals went on to win the game, but Chavez's catch will live forever in the minds of Mets fans.
In Game 3 of the 2001 ALDS in Oakland, the Yankees were clinging to a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning.
Terrence Long's line drive down the right field line normally wouldn't have been a threat to score a not-so-speedy Jeremy Giambi from first base. But Shane Spencer's throw missed both cutoff men, and Giambi rumbled around third to try to tie the game.
But then, coming from across the field, Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter cut off the throw and, with a backhanded flip, tossed the ball to Jorge Posada, who tagged out Giambi.
It is interesting to note that the best defensive plays for the Yankees and Oakland Athletics both happened against the other team.
For the Yankees, as you just saw, it was Derek Jeter's flip to tag out Jeremy Giambi at home. For Oakland, it was Randy Velarde's unassisted triple play on May 29th, 2000.
With Jorge Posada on first and Tino Martinez on second, Shane Spencer hit a line drive that was snagged by Velarde.
Posada, who had been running, was tagged out, and Martinez was then tagged out trying to get back to second base.
It was the 11th unassisted triple play ever.
Not only couldn't I find a video of this catch, but I couldn't even find a decent picture of Tony Barron. All I found was this baseball card.
Regardless, Phillies fans will remember Barron only for his shining moment, a full-extension diving catch to rob Gary Gaetti of a base hit.
Not only that, but Barron subjected his poor face to the oppressive turf of Veterans Stadium.
He only played 57 games for the Phils, but Barron's catch is one of the greatest.
Temperamental outfielder Jose Guillen provided us with one of the most awesome defensive plays in baseball.
Early on in the magical 1998 season, with the Pirates facing the Colorado Rockies, Neifi Perez hit a deep drive to right field that glanced off Guillen's glove.
Guillen, however, stayed with the ball, and with Perez heading for third, he uncorked one of the greatest throws in baseball history.
The ball traveled in the air all the way to third base, where Perez was gunned down.
With Houston leading the Cardinals 1-0 in the second inning of Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, there was a lot on the line.
This situation was amplified with the Astros having two runners on.
When catcher Brad Ausmus smashed a ball to center field, it looked like the 'Stros might get two more runs and take a commanding 3-0 lead.
Instead, Jim Edmonds pulled another one out of his hat, making a spectacular diving catch to keep the deficit at one.
The Cardinals would go on to win the game, 5-2, and get to the World Series.
Before he was the Wizard of Oz, he was...well, the Wizard of Oz.
Many people forget that Ozzie Smith played the first four years of his Hall of Fame career with the San Diego Padres, and he was just as good with the glove then as he was with the Cardinals.
Perhaps his greatest play came against the Atlanta Braves.
Smith picked up a hard-hit Jeff Burroughs grounder with his bare hand and gunned down the Atlanta outfielder.
It was a statement play for Smith, and a true sign of things to come.
Many critics of this play say that it really wasn't anything special.
But considering that the wall Mays almost ran into was 455 feet from home plate, the Say Hey Kid covered a tremendous amount of ground to make that incredibly difficult catch.
The play robbed Cleveland's Vic Wertz of an extra-base hit and was the first step in sending the Giants towards a World Series championship.
Before the season, MLB Network named this catch the best catch in MLB history.
See the catch at 1:41 in the video.
Ken Griffey Jr. was a very good baseball player. Actually, he was awesome.
One of the most exciting players of all time, Griffey burst onto the scene starting in the early 1990s.
However, this catch, in which he robbed Yankees outfielder Jesse Barfield of a home run, was just a sign of things to come.
Griffey made a lot of tremendous defensive plays in his career, but few were even close to this one.
In Tampa Bay's relatively short history, there have been many great defensive plays.
Carl Crawford's amazing over-the-wall catch in the 2009 All-Star Game got serious consideration for the top play in Rays history, but early on this year, Sam Fuld topped it.
The Rays outfielder, going at a full sprint, dove and flew through the air, making a catch at full extension against the White Sox.
It was the first in what has been a season full of amazing catches by "Super Sam."
This catch can be seen at 2:27 in the video.
As far as wall-climbing catches go, it doesn't get much better than this.
On July 1st of 2006 in an interleague game between the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros, Texas center fielder Gary Matthews Jr. snagged a Mike Lamb drive, pulling the ball back from over the high wall in dead center.
Beyond that, Matthews even did a 360 off the wall, adding some flair to one of the best catches you'll ever see.
If not for a missed call by Bob Davidson, this would have been an incredibly rare triple play in the World Series.
In Game 3, the first World Series game played outside of the United States, Atlanta's David Justice hit a long drive to center field.
Blue Jays center fielder Devon White made a dazzling catch, crashing into the wall of the SkyDome in the process.
While the Blue Jays did double off a Braves runner, many Blue Jays fans believe to this day that the play should have been a triple play.
This play can be seen at 0:36 on the video.
Ronnie Belliard may not be good at a whole lot, but he sure can turn a mean double play.
This one was turned while the Nationals played the Reds.
Belliard fires what looks like a basketball point guard throwing a no-look pass to the shortstop. It was nifty stuff.
We love Ronnie Belliard.