Not only did fans witness the Boston Red Sox’s biggest win of the 2017 season Tuesday night at Fenway Park. They also saw perhaps the greatest catch — at least from an aesthetic standpoint — in the ballpark’s illustrious history.
Austin Jackson, playing center field for the Cleveland Indians, robbed Hanley Ramirez of a home run in the fifth inning with one of the best grabs you’ll ever see. He raced back toward the wall near the triangle in right-center field, timed his jump perfectly and snatched the baseball while tumbling head over heels into the Red Sox’s bullpen. Somehow, Jackson hung on.
The catch literally made Ramirez’s jaw drop.
It’s amazing that Jackson walked away unscathed, let alone caught the baseball. Torii Hunter, after all, wasn’t as fortunate when he tumbled into the Red Sox’s bullpen while attempting to rob David Ortiz of a grand slam in Game 2 of the 2013 ALCS.
Coincidentally, Jackson, who was with the Detroit Tigers at the time, was the first to check on Hunter after the now-iconic spill.
“It’s crazy how much time you have to think about all of that stuff, even when it’s happening that fast,” Jackson said after Tuesday’s game, per Cleveland.com. “As my feet are flipping over, for some reason, I was thinking about that same play that I saw with Torii.”
Jackson’s catch gets somewhat lost in Boston’s dramatic 12-10 win, which was capped by a walk-off home run from Christian Vazquez. But make no mistake about it, even the Red Sox were impressed by the veteran outfielder’s acrobatics.
“I was actually running to try to go catch it,” Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel, who was in the bullpen at the time, told reporters. “And then all of a sudden he is flipping over our fence. You really didn’t know how to react. It was such an amazing catch, you want to start clapping. But then you realize he just took a run away from us. It was definitely up there with one of the best catches I’ve ever seen.”
Social media blew up after Jackson’s grab, with many calling it the “Catch of the Year.” Forget that, though. Jackson’s catch, while just a footnote in a crazy August game between two World Series hopefuls, was even better than that distinction.
“That will go down as one of the best catches of all-time,” Indians right fielder Brandon Guyer suggested, per Cleveland.com.
“That was one of the best catches I think I’ve ever seen,” Indians manager Terry Francona concurred. “I’ve been in the game a long time. That’s a hard wall out there and a lot of guys run away from it. Austin went up and over. That was one of the most exciting plays I’ve seen in a long, long time.”
Given all that went into the catch — the pursuit, the angle, the timing, the leap, the fall, the landing, the Kung Fu grip on the baseball — and the overall fearlessness shown by Jackson, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more impressive catch, at least as it relates to Fenway Park.
Jackie Bradley Jr., of course, made a similar catch near the triangle to rob the New York Yankees’ Aaron Judge a few weeks ago — a grab that some at the time called “the best in Fenway Park history” — and Mookie Betts nearly fell into the bullpen while preserving a Rich Hill shutout in 2015. There also was Jay Buhner’s grab for the Seattle Mariners in 1997 that took a would-be homer away from Scott Hatteberg.
But Jackson’s was as good as it gets. If we’re scoring at home, the man deserves 10’s across the board, which the Fenway Faithful acknowledged by giving the opponent a standing ovation.
Tuesday night was all about the Red Sox’s win, which put them back in first place in the AL East, a half game ahead of the Yankees. We still must give credit where it’s due, though.
Jackson’s catch was one for the ages.
Thumbnail photo via Bob DeChiara/USA TODAY Sports Images
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