Vermont man recreates Willie Mays’ catch with lawn art

Dylan Stableford
The Sideshow

Every September for the last few years, drivers along a stretch of road in northern Vermont are greeted with some unusual lawn art commemorating what many consider to be one of the greatest defensive plays in baseball history: Willie Mays' over-the-shoulder catch in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.

Large wooden cutouts featuring paintings of Mays' remarkable grab are displayed in sequence by Rich Tarrant Jr., CEO of and son of former Republican Senatorial candidate Rich Tarrant. (Tarrant lost to Bernie Sanders in 2006.)

Tarrant Jr.'s friend, the artist Thom Ross, created the cutouts in 2004 for the 50th anniversary of "The Catch." Ross displayed them at the site of the old Polo Grounds in New York where Mays, the Giants' Hall of Fame centerfielder, made the Sept. 29. 1954 catch.

The San Francisco-born artist eventually gave them to Tarrant, who now displays them every fall along the South Burlington, Vt., road.

Burlington's Seven Days newsweekly described a recent drive-by:

As you approach and clear a grove of pine trees, the first figure appears: a baseball player, clad in a gleaming white uniform with black and orange trim, his back bearing the number 24, seeming to run at full gait toward the road. Then another figure emerges, glove outstretched to the sky as a ball rockets downward. The ball disappears into the glove of a third figure. A fourth has wheeled and is turned toward an imaginary ball field. The fifth fires the ball, seemingly into oncoming traffic, losing his hat from the force of his throw.

"When I look at that play, I always think one of these days the ball is going to go over his head," Ross told the paper. "But he catches it every damn time."

"I got an email from a guy who passes it every day driving his kid to school," Tarrant Jr. added. "One day his son said, 'Hey dad, it's going to be a good day.' When he asked why, his son said incredulously, 'Well, the baseball players are out.'"