Almost 20 years later, Charlie Hayes still fondly remembered for "The Catch"

Final out of 1996 World Series remains Hayes' Yankee legacy
07/12/2013 12:58 PM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Though he spent just three seasons in the Bronx, Charlie Hayes will always be remembered for "The Catch."(AP)
It has been 17 years since what Charlie Hayes calls “The Catch,” his securing of the final out of the 1996 World Series that gave the Yankees their first World Championship in nearly two decades – and yet, in a good way, it seems as if Hayes is the only one who doesn’t remember it like it was yesterday.

“I walk around and people still talk about that catch; you’d think it would go away, but it hasn’t happened yet,” Hayes said during his Old-Timers’ Day visit to Yankee Stadium. “I’m honored to be part of that. Just being part of the Yankee tradition is unbelievable, and this is proof.”

Hayes had two stints with the Yankees, the first coming in 1992 when the Phillies sent him to the Bronx that February as the player to be named later in an earlier trade. Hayes hit .257 in 1992 before being lost when the Rockies chose him in that winter’s Expansion Draft, and when he returned via trade with Pittsburgh in August 1996, he could immediately see that things were much different.

“That team was a group of guys that came together, and while there were a lot of superstars on that team, the biggest thing is that Joe Torre got everybody to make sacrifices,” Hayes said. “I remember one game where I wasn’t playing against a lefty, and thought I should’ve been; I walked out on the bench and I saw (Darryl) Strawberry to my left, Tim Raines to my right, and Tino (Martinez) behind me, and I said to myself, ‘What could you be complaining about? These guys here have done way more in this game than you have!’ From that day forward, I just approached every game like it was my last.”

Hayes played in 20 games down the stretch and almost every one of the team’s playoff games, and even on days where he didn’t feel his best, he admitted the Yankees mystique carried him all the way through to that Series-clinching catch.

“I don’t know what it was; I just know that some days you’d come to the Stadium and feel like you had nothing, but you’d walk out on the field and it was like somebody else was in your body,” he said.

Hayes retired after the 2001 season and has spent much of the last decade running his baseball academy in Texas, but he makes one pilgrimage every year to the Bronx; he made his first return to Old-Timers’ Day in 2009 and has come back every year since, a tradition the now 48-year-old says will continue as long as the team is willing and he is able.

“It’s the Yankees, and that’s enough said, but to get to come back and see a lot of the guys I played with and guys I was a fan of who played before me is real special, and I look forward to it every day leading up to this,” he said, “I look forward to seeing the fans, too; I think are the greatest fans in the world.”

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