"When I got to the fence, I thought I had no chance," Chavez said. "I've made some good catches in my career, but I never took away a home run like that."
It brought to mind other dazzling October plays in this city. There were the game-saving catches by center fielder Tommie Agee and right fielder Ron Swoboda at Shea Stadium for the Mets in the 1969 World Series. Going back even farther, there were the catches made at Yankee Stadium by two Brooklyn Dodgers left fielders, Al Gionfriddo robbing Joe DiMaggio in the 1947 World Series and Sandy Amoros doing the same to Yogi Berra in the 1955 World Series. And at the Mets' original home, the Polo Grounds, where the New York Giants once resided, center fielder Willie Mays made his famous "money catch" off Indians first baseman Vic Wertz in the deepest part of center field in Game 1 of the 1954 World Series.
Mets manager Willie Randolph came to the mound after Oliver Perez walked Jim Edmonds with one out in the sixth and Scott Rolen coming to bat. Chad Bradford, the sidearming right-hander, was warming in the bullpen. Rolen had a premonition that Bradford would enter the game at that point.
After Game 6, Rolen noted: "Bradford has been tough on me. I have a pretty good idea that I'm going to be facing Bradford at some point again."
After talking it over with Perez and catcher Paul Lo Duca, Randolph elected to stay with his starter.
"I felt Oliver had enough to go against Rolen," Randolph said. "I liked the matchup with Rolen. He has a good high fastball, and I thought he pitched to him pretty well."
The move seemed questionable when Rolen tore into a Perez delivery and hit a drive to deep left that had the look of a two-run home run that would have given the Cardinals a 3-1 lead.
Chavez, who replaced Cliff Floyd (sore left Achilles tendon) as the Mets' left fielder in Game 1 of this series, then went into his act. Chavez ran to the warning track, planted his right foot, leaped at the wall and raised his glove (right) hand. The ball was on the way down when Chavez snared it. He came to earth with the ball cradled in his glove resembling a snow cone.
"I just tried to jump as high as I could," Chavez said. "My glove almost came off when I caught the ball. I was trying to keep it in my glove."
"It was an unbelievable play," said Rolen. "You are going to see a lot of highlights for that play for a long time. I thought it went over the fence. I saw some white when he caught the ball. I thought it bounced and went over the fence."
As was the case with Amoros, Chavez helped the Mets get another out with a strong throw to shortstop Jose Reyes, whose relay to Delgado doubled up Edmonds, who was well past second base when Rolen's drive was caught.
"When I came down, I saw that Edmonds was past second," Chavez said. "Reyes and [second baseman Jose] Valentin were waving at me for the ball. I just threw it in their direction and hoped one of them caught it."
When Chavez returned to the Mets dugout, Perez greeted him with a hug. Then the fans began chanting for him to take a couple of bows.
"I know the play gave the team more energy," Chavez said. "It was exciting. Everyone was going crazy. I was going crazy, too."