Horning: In my head, Jerry Royster's catch

Jerry Royster, the man who made "the catch" inside Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in 1982.

I found it.

I'd been trying to find it for more than 20 years.

For at least as long as the Internet has been a place you go looking for memories.

Also, I found it, horribly, after writing about 700 words of what was supposed to be the column you're reading now.

Because if it's Monday in The Transcript, and I'm not on vacation or have another column I must write -- like, say, from the first Sooner football game of the 2019 season -- this is it.

We're going "in my head."

Seems I've been here at The Transcript pretty much forever, or long enough to have witnessed myriad things.

Like two seasons of John Blake making OU football a laughingstock and, though tragic, it was indeed hilarious; like the great Shelden Williams playing high school basketball as a Midwest City freshman; like women's World Series VIPs hanging out in a ridiculous looking pirate ship beyond the right field fence, before fan interest demanded, you know, bleachers.

Anyway, I've seen plenty and spent more than 20 years at The Transcript writing about it, and there was more than 25 years of life before I arrived and, well, it would seem, and my bosses agree, that going into my head once a week might make for decent reading.

So here we are.

Also, I found it.

It was the highlight of my youth, until replaced by Francisco Cabrera knocking in Sid Bream to win the 1992 NLCS, magic I viewed between deliveries for Pizza Shuttle on Lindsey.

The only thing I knew for sure about the highlight, of which I couldn't remember the team nor player it happened against, was it involved my favorite player on my favorite team, at least when that player wasn't Dale Murphy or Bob Horner.

Royster was a guilty pleasure because he had the audacity to somehow spend nine years in Atlanta and 16 in the majors, despite, though it pains me to say it, not being much of a player in any measurable way.

Lifetime, Royster hit .249, got on base at a .315 clip and slugged a horrendous .333. Somehow he hit 40 home runs in a 1,428-game career, a figure I'm shocked to be so high.

And you know how some people are mistakenly famous for something they're not that good at? It was like that for Royster and stolen bases, because he stole a fair number, yet his lifetime theft ratio was 189 of 284, giving a 66.5 percent success rate, the 522nd best in big league history, one spot behind the legendary Roy White and one spot in front of the more legendary Pudge Rodriguez.

He was no Freddie Patek.

However, the one thing Royster really could do was field the ball and from just about every position. It's why he stuck around so long.

He never played first base, pitched or caught, but he played everything else, including more than 100 starts at four different positions -- third base, second base, shortstop, left field -- which is nothing like Pete Rose playing at least 590 games at five different positions -- first base, second base, third base, left field, center field -- but still pretty unique.

So I'd been looking for the highlight forever and only Friday, the day I wrote the first draft of this column, did I find a reference to it in response to somebody's blog post -- about, literally, how Atlanta's Jeff Francoeur may have been baseball's worst statistical player in 2012, yet not as bad as Royster in 1977 -- that referenced the highlight, a catch, taking place in 1982.

Then, with something to go on, I found a 23-minute video about the 1982 Braves, the team, playing for manager Joe Torre, that won an MLB record 13 games to begin the season, and then I got worried.

If the highlight I'd been looking for all this time was on that 23-minute video, I'd have to write a new column from scratch.

That's why I didn't make myself watch the video until Sunday morning, still hoping I would't see it and kill my original 700 words.

But I found it.

When I saw it the first time, perhaps live, or as a highlight even then despite watching about 100 Braves games a year at that time in my life, I decided it was the best catch I'd ever seen, replacing one of Boston's Fred Lynn that helped to close This Week in Baseball every week.

Also, since, it had been replaced by two better catches in my mind, one from then-Anaheim's Jim Edmonds, diving into the warning track as he ran full speed with his back to home plate, and one by then-Texas' Gary Matthews Jr., pirouetting above The Ballpark's center-field wall.

I found it just 20 seconds into the video and it was only the catch itself, Royster pulling it back inside The Launching Pad -- aka Atlanta Fulton County Stadium -- after it was already three feet beyond the fence, a physical feat that left Royster draped over the wall by his waist, half in and half out of the field of play.

Sadly, it may not have been as spectacular as it lived in my memory. On the other hand, finding what you've been looking for forever is a happy feat.

I'd say they don't make players like Royster any more, that it's become a day and age in which even shortstops and second basemen must hit, that we'll never see another Mark Belanger or Tim Foli, all glove, no bat. Yet, I'd be wrong because Texas' Rougned Odor is hitting .165 right now.

Still, none of those guys could play so many different positions, or bring a home run back, against some unknown foe, playing for some unknown team.

I found it, but mysteries remain.

Recommended for you