What do you remember most about Kevin Mitchell?

The booming bat?

The sometimes sour demeanor?

The tour of 1001 clubs, at home and abroad, that marked the last six or seven years of his career?

Maybe. All of those are fair, to some degree.

After all,

Mitchell’s bat did boom, to the tune of 234 home runs in about 4700 plate appearance in the Major Leagues.

And he was no one’s idea of a cuddly and kind soundbite waiting to happen but, as former San Francisco Giants exec said later in Mitchell’s career, “He was never a problem for me.”

And, after Mitchell broke in with the Mets and starred for the Giants, and after he resurrected his swing in Cincinnati in the early 1990s, he really did jump around a lot — Red Sox, Indians, A’s, with time in the minors and the Mexican League afterward.

That doesn’t even count stops with the Padres, Mariners, and in Japan in between, either.

So, it’s all true, to some degree.

But, man, you really can’t think about Kevin Mitchell without getting a whiff of 1989, can you?

That was Mitchell’s second full season with the Giants after a midseason trade brought him to the Bay in 1987. And, after helping to render Jeffrey Leonard unnecessary with a solid 1988, Tatonka claimed the left field job as his own.

All he did that summer was go out and hit 47 home runs and drive in 125 runs, both totals good enough to lead the Majors.

Throw in 345 total bases, a 1.023 OPS and 192 OPS+, along with a Giants pennant, and you had the makings of an MVP — Mitchell handily won the National League award over teammate Will Clark.

But, even among all that offensive gaud, and even though Mitchell’s defense was suspect his whole career, it’s a single play from that glorious summer that comes up over and over and over again.

On April 26, 1989, the Giants were in St. Louis to play the Cards when Ozzie Smith “launched” a ball toward Mitchell in left.

Either the ball took on new life once it was in the air, or Mitchell misjudged it off the bat — or both — but the end of the play had the newly-minted outfielder charging toward the wall, trying to look over his shoulder, trying to get his glove hand into position.

And then, at the last possible moment, Mitchell thrust his bare hand into the air and snatched the ball … stuck the landing … held on.

It was an instant classic, and one that lives on today, almost as vivid now as it was over 30 years ago. Maybe even more so.

Certainly, that catch has resonated through the decades, and even in the hobby itself.

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Back in 2005, for example, Upper Deck whipped together a little issue they called “Classics,” celebrating 130 retired players. Mitchell checks in at #63, but he’s also scattered all throughout the various inserts and parallels.

And it doesn’t take long to figure out what landed him a spot in this set, there among all-time greats like Al Kaline and Monte Irvin and Willie Stargell.

Card #KM relives that storied 1989 season of Mitchell’s … no big surprise, right?

And card #CM-KM in the “Moments” insert set celebrate “the catch” — also no surprise.

Find Kevin Mitchell cards on eBay (affiliate link)

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It’s the sort of play, after all, the sort of moment, that, once lived, once experienced, is hard to forget.

And not one you’d ever want to forget.

Hobby Wow!

Mitchell’s play was a work of art during his best seasons, and LeRoy Neiman rendered the slugger in actual artform in this mixed-media piece for sale on eBay:

The listing provides up-close images of the piece and Nieman’s signature and is definitely worth a look.

Check it out on eBay right here (affiliate link).

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