49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

October 5, 2012
Harbaugh bounces his Willie Mays theory off of Willie Mays


Jim Harbaugh and his defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, don't get along on every point. Take the greatest baseball player of all time, for instance. Harbaugh argues that it's ex-Giant Willie Mays. Fangio says he's wrong. It's Babe Ruth.

So imagine Harbaugh's chagrin Wednesday when Mays visited the 49ers and Fangio approached Mays and asked him to sign his hat. Instead, Mays gave Fangio the hat that was on his own head. As he relayed that story today, Harbaugh opened his arms and made the universal, that's-so-unfair gesture. (The hat Mays is wearing in the photo above is Fangio's).

Asked how Fangio could vote for Ruth, a player he never even saw, Harbaugh said, "It's a great question. It's a great question to ask Vic."

Harbaugh, who isn't always verbose (or mildly interested in answering questions) during his Friday press conferences, had a great time today talking about Mays' visit. Mays gave Harbaugh an autographed, Giants-themed onesie for Harbaugh's newborn son, Jack. (Harbaugh said it's not going on the boy, it's going under glass).

"He signed an autographed baseball for everybody who wanted one, which was everybody," Harbaugh said. "And had a great time talking to him. Talked a lot of 1954 catch at the Polo Grounds. Ran my theory by him. Turns out, it was the correct theory."

Harbaugh's theory is that the famous over-the-shoulder catch Mays made against the Indians in 1954 was no big deal for Mays, who had a bead on the ball as soon as it came off the bat of Vic Wertz. He said Mays corroborated that assumption. "That was the theory: It was just a routine catch for Willie Mays," he said.

The 49ers have been Giants-centric in recent weeks with the publicity over Alex Smith's Giants cap and Mays' visit. But Harbaugh also said he was excited for the A's and didn't understand why Bay Area fans couldn't root for both teams.

In fact, he wondered why there's been such animosity between fans of the Raiders and 49ers. The teams' annual preseason meeting was cancelled indefinitely after shootings and beatings marred the 2011 game at Candlestick Park. There has been off-and-on discussion of the two teams sharing the stadium 49ers currently are building in Santa Clara.

"There should be a great relationship between the teams and their fans," Harbaugh said. "It doesn't have to be like the Republicans and Democrats."

The 49ers released their injury report for Sunday. Despite saying all week that he would play against the Bills, Brandon Jacobs (knee) is listed as questionable. So are cornerback Carlos Rogers (ankle) and nose tackle Isaac Sopoaga (knee, ankle). Linebacker NaVorro Bowman (shoulder) is probable.

It wouldn't be surprising if Sopoaga is held out Sunday. The Bills like to use three wide receivers, and the 49ers could be in their nickel package -- which doesn't use a nose tackle -- a lot. Jacobs and Rogers are expected to play.

-- Matt Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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