Spring is always a favorite time of year for me. There is such a sense of renewal at this time of year. The grass is getting green, and the wild flowers on the side of the road are carpeting the landscape in color. Spring is a time where possibilities are abundant. April is the beginning of baseball season, when my favorite team can still go all the way. As a photographer, this is the time of year when the light is best, and along with the prospect of traveling; I look forward to getting out and seeing what there is to see. However, what I like to see most is the beginning of baseball. Each year I look towards my hometown team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, and see them making the drive to the World Series. Most years I have been disappointed, but that has never dampened my hopes. Spring fosters hope eternal.
My first memories of the sport of baseball came in 1958, when I was a very small child. The city had not yet built Dodger Stadium, and the team, who had just left the Brooklyn, was playing in the LA Coliseum. They had some great players, though some of them were at the end of their careers. Pee Wee Reese was still playing shortstop, along with Duke Snider, Gill Hodges and they had a great pitching staff, including, a young Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax and the vertern, Don Newcombe. It was Pee Wee Reese however, that caught my four-year old notice. For me at that age, to see someone named Pee Wee cemented my first connection to the sport. Later, after moving to Florida, and after Pee Wee’s playing days I would watch him every Saturday afternoon on the NBC Game of the Week, where he did color commentary along with Hall of Famer, Dizzy Dean. Some years later, I was watching my college team play a game, when I noticed an older gentleman sitting next to me who looked vaguely familiar. I asked him if he was Pee Wee Reese, to which he replied, “Son you’re not old enough to know who I am!” He was not being hard to get along with, but just surprised that some kid in the stands would know who he was and recognized him. I told him that my earliest memories was watching him play that first year that the Dodgers played in LA.
“Guys ask me, don’t I get burned out? How can you get burned out doing something you love? I ask you, have you ever got tired of kissing a pretty girl?”
Several years later, having just graduated from the Southeast Center for Photographic Studies, I was hired to provide some still photos for public services commercials that Major League Baseball were making here in Orlando in 1989. It was then I had the opportunity to photograph the famed, Dodger manager, Tommy Lasorda. The main photos that I took of him were in a locker-room where they filmed the commercials. While he was very friendly and professional in what he was asked to do, it seemed to me that he did not suffer fools gladly. The director set up a scene where Lasorda was to storm out of the dugout to argue with the umpire. The director was giving Lasorda instructions about how he was to do the scene, when Lasorda stopped him and said, “I know how to argue with an umpire!” With the camera rolling he runs out of the dugout and argues with the actor who had the misfortune of playing the umpire. The director yells cut and Lasorda, turns to the actor and calmly tells the him that he did a great job. I am not sure how much of those comments were heard by the actor, who had not yet recovered from the tirade that Lasorda gave him just a moment before. Lasorda then smiled, patted the actor on the back and returned to the shade of the dugout. I think that Lasorda showed the director that there were some of the acting arts even in baseball.
The truly great thing about photography for me is how my interests in photography is supported by my other interests, whether it be baseball or to see what I can find along the side of the road.