I’ve written about my memories of covering football, now it seems the right time to do the same about baseball.
As an Associated Press photographer, I covered many, many major league baseball games, especially in the 1950s, and 60s. I retired from the AP in 1971.
I remember covering a National League game in St. Louis. I came up from Memphis, Tennessee, for the night game. The lights at Busch Stadium were about as bright as a 10 watt bulb out in the woods. In those days we used a camera called a Big Bertha, a large camera that had to be on a tripod. It had a large lens, but the light was so bad for night games that we had to alter the speed shutter controls. That wasn’t all, I had to develop the old 4x5 film in hot paper developer to try and get a half-way decent image. Grain? Oh yes, lots of it. But it was the only way.
There were some great players on that team in the 50s. To name a few: Stan Musial, Enos Slaughter, Red Schoendienst and Joe Garagiola. Joe later became a “game of the Day” broadcaster.”
I met Garagiola again, later during his broadcast visit to the Minnesota Twins – Baltimore Orioles Saturday game in Minneapolis in the 1960s. Hank Bauer, manager of the Orioles, and Bill Martin, a coach with the Twins – both former New York Yankees, and members of the Yankees’ “Peck’s Bad Boys.” which also included The Yankees’ Whitey Ford, and Mickey Mantle. Those four seemingly were often in some kind of trouble. Back to Garagiola – after that game, Garagiola was in the “Twins Room” where the media had a little “Libation” after the game. Joe spun joke after joke – many were of religious nature – and everyone one of the baseball reports and photographers had tears of laughter rolling down their cheeks.
The next morning, Sunday, was “Picture Day, whereby parents could bring their children down on the practice field and get autographs from the players. I looked over at the visitor’s dugout and there sat Hank Bauer, with his head in his hands, and his elbows on his knees. Of course, I knew what this meant. I went over, and at the top of the dugout steps, I pretended a child’s voice and asked, “Mr. Bauer, may I take your picture?” The great star looked up, and then called me a rather uncomplimentary name. We both knew the problem.
Billy Martin was a character. He came out of the dugout once, and before a game, and I asked him about the number on the back of his uniform. It was no. 1. “Billy, is that no.1 on your jersey the uniform number, or your batting average. He also called me an uncomplimentary name.
During one game when the Yankees came to town, I talked with Mickey Mantle about a picture. Without saying anything, he reached his hand out as if to ask for money. I gave him a few choice words, and added: “The AP helped make you famous with our coverage, and we’ll never pay you for anything.” I turned and walked off.
Later, Mantle had to go to Mayo Clinic in Rockchester, Minnesota. For treatment. Billy Martin was to meet him there, and had agreed to a picture. I got there early and tried to call his room. Of course, there was a telephone operator intercept. Surprisingly, Mantle took my call. He had mis-interpreted my name. He assumed it was a woman, and not a man named Jean/Gene. He was a woman’s man.
Probably my favorite baseball player was Harmon Killebrew, of the Twins. Not only was he a heavy-hitter, and homerun leader = ironically called the “Killer.” Killer might be for killing the ball with homeruns, but, in my book, and others, he was a consummate gentleman, and friend. Killebrew was also elected in baseball’s Hall of Fame.
In the early days, when the old Washington Senators came to Minneapolis and changed their name to the Minnesota Twins, I had a lot of requests for pictures from area newspapers. Almost always I got “Harm” to do the posing with the small-town citizens. He was the most cooperative player I have ever known. Many times I would approach him in the dressing room prior to a game and ask him to come out of the field early and pose. Often he was still in his ‘Skivvies’ in the dressing room. He would suit-up just for me and the picture. I was saddened by his death in 2011 at age 74.
Major league All- Star games I covered were in St. Louis, Kansas City, and Minneapolis. Overpowering temperatures were a feature, except for Minneapolis. In Kansas City I was assigned to the right field fence, were I stood on a 4x8 sheet of plywood, nailed to the fence. The temp was over 100 degrees. Below me was a flock of goats and sheep grazing under the scoreboard. I stood on one foot, and then the other, while smelling the wonderful aroma from below, and shooting pictures, of course. Our crew flew into St. Louis, and as the plane door opened there was a huge blast of over 100 degree temperatures at 8 p.m. the night before the game. I asked the stewardess to slam shut the door and return us to Chicago. Minneapolis was the usual cool.
Just before the start of the Twins-Dodgers World Series game in Minneapolis, in 1965, I asked manager Sam Melee to put his right foot on the top step of the dugout, which was illegal. Sam reminded me that he could be thrown out if someone saw him do this. “Sam, do you think anyone is going to be watching you on the first pitch of a World Series game?” I had a chair on the field, right next to the right end of the Twins dugout. At the moment the first pitch was about to be thrown, Sam put his foot on the top step, and with my wide-angle lens, took the picture as the pitcher threw the first ball. Nothing was ever said. Naturally, no one was watching Sam. He was also my buddy. After a game, I often shot a picture in the Twins dressing room of the winning pitcher, or something. I would go out through a door that went into his office. Often he was holding a press conference. I would open his refrigerator and fix myself a toddy before processing my film, and transmitting the picture nationwide. I had the first permanent darkroom, and transmitting station in major league sports. One evening, Melee knocked on my door and asked, “Are you mad at me?– You haven’t been over stealing my liquor for a while!”
Often, before a Twins game, the Twins Room bartender and I would meet with Melee in his ballpark office, and discuss the night before game, and ask some embarrassing questions of why this play took place. Sam would look at us in disgust, and say some not nice words. Nobody does this, but we had a great camaraderie.
There are probably more stories, but, as they say, “That’s all for now, folks.”