Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Retiring #24

When I first moved to the Bay Area in 1982, me and my family (long time LA Dodger fans) used to go to Oakland A’s games and sit in the cheap outfield bleacher seats. Rickey Henderson was one of the big marquee players at the time and he always made the game fun. That year Rickey Henderson stole 130 bases. He was amazing to watch with his wide stance, tickling the grass before taking off to claim another base. I even had a poster of Rickey in my room, a Mizuno ad that featured a pair of cleats hanging on his shoulder with glowing cleats. I was a fan. Who wasn’t?

A few weeks ago, Rickey was inducted into the hall of fame. The all time stolen base leader had reached the pinnacle of his baseball career, legitimizing his claim that he is “the greatest of all time.” The following week Rickey would have his #24 retired by the Oakland Athletics.

It’s been a while since I have shot anything sports related. Not that the retiring of a number is actually a sporting event. I was looking forward to using my season credential for the first time. I got to the stadium about an hour and a half prior to the late afternoon ceremony. The last time I had been at an A’s game the place was empty. Tonight was different. When I arrived the parking lot was buzzing, people were already in line to get in and receive their free Rickey Henderson jersey. I believe it was a near sell out crowd.

The event was going to be pretty cool and sounded like it was going to have several nice photo ops. Me and 4 other photographers (Doug Duran, Bay Area Newspaper Group, Bob Galbraith, Reuters, Ben Margot, AP and Fred Larson, San Francisco Chronicle) along with a Comcast TV crew and the A’s team photographer Michael “Z” Zagaris were going to be positioned on the field next to second base. After a handful of Rickey’s former teammates came out Rickey was supposed to walk down a long red carpet from center field to second base where he would lift a golden base above his head. We all discussed how cool the shot was going to be and all agreed to play nice and hold our position, just let the magic happen in front of us.
Me, Doug Duran and Ben Margot laying on the field - Photo By Fred Larson
The rest of the media was kept off the field back behind home plate. We didn’t want to block anyone so we all decided to lay down on the grass. We looked like five guys paying tribute to the great head first base stealer as we lay on our bellies on grass that felt like a slightly damp carpet. This grass was perfect.

As Rickey made his way down the long red carpet, the TV cameraman stayed glued to his side making it difficult to get a clean shot. No big deal, I’m really holding out for that nice clean wide shot of him holding up that golden base. Well, I think I would know by now, if you over think a shot, it probably won’t happen. Today was another one of those days.

Prior to Rickey arriving at the golden base the light was perfect. Just as he reached down to pick up the base, not only was the cameraman directly between me and Rickey, but a rogue cloud had temporarily blocked the sun leaving Rickey in shade and the background still illuminated. The picture imploded real fast. The cameraman continued to stand in front of Rickey and even circled around him leaving very little opportunity to have a nice clean image. Oh well, they said we had a few more opportunities during the ceremony. During the ceremony, Rickey spoke to the crowd in his patented third person speak and kissed a framed replica of his old Athletics jersey. His daughters unveiled a giant jersey on the outfield wall which we were going to have a chance to take pictures of him posing by. We all walked out to the wall and waited for the man of the hour to come stand by his jersey. Again, we all agreed to play nice, let the picture happen and we would all walk away happy with pictures of a guy standing next to a wall. And then the TV guy showed up and was about a foot away from him as he held his golden base and pointed to his retired jersey. In the end it all sort of worked out, just not as great as it could have been.


CraigDAllen said...

"Rickey knows how good Rickey was and that's what matters to Rickey at this time, insofar as this is the moment, ostensibly, to be meant to be a time at which Rickey is celebrating his induction into the Hall of Fame where Rickey will forever be enshrined with Rickey Henderson's picture gracing the wall over the inscription of the name Rickey Henderson...Rickey Henderson. Rickey Henderson out."

...m... said...

AND, the primary image HERE, the silver base with the number, turns out to not only tell the story, but lead us into it.

Well done J-man, as usual.

Tell the vid guys to wait their turn.