Twist and Shout

Twist and Shout
Life is never straight (Joey Kulkin photo)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Vignettes from Vermont: 26 Days till Pitchers & Catchers

BENNINGTON -- It was October 9, 2003, inside trendy Salthill Pub just off the green in Lebanon, New Hampshire, for Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the Sox and Yanks, back when the rivalry of rivalries was in full lust.

He began his gig as sports editor of the upstart weekly rag a month earlier and decided to be part of the community and watch the ballgame at the pub. Baseball is better in numbers. The boy above walked into the bar and climbed onto a barstool to watch the start of the game. He wore a Red Sox shirt and one of those braided necklaces made of hemp, and his hair was like you'd expect the hair of a 10- or 11-year-old boy to be.

There's a boy at the bar, he thought at the time, but no one seems to notice.

Anyway, Gabe Kapler led off with a single but was erased on a strike 'em out throw 'em out double play (Bill Mueller whiffed).

Nomah and Manny followed with singles and Papi walked to load 'em up, and the boy on the barstool beamed with so much hope in his eyes.

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte dashed those hopes by forcing Kevin Millar to pop out, and what you see above is Pettitte strutting off the field while the boy hides a stream of tears that drowned the hope.

Moment of moments.

My eyes are kind of watery as I look at that photo again and write these sentences. That moment is what America must always remain: little boys and their baseball dreams.

The boy slid off the barstool and went to sit with his parents, and a few innings later the family went home.

The TV at Salthill sat atop a Coca Cola cooler, and a few feet away on the brick wall hung a painting of famed clown Emmett Kelly. Here's another photo he took during the game while Sox pitcher Derek Lowe readied to pitch ...

... so as you can see, he loves taking photos of baseball. And clowns.

Neil Leifer also loved to photograph baseball ...

Order Leifer's book HERE

If you recall a few weeks ago, I paid homage to Leifer (HERE) for the way he captured moments on the football field and in the boxing ring.

Well, the baby-faced shutterbug also dominated on the baseball field, and more than 300 of his best shots come together in "Ballet in the Dirt: The Golden Age of Baseball" -- a 298-page landscape-format book published by Taschen. The cover shot Drysdale and Co. after the Dodgers beat the Yankees in Game 3 of the '63 World Series.

Several stories and anecdotes (in English, German and French) complement Leifer's photos, and one quote by Humphrey Bogart early in the book sticks out ...

Without giving away too much, here are a few photos that caught my eye ...

Drysdale and Koufax and Alston, among other Dodgers

Bob Gibson

Leifer with a 4,000-mm lens specially made for Life magazine

Pitch one for the Gipper?

Leifer and Musial

Killebrew, a big ol' strapping galoot

Johnny Podres: Southpaw in 22 ... just like Kershaw

One of Leifer's contact sheets ...

.... this is the one he circled with the red grease pencil

Before the disgrace

McCovey, the early days

Morgan, Robinson, Piersall, Bench
(there are several pages like this)

The epitome of a standing strut


As I thumbed through page after page of Leifer's book, my mind wandered back to my baseball photos. Covered hundreds of games in Bennington and Brattleboro and Roswell -- Major League all the way down to T-ball -- which means I snapped thousands of photos, but I didn't hit my stride till landing in the Upper Valley.

"Next time, son"

A ball in the hand is worth ...

Chris Bryant, Lebanon High, one of the craftiest southpaws
I ever covered; that boy could hit corners

A coachable moment: Post 5 at Post 26, bases loaded, Jeff at the bat

Johnny's first home run

Amanda Whurlitzer forever

Little League hustle, forever

Monadnock high-kicker

White Mountains High slugger lost his arm in moto-cross wreck
a year earlier; here he whacks a single at Mascoma

Summer ball in Rio Blanco: Woodstock at Hartford

Heartbreaking story of Nick Avery and his 48 pitches HERE


Bang-Bang Play


Lead-off Triple

And the pitch ...

Those photos put me right back in the moment. Sadly, 95 percent of the photos I snapped in the Upper Valley (as well as the other stops on the Newsie Trail) are gone, kaput, adios, see ya later, and that's what you get for not protecting your assets, bubba.

The photo of Randy Johnson celebrating his perfect game in May 2004 is one example of my love capturing baseball on the boob tube. Just so happens I captured Phil Humber's perfect game (HERE) last season while noshing at Pat's Diner in Trenton. Here's one ...

Anyway ...

The final 2 pages in Neil Leifer's book belong to Roberto Clemente. The left side is empty save the quote "Why does everyone talk about the past? All that counts is tomorrow's game."

The right side shows this ...

... indeed. Pitchers and catchers on February 12.