The PED Backlash, Leifer, & New Perspectives

January 19, 2010

What is it with me and steroids? I’ve put so much energy towards them it’s ridiculous. I’m so tired of these damn things. Who invented them? If you know the guy, tell him I’m coming after him. I don’t care if he’s 99, I’m still gonna kick his ass. I ought to just keep my big mouth shut when it comes to all the controversy…I just can’t get myself to do it.

Anyway, I’ve been sorely in need of a fresh perspective towards baseball. Just in time, I went out to Waco to speak at the Texas High School Baseball Convention. First off, let me tell you that Texas is one big ol state. I’ve never seen so many high school coaches in one place. Secondly, I got the fresh perspective I needed. Just seeing all these coaches hungry to learn more about the great game of baseball restored my faith.

The other thing I like to do when the steroid blues have got me down and I need a baseball lift is look at the amazing photographs of Neil Leifer. This guy never fails to get me in a better mood. Aside from an obvious passion for the game, Mr. Leifer is an artist and a technical wiz. The unique angles and perspectives of his images capture the essence (and innocence) of the game better than anything I’ve ever seen. I never tire of em. Here’s a few of my favorites….and a story about one of them. Enjoy.

Leifer's amazing perspective of Willie Davis sliding in to break up a double play.

Leifer's amazing perspective of Willie Davis sliding in to break up a double play.

Here is the story behind this image from Smithsonian.com.

Born in New York City in 1942 and raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Leifer grew up watching ballgames with his father, Abraham, a postal worker, at the Polo Grounds (home of his father’s beloved Giants) and Ebbets Field (home of the Dodgers). Leifer remembers taking a picture of Jackie Robinson on Camera Day at a Dodgers game when he was 13. The young photographer received training in technique at the Henry Street Settlement in New York and began selling photos as a teenager. At 18, he scored his first Sports Illustrated cover (of New York Giants quarterback Y. A. Tittle).

Leifer almost had to align the planets to get his double-play photograph at Dodgers Stadium, in Los Angeles, on April 25, 1965. He had brought his father to the game to watch the Dodgers take on the Philadelphia Phillies. “It was his first trip to the West Coast,” Leifer says. “Dad hadn’t yet gotten over the Dodgers and the Giants moving to California, but it was a thrill for him to be there anyway.” Abraham Leifer was “handy at building stuff,” so the photographer asked him to put together a small wooden box that could be put into a space carved out of the padding in the second base bag. Into the box went a Leica connected—through wires buried a few inches under the infield dirt—to a remote release behind first base. (Dodgers officials, Leifer says, were keen to cooperate with Sports Illustrated, and seemingly indifferent to any travails this imposed on the groundskeepers.) “I used a 21-millimeter lens”—a wide-angle lens—”because I wanted to get the stands as well as the play,” Leifer recalls. “My father actually had the remote release, while I was shooting with another camera.”

A classic double play developed in the third inning. With Willie Davis—the Dodgers’ great center fielder and then the fastest man in baseball—on first, batter Tommy Davis poked the ball to the infield. With perfect timing, Leifer père hit the remote release and caught Willie Davis launching into his slide toward the fielder’s foot.

Casey Stengel yelling at an ump.

Casey Stengel yelling at an ump.

Roberto Clemente...this might be my favorite Leifer image of them all.

Roberto Clemente...this might be my favorite Leifer image of them all.

Good Lord look at the size of Neil's....lens.

Good Lord look at the size of Neil's....lens.

One Response to “The PED Backlash, Leifer, & New Perspectives”

  1. Matt says:

    Love Leifers work, my favorite of his is the one with Namath and the Bear on the sidelines.

Leave a Reply