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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2006-07-03
715: Released from Bondage
By Brad Mangin
I had a feeling something special was FINALLY going to happen at AT&T Park in San Francisco on Sunday afternoon, May 28, 2006. Either that or I was desperately praying that I would finally get to photograph Barry Bonds hitting his 715th career home run in person after spending 18 straight home games shooting him from inside the out of town scoreboard in the right field corner, 309 feet away from home plate.
Mangin credits the magic of the Mike Ivie game for rubbing off on Barry Bonds to hit #715 on May 28. Mangin still has his ticket stub from that day that he wrote on when he got home from Candlestick with his dad.
You see, after this game the Giants would be embarking on a six game road trip through Miami and New York. I would not be going on the trip (unlike Andy Kuno, Nhat Meyer and Jed Jacobsohn). I did not want to have to watch this milestone homer on TV. I wanted to shoot it myself.
Upon arrival at the ballpark at 9am (the usual four hours before first pitch to set everything up during Bonds watch) I had a good feeling. I knew that May 28th was a magical day in San Francisco Giants history.
On May 28, 1978 the Giants beat the hated Dodgers 6-5 on Jacket Day at Candlestick Park as pinch hitter (and cult favorite) Mike Ivie hit one of the biggest home runs in San Francisco history when he belted a grand slam off Don Sutton in front of a record crowd of 56,103 delirious Giants fans. I should know. I was there. I still have my ticket stub! Ever since that day when I was 13 years old May 28 has always been a special day.
In an effort to persuade the baseball gods that Barry really needed to go yard on this day I pulled out all the stops. I broke out my brand new green suede Pumas that I bought online during a cold night game earlier in the week from my perch in right field. I told everyone that today was the day. No one believed me. Jed actually did NOT want to go to Miami the next day. Kuno was all dressed up in slacks and a collared shirt for the team charter to Miami later that afternoon. I told Kuno not to worry- he would be able to have dinner at home tonight. He did not believe me.
Did I know something? Of course not. I was just trying to be real positive because I had no other choice.
The final omen that dictated today was the day occurred right before the start of the game when the FOX Sports Bay Area camera man working with me in right field told me that Barry was going deep in the FOURTH inning. He was calling the shot.
Fast-forward an hour and ten minutes later and Bonds did indeed hit career homer #715 in the bottom of the fourth inning, passing Babe Ruth into second place on the all-time home run list. I was thrilled that it happened at home and happy that my remotes worked and I got a few frames I really liked.
Photo by Jeff Chiu / AP
Barry Bonds hits #715 and then takes a curtain call.
I was sad that this month long odyssey was finally coming to a close. I would not get to work with Robert Beck, Kojo Kinno and Jim Heiser every day again. I was fortunate to work with a great team of people who worked so hard to make sure everything worked and all our remotes fired. This great team of people also knew how to have fun, which is so important when working on a nutty assignment like this.
Once everyone had the chance to take some time off, fill out those expense reports and eat some home-cooked meals again I thought it would be fun to check in with several friends of mine who covered Bonds during his pursuit of 715 and see what kind of memories they were left with.
The first person I checked in with was San Francisco Giants team photographer Andy Kuno, who shot every Giants game at home and on the road during the Bonds chase and had some fun stories to share about his experiences.
"I can recall Jed Jacobsohn cursing when Barry hit 712 against San Diego on May 2nd. The Bonds watch was officially on for a select few. Little did we know that it would last longer than anyone anticipated. I mean I had my bags packed for the Miami/New York trip - that's just crazy. So on it went for close to four weeks - get to the yard four hours before the first pitch, set up remotes, test the Pocket Wizards, sign up channel frequencies, reload film (yes FILM!) after each Bonds at-bat, curse the opposing manager for intentionally walking Bonds, curse Bonds for popping / flying / grounding / striking out when actually pitched to, break down the remotes post game, pack and store my gear, go back home or to the hotel room for sleep only to repeat the process again the following day. It was ground hog day only it lasted close to a month.
As exhausting as the bondage was, it was a memorable experience for so many reasons. With odd stuff happening to Bonds: Barry getting nailed in the forehead during batting practice in Milwaukee; Barry getting hit by a line drive on the base paths in Philadelphia; watching Barry purchase soap at the body shop in Houston; the scoreboard NOT flashing "715" after Barry hit 715; and our flagship station's mic going dead during Barry's historical homerun. Wow. Curse of the Bambino perhaps?
It was fascinating to see so much media cover one person. I liken it to World Series pre-game coverage. I don't think it ever got as large as it did in Philadelphia. The ratio between the media to players was close to 4-1 and they were only there in case Barry said something. The clubhouse would get so packed, it felt like a moshpit only there was no moshing. Several players' meetings were held just to kick out the intruding scribes and TV reporters. Silly.
It was great fun to interact with the likes of Morry Gash and Scott Paulus in Milwaukee, Rusty and Miles Kennedy in Philadelphia (is there any cooler father son combo since Vader and Luke?) and Bobby Seale and Karen "the cooler" Warren in Houston during the traveling circus. It was also a delight to hang out with the Bay Area locals on the road, most notably Nhat Meyer of the San Jose Mercury News. He had to sleep in his car in Milwaukee. True story..." said Kuno.
Next I turned to one of Kuno's traveling partners for the entire journey, San Jose Mercury News staff photographer Nhat Meyer:
"I was heading in to work at about 2:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 2nd listening to the Giants game on the Radio. Bonds was up and it was the bottom of the eighth inning on a 2 and 1 count or was it a 3 and 2 count? All I remember is right before he hit his 712th career home run I had a bad feeling. Bad because I knew if he hit it I'd have to book a flight and take a red-eye flight that night and shoot a game the next day. We, my boss Geri Migielicz and I, had agreed that once Bonds got within two home runs of Babe Ruth's record or 712 career home runs I'd start to cover every game. Back in the old days (two years ago) Bonds hitting two home runs in a game was not unheard of.
Getty's Jed Jacobsohn, Giants Andy Kuno and I were the only photographers to stick it out the whole way through. Andy was nice enough to buy me some cotton candy in Houston and bring me some water when I was sick in Oakland. I'm not exactly sure how I got sick, but the last thing I ate before I got sick were the $5 chicken strips at the Coliseum (the same day Bonds hit 714); they were such a great price, probably would have cost twice as much if I had purchased them in San Francisco. I really shouldn't have gone to the game the day after bonds hit 714, I was really sick, I literally couldn't stand for more than 10 minutes before I felt like I was going to barf, but it was one of those dumb pride things - in the 10 years I've been working (including my internships) I've never called in sick and I didn't want this thing to break me. I didn't eat anything except for a half a bowl of soup for three days. My main goal the day after Bonds hit 714 wasn't to capture his 715th home run, it was to not barf all over Darryl Bush of the San Francisco Chronicle who was sitting next to me in the photo box. Thankfully I met my goal that day.
Photo by Nhat Meyer / San Jose Mercury News
TOP: Andy Kuno, Giants team photographer, forced Nhat to take a picture of him and ball girl Lindsay before the game at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia. BOTTOM: Nhat's awesome rental car in Houston on May 18, 2006.
The teams public relations people and team photographers at the stadiums we visited were so nice; Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Houston and Oakland. In all four cities we visited many of the local media were moved for us the traveling media, which meant we all had great spots. I think they knew we were already suffering and eased the pain for us because we didn't have to stress out about our positions.
My Mom, who lives in Colorado, predicted that Bonds would break Ruth's record against the Rockies (she was right of course) - I thank the baseball God's he didn't break it IN Colorado, like she was hoping, because the Giants don't play in Colorado until July 3rd! We were spoiled back in 2004 when Bonds tied his Godfather Willie Mays at 660 career home runs because we only had to wait until the next day for him to hit 661.
How times have changed, in 2001 we sent four photographers and a picture editor for home games for Bonds' 73rd home run. For all the road trips and about half the home games I was the only photographer from the paper, the most we ever had at home were two photographers (including me) and a picture editor. I was setting up between 2-3 remotes every day until Bonds hit 713, then I set up between three and four remotes every day - arriving at the stadiums 3-4 hours early to set everything up and staying late to break everything down and produce an audio slide show after every game. Carried 5-6 cameras, three to four Mark II's and two 20d's. I was able to compact it down to two backpacks and a rolling photo case. Three cameras in a rolling case, one in a backpack and one around my neck.
Highlights from being, as our columnist Ann Killion put it, "embedded in bondage":
• Slept in my Dodge Stratus rental car for 5 hours before a game in Milwaukee after a red-eye flight - this was during the middle of my 33 hour day (2 pm Tuesday May 2nd through midnight May 3rd).
• Three 18 hour plus days (longest was 33 hours).
• Computer crashed, had to go to work before a night game and have our tech guy reinstall everything (luckily this didn't happen on the road).
• Car window broken in San Francisco - luckily all my gear was in the trunk and nothing was stolen.
• Rented a 12-passenger van in Houston, was able to chauffeur the San Francisco Chronicle, Getty and Contra Costa Times photographers around
• Remote camera hit by ball.
• Stomach flu, literally didn't eat anything for 3 1/2 days.
• One day off between April 30 and May 28th
• Produced 23 slideshows from 24 games (one game another staffer produced the slideshow)" said Meyer.
All shows: http://www.mercurynewsphoto.com/category/sports/giants/
My next stop was to check in with the third member of the traveling party to shoot EVERY game both home and on the road, Getty Images staffer Jed Jacobsohn:
"Finally it's over! was my first thought after hearing the roar of the crowd and my friend and yours, Mr. Bonds circling the bases. I could feel a chill run through my spine as he touched first base and by the time he got to second base I was already making plans in my head of what I was going to do the next week instead of going to shoot the Marlins in Miami. By the time he reached home I believe I already had dinner reservations...no more setting up three remotes a day, no more batting practice scrums, no more Bonds on Bonds (who were great guys), no more not covering the game as a baseball game, no more Bondage!
Photo by Jed Jacobsohn / Getty Images
Barry hits #715
Looking back on the 5 plus weeks of shooting every at bat that Barry had in 5 different cities across the country the highlights were definitely the people I got to see along the way. Starting with legendary Chicago based photog and new dad Jonathan Daniel at the Brewers. Being able to hang out with him for a couple of days is always great. Then when Philadelphia game along being able to see world-renowned photog Ezra Shaw was definitely a blast. Had some completely disgusting cheese steaks (which were great at the same time) and some good nights out with Giants team photographer Andy Kuno, SJ Mercury News photog Nhat Meyer and SF Chronicle photographer Deanne Fitzmaurice there as well. Houston was pretty good too being able to hang out with Dallas based Ronald Martinez and all the crew down there who always know how to have a good time post game! And as always the regular crew in the Bay Area is always a pleasure to work with and never really felt like coming to "work." Jonathan Ferrey, Otto Greule, Jeff Gross and Justin Sullivan all subbed in on various games. Sitting next to true legends like Mickey Palmer, Michael Zagaris and Robert Beck for all the home games was more fun than it should have been. Having our super star editor and "getting the shot when it counts" shooter extraordinaire, Sara Wolfram was invaluable.
After all is said and done I think only history will be able to show how significant this moment will or won't be. The Barry Bonds saga has yet to play itself out, and until it does, will these images remain in limbo of importance in baseball history," said Jacobsohn.
San Francisco-based Associated Press staff photographer Jeff Chiu had this to say about covering Bonds and the pursuit of 715:
Everyday that Barry Bonds did not hit a home run just kind of blended into each other. I'm not complaining, there are worse things to do than to spend the day working at a ball game. What got old was setting up a remote in the same pace everyday, and to wind up having nothing to show from it made it more annoying.
On the day he hit 714 in Oakland, it just didn't fire, but I have a feeling that I would have been blocked either by the batboys, security, or something. It was just that kind of day. My view at AT&T park in San Francisco was aimed to get Barry running somewhere from home to 2nd underneath a giant 714 or 715 on the scoreboard. At 715, Eric Risberg fired it for me, but it didn't work because the scoreboard didn't flash the number until Barry was near 3rd base, so the picture is just of some tiny guy running under a giant blank scoreboard in the background.
I'm just glad the whole ordeal ended on a better note for me. I started my coverage at AT&T in the right field scoreboard area, which is a great clean shot for getting Barry in his swing and running up the first base line. Too bad he didn't do anything while I was there. After that I was switched to a center field spot and the third base photo position, where the emphasis is to get the ball on bat shot, which I rarely get with any player, much less Barry. At 714 in Oakland, from third base, I didn't come close to getting it, and the follow through of his swing was just ugly from our side. Also, stadium security walked out onto the field just as he reached home to block any good view of him hugging his son Nikolai or taking the curtain call. At 715, luckily I got the ball in the frame. The swing also looked better, and I managed to get a decent shot of him taking one of his curtain calls that TV or Andy Kuno (San Francisco Giants team photographer) didn't get in the way of.
So despite the long wait and the pressure of covering Barry on top of the baseball game that was being played, it was fun being out at the park with all the other photographers. We got a taste of what it'll be like if and when he approaches Hank Aaron, and to top it off we all made a lot of overtime," said Chiu.
Veteran AP staffer Eric Risberg has seen it all over his 25-year career in San Francisco:
"One thing I have learned from covering Barry Bonds is to expect the unexpected. What started out as something many of us thought would be over in the first few weeks of the season turned out to be nearly a month-long waiting game in May.
Photo by Eric Risberg / AP (TOP) and Missy Mikulecky
TOP: Bonds does a curtain call after hitting #715. BOTTOM: Risberg at AT&T Park where it all happened.
For me, the quest began on Monday May 8 and ended three weeks, 19 games, two home stands and one road trip later on Sunday, May 28. It has to be one of the longest single events I have ever covered since the eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the 1989 World Series and earthquake. (It's also the period of time my wife refers to as "freedom from household Bondage," if that gives you any idea about how many nights I wasn't home for dinner.)
While I began the chase with a lot of high hopes and big expectations, the event became a marathon, and it ended with a great sigh of relief (along with a margarita and cigar at the Acme Chophouse), but also with a lot of memories.
The memory of carpooling with my colleagues Marcio Jose Sanchez and Jeff Chiu and getting to the ballpark hours early to set up and test remotes is forever etched in my memory.
One of my favorite parts of the assignment was getting to travel to Houston to shoot the three-game series at Minute Maid Park. I don't think I have been to a park that is as friendly and easy to work in as this one. It was really fun to work with a real veteran group of pros, including Chicago photo editor Denis Paquin, San Diego photographer Lenny Ignelzi, Atlanta photographer Ric Feld, and Houston freelancer Dave Einsel. It was also great shooting alongside most of the traveling photographers from the Bay area, who were all shooting from outside first base.
I think the real emotion and excitement of the event took place when Bonds hit number 714 in the cavernous green and gray aging Oakland Coliseum. It was where the past met the present. Because it took almost two weeks to go from 713 to 714, there was a lot of anticipation and pressure that had been building. The images of Bonds pointing to his family sitting above the dugout, circling the bases, being met by his son Nikolai at home plate, getting a standing ovation, and then coming out of the dugout for the curtain call are the moments with the most electricity that are my favorites. It was ironic for me that I saw another significant moment in baseball history in Oakland: Rickey Henderson breaking the all-time base stealing record.
As for reaching 715 the following week, it just didn't have quite the same impact. A lot of things that were supposed to happen just didn't. Bonds' reaction after hitting the home run was very minimal; there wasn't a large greeting at home plate, and the game was not stopped for any ceremony. Everyone just rushed to get their pictures filed and be done with it. One of the strange ironies about 715 is that Giants radio broadcast went dead for some 15 seconds when the moment happened, and there is no record of the call. The scoreboard which normally flashes in large numbers the home run didn't light up right away and didn't flash until Bonds was almost at home plate. It was also frustrating that the remote camera I had set up behind home plate with the hope of getting a unique picture only fired intermittently and missed some of the moments I had hoped to record.
As a contrast to when Bonds hit his 73rd home run of the season in 2001, I noticed that for 715, there were some empty seats at AT&T Park, and McCovey Cove was not filled like it was in 2001. I think I saw just one photo of Bonds smiling that day, which was taken by team photographer Andy Kuno. My favorite picture of 715 was one taken by Brant Ward of the San Francisco Chronicle. It didn't show Bonds or any of the activity right on the field, but showed fans in center field trying reaching out to catch the home run ball which was grabbed by a man waiting in line to buy a beer at a concession stand. That image summed up the experience well.
So, the margarita and cigar at the Acme, along with Brad Mangin, John Burgess, Jose Fajardo, Jeff Chiu, Jose Villegas and Jim Heiser, was long overdue and justly earned. It's hard to sum up the feeling of being on edge for three weeks, of being away from home and out of the normal routine for so long, waiting for The Big Moment. Then, in one swing of the bat, it was over and done with. At least we all have the memories of this historic day etched in our minds if not in images - and plenty of time to wait until 755," said Risberg.
Sacramento Bee staff photographer Jose Luis Villegas knows more about the game of baseball than pretty much any other photographer I know:
Photo by Jose Luis Villegas / Sacramento Bee
TOP: Barry Bonds realizes the rain is falling as he makes his way from the clubhouse to the dugout in Oakland. BOTTOM: Barry hits #715.
"Baseball is such a head game.
My colleagues and I spent nearly three weeks coming to the park to shoot Barry Bonds hitting his 715th homerun and documenting the moment. The assignment turned into a bit of a head game. Following Bonds hitting 713, we waited nearly two weeks for 714, and another week for 715.
My life has been touched and blessed by the game of baseball in so many ways. I was more than happy to be at the park.
Based in Sacramento, I spent just as much time driving to and from on that 100 mile stretch of Interstate 80 from Sacramento to the bay than I did shooting anyone of those ballgames. We did manage to stay in the bay every night before a day game to take the edge off.
Paul Kitagaki and I began our coverage on April 26th. It wasn't until May 20th that Bonds homered in Oakland to tie the Great Bambino. I looked for moments to illustrate not just Barry's conquest, but also the struggle to reach 714 and 715.
In the three weeks there were some good games, and some forgettable ones. But every time Bonds came to the plate, the interest and level of excitement was matched only by a play-off atmosphere. On the Friday of the final weekend of the Giants home stand, I took a one-hop liner off the bat of Giants rookie Travis Ishikawa off my right index finger while I was photographing his first at bat as a major leaguer. The tip of my finger broke, the camera shattered, ouch... First aid came into the first base well outside of the visitors dugout and tried to get me to go to see the stadium doctor my response, "Barry's up next inning, I'll have to go later."
Bonds hit 715 two days later, May 28th in San Francisco. The fans were happy and every shooter who'd been out to the park for the duration was happy.
Looking back, witnessing an athlete reach a mark only two men had ever reached was memorable. Tainted or not, it was quite the show," said Villegas.
San Francisco Giants team photographer Martha Jane Stanton has been photographing Bonds on a regular basis since his arrival in Scottsdale, AZ as a Giant for the first time in March of 1993:
"It started as Ground Hog Day, went to Ground Hog week and then it turned into Ground Hog Month. There were days you felt he would never hit another one again and others that you cold feel your heart in your throat with his every at bat. When the Sunday came where you felt it was now or Florida (where the Giants were headed for their next road trip), I felt an extra want to have it happen now. We had all worked too long to have it end up in Florida in front of 5,000 fans. So the big guy came through and all was well with the world...at least in terms of baseball.
Photo by Martha Jane Stanton / SF Giants
Bonds is greeted at home plate by his son Nikolai after hitting #715.
The most enjoyable part for me was hanging out game after game with my buds, Robert Beck, Michael Zagaris and Mickey Palmer along with Kojo and Jim Heiser. We sat in the first base T.V. Box for what seemed like forever. Between the stories of Zagaris' wilder days and the ongoing music quiz it was some of the funniest time I've ever had shooting an event. I would often think of VJ, knowing how much he would of enjoyed it. Sometimes I felt him with us, laughing along to some idiotic joke or prank that was going on.
My favorite image after all was said and done was one that I didn't plan for (and believe me, I thought of a lot of different scenarios). It was simple and sweet and said more to me than the swing of a bat. It was the greeting of father and son at the plate with the son jumping like a bunny with pure excitement while the father acknowledged his own Dad while crossing the plate.
I was glad to have it over. I was happy to be a part of it. And I was thrilled I didn't have to watch it on T.V. from Florida," said Stanton.
Contra Costa Times staffer Jose Carlos Fajardo had dreams about Barry:
"It felt like a dream. But it wasn't, it was more like a nightmare. A nightmare you ask. Isn't that a bit harsh? Not when all you do is follow one man who is chasing a record. When Bonds was attempting to hit career home run 700, I spent three weeks chasing Bonds across the country. I traveled from San Francisco to Colorado, then to Arizona, and then to Wisconsin but to no avail. Bonds did what he does best at home. With that in mind I kept thinking about home run 715. I had this feeling in my gut that told me Bonds would pass The Babe at AT&T Park. But the question would be when?
Every morning was the same. It had become a monotonous routine. Sort of like when you were a kid and you were getting ready for school. Some photographers had even given it a name "Bonds Watch". I've heard it used once or twice but never thought much of it. But weeks passed and no home run. The phrase "Bonds Watch" started to mean just that. Watch Bonds! Anything Barry did I shot. Is he doing something unusual? Is it worth sending? I kept asking myself.
Twenty-two days had passed from the first day the team came home for the home stand. On the final day before the team flew out to Florida, Bonds surpassed the Babe hitting a solo home run against Colorado Rockies pitcher Byung-Hyun Kim in the 4th inning on Sunday, May 28, 2006.
Photo by Jose Carlos Fajardo / Contra Costa Times
TOP: Getty's Justin Sullivan files pictures in the first base overhead basket on May 10. BOTTOM: Barry takes a curtain call after hitting #715
It was finally over and it wasn't all that bad. So let's look at the numbers. I had only followed Bonds for ten days. Seven of those days I worked in a row. I eventually took some time off because now I'm a daddy and I can't work like I use to. In those ten days I averaged about 600 miles of driving back and forth from my home in Martinez to San Francisco. I could swear that my car could drive itself to ballpark without me behind the wheel.
In the end people would ask me what was the most memorable thing you remembered about the whole event. Besides the fact that the guy who caught the ball was in line waiting to buy beer and peanuts! For me the most memorable part was visiting with other photographers. Bay Area shooters are a wonderful bunch of people. If you're ever at AT&T Park chasing "whomever" you'll see what I mean," said Fajardo.
I thought it was fitting to wrap up this report by calling on long-time Giants fan and season ticket holder Karl Mondon of the Contra Costa Times:
"Andrew Morbitzer wasn't the only guy out getting a beer when Bonds finally hit the damn thing. I was, too. After weeks on this endless quest for a Big Bang picture, when it finally happened, where was I? On the couch. At home. Miles from the yard. Classic!
And that, friends, is why I'm not a SportsShooter.com member. Who would sponsor a loser like me?
The guy who always misses the Big Moment.
Morbitzer's inattention was rewarded with hardball manna from heaven. He'll be the first guy to go to an AT&T Park beer line and not come back a poor man.
Mondon's reward: yet another great sports moment missed. Put it right there next to Game 5 of the 2002 World Series. When 4-year-old Darren Baker was saved from a stampede by a J.T. Snow collar grab at home plate. A play the radio announcer said, "Must have been shot by each of the 200 credentialed photographers here!"
Except one. I was focused on 3rd base for the throw.
When Brad and SportsShooter.com finally initiates a special galleries section for "Great Moments Missed" or "Brutal Back focus Blunders", perhaps I too, can finally become a worthy contributor.
Perhaps we can do it for #756, eh?" said Mondon.
There you go. Reports from nine different shooters who probably know as much about Barry Bonds as anyone else they have ever photographed in their careers. How will they ever get along without him next year?
(Brad Mangin is a freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is also a founding partner in SportsShooter.com and regular contributor in the monthly Sports Shooter Newsletter. For a report on photographers covering Bonds' slow march to tie Babe Ruth, check out part 1: http://www.sportsshooter.com/news/1573.)
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