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|| SportsShooter.com: News Item: Posted 2007-08-20

Bonds Watch Through The Lenses of the Photographers That Covered It
Photographers look back at covering home runs #755 and #756

By Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Photo by Brad Mangin

Barry Bonds hits #756.
By now most baseball fans have forgotten about Barry Bonds and his pursuit of Hank Aaron's all-time career home run record. By the time Bonds hit homer #756 on Tuesday night, August 7, 2007 most of the country was already asleep- and those who were awake didn't care too much about it. However, for those of us whose job it is to document history on the ball field this cool summer night in San Francisco will never be forgotten.

It doesn't matter if you like Barry or hate Barry. If your job is to photograph him passing Hank Aaron you want to make the best photographs possible of this event. You never know when your next chance to shoot such an historic event will take place.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to photograph Bonds tying Aaron when he hit #755 in San Diego on August 4, 2007 and #756 in San Francisco. I have witnessed Bonds doing countless cool things over his career. I have seen home runs #71, #72, #73 (single season record) #500, #600, #660, #700, #714, #715 and now both #755 and #756. The problem with covering so many big home runs is this- how do you photograph a left-handed hitter swinging the bat in the same batters box in the same ballpark for so many home runs and still make a different picture? That was my challenge and thanks to the cool folks with the San Francisco Giants stadium operations department (thanks Tom Zorn!) I was able to come up with a unique angle in the outfield. In doing so I spent countless freezing San Francisco nights shooting Bonds through a chain link fence on my hands and knees while hundreds of crazy fans, drunks and homeless people watched the games for free over my shoulder. You think this job is glamorous? One night my assistant Jim Heiser had someone puke right behind him and the night Bonds hit #756 someone stole my lucky fleece jacket from the 2004 World Series.

The 17 Giants games I shot in pursuit of history stretched out over three weeks of baseball I will never forget. Getting the chance to go on the road and shoot in both Dodger Stadium and PETCO Park was a real kick. As a life long Giants fan this was like a dream trip- getting the chance to see the orange and black battle their southern California rivals on the road. Too bad the Giants are so awful this year.

I was blessed with an amazing crew of people to work with during this assignment. Sports Illustrated staff photographers Robert Beck, Heinz Kluetmeier and John McDonough made it possible for us to have real team coverage. I was also lucky to have the chance to work with the most amazing assistants: Jim Heiser, Robert Boyce, Kojo Kinno, Don Liebig, Shawn Cullen, Jeff Bennett, Nils Nilsen, Joelle Wiggins and last but not least- my personal Kojo- Jim Merithew. If I can take one important lesson away from this assignment it will be how important it is to have a great assistant. Getting to work with Liebig for three games at Dodger Stadium and Cullen for three days in San Diego was like going to school. These guys are simply amazing. I learned so much from them.

I would like to stress how important it is to have the backing of a photo editor back at the office. I took a chance and shot from a very bizarre and risky photo position in right field. This position was at ground level, meaning that many times Bonds would be blocked by the first baseman or base runner depending on how the defense was positioned.

Most of the time my view of the plate was clear, but several times it was not- including all four at bats the night before Bonds hit #756 (thanks Dmitri Young!) and the first at bat Bonds had on the night he set the record. Nate Gordon, my baseball photo editor at the magazine, gave me the confidence to stay out in my spot. He was willing for me to take the risk and play my hunches based on the scouting I had done of the many shifts that were played by opposing teams when Bonds came to the plate.

Because of Nate I was able to calm down enough to make a few nice frames of Bonds breaking the record while on my hands and knees and shooting through an angle finder with my camera and 600mm lens on the ground as the hordes of drunks and homeless people went nuts all around me.

My heart was still pounding when I checked my remote behind home plate to see if all our preparations had paid off with a successful photograph of the moment with the scoreboard in the background and the white ball in the night sky. The images were there. Many of them. The remote had fired- thanks to Beck and Kojo. Remember how I said how important it is being a part of a team? We had a great team- one that I hope to work with many times in the future.

I will admit that my mood was very deflated later that evening. This great run of work with many of my friends was over. We were now left with seven weeks of bad garbage-time baseball to cover here in the Bay Area. Reality really hit me when I had to get up at 6am the next day to drive to Napa to shoot Oakland Raiders training camp!

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

Photo by Robert Hanashiro / Sports Shooter

TOP: Brad Mangin sets up his office in the visiting dugout. BOTTOM: Kojo sets up a remote.
Once everyone had the chance to take some time off, fill out those expense reports and eat something other than free Dodger Dogs I thought it would be fun to check in with several friends of mine who covered Bonds during his pursuit of 756 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:

"Shit, Rich Pilling ain't getting his roast crab and garlic noodle dinner Thursday night," was the first thought that crossed my mind when San Francisco Giants Barry Bonds etched himself into the record books.

Tuesday night when he homered off Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik during the fifth inning on August 8, 2007 for his 756 career dinger, the second thought that crossed my mind was "damn, this is pretty cool" while celebrating via fist bumps with Sports Illustrated staff photographer Robert Beck.

My bonds watch started July 5th in St. Louis. The Giants flew me out after Bonds hit 751 in Cincinnati. It was quite satisfying to photograph 756 as I was around for 752 and 753 against the Cubs in Chicago, 754 against the Marlins in San Francisco and 755 against the Padres in San Diego. Despite the long duration of Bonds coverage, I enjoyed each and every day of arriving to the park early setting up magic arms and test firing the Pocket Wizards. Maybe last year's 715 coverage helped prepare me for this go around? Or maybe it's because I won't be seeing anything like this next year and the near future due to the team's shift towards an overhaul of sorts. I guess it was my way of sitting back and appreciating what's going on while Bonds is in a Giants uniform. It's been a pretty amazing ride since he's donned the orange and black.

I was elated that he raised his arms after his historic swing. He reacted by pumping his fist for his previous 2 home runs while running up the first base line so naturally I assumed he'd do something special for 756. The video message from Hammering Hank Aaron was a class act but I was really touched when Bonds spoke of his late father Bobby while he thanked the fans, his teammates and the Nationals during the eight-minute break. Memories of his two walk-off homers against the Braves in August 2003 came flooding back. With his father nearing death, Bonds homered twice in three games in the extra innings.

As they did last year, the players asked me to come inside the clubhouse sans media so I could document their toast to Bonds. Words, hugs, laughter and smiles spread throughout the room. That in itself was pretty cool. I mean they (players) even asked Giants managing partner Peter Magowan to step outside so the guys could share a special moment with 25. And I got to be the fly on the wall for the occasion.

Personal highlights for me were getting a comp'ed meal because I was dining with the great Scott Rovak; getting some type of non-AB ale with Dilip at the taproom; listening to real funny, old baseball stories shared by Giants clubhouse manager Mike Murphy and Chicago Cubs visitor's clubhouse manager Yoshi; posing for a picture with the gorgeous Cubs marketing woman (THANK U STEPEHEN GREEN); getting my first locker on the road while in Milwaukee; eating a butter burger at Solly's Grille, showing Rich Pilling and Martha Jane Stanton how to open a beer bottle with a bottle of water; watching the players, coaches and batboy eyeing Beck's assistant (not Kojo) at Chavez Ravine; shaking hands with the creator of the "X-files;" getting lost near Dodger Stadium with shortstop Omar Vizquel with Vizquel asking for directions from the Latin locals; getting a slightly larger locker in San Diego; countless hours of banter with Beck and Kojo; fish tacos at Rubio's and reconnecting with colleagues Scott Rovak, Dilip Vishwanat, Tom Gannam, Dave Klutho, Stephen Green, Al Tielemans, Scott Paulus, Morry Gash, Jamie Squire, Jon SooHoo, Lucy Nicholson, Andrew Gombert, Kevork Djansezian, Lisa Blumenfield and Steve Dunn while on the road. Of course, much love and thanks to the local Bay Area crew and my traveling companions Nhat Meyer, Gary Reyes, Michael Maloney, Kurt Rogers, Jed Jacobsohn, John Burgess, Brad Mangin, Bert Hanashiro, Rich Pilling, Mickey "cookie monster" Palmer, Kohjiro "Pop Fly Wizard" Kinno and my surf instructor Mr. Robert Beck.

Next I turned to a photographer who covered both big home runs, in San Diego and San Francisco, for the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif. None other than John Burgess:

After shooting Barry every time he twitched for 13 games, I admit I was questioning whether I was really having fun. That changed when he hit 756.

A long planned annual family backpack trip in the Sierras would have taken me off the Bonds watch on Wednesday, and I was down to my last few at bats when the historic homer flew over the center field fence that fateful Tuesday night. I have photographed Bonds since he first arrived in San Francisco and have most of his biggest home runs in my files, so being there for 756 was one of those career-defining moments for me.

Photo by John Burgess / Press Democrat

Photo by John Burgess / Press Democrat

Barry Bonds hits #756.
Up until that point my journey included arriving to the various ballparks extremely early, (but never before Brad Mangin) remotes that tested well but mysteriously didn't fire during the game, wifi connections suddenly disappearing at deadline, frozen magic arms magically repaired by Shawn Cullen (a genius I say), early flights, confirmed hotel rooms that weren't confirmed, and calls to my 7-year-old daughter that broke my heart.

The Press Democrat is a New York Times-owned, medium-size newspaper so I was on my own for the whole strange trip. I'm not an iceman like Nhat Meyer and Gary Reyes from the Mercury News (my heroes, gods of the audio slideshow). I am a type A, bounce-off-the-walls stress case. When Bonds hit 755 to tie the record in San Diego, everyone in the stands must have taken out their Verizon cell phones or logged onto the wifi, because my pictures were moving as slow as Barry running down the first base line on a grounder to short. I ended up holding my computer aloft in the middle of the street outside of the park with the Verizon card attached, watching the bytes creep along while my battery icon glared an ugly red. I made it with a minute to spare before the computer shut down.

On the night of 756, I used three remotes. A 200m up first base, one 35mm inside third, and a 35mm on a D20 with a star filter next to me triggered with a remote switch in my left hand. Brad Mangin taught me about shooting wide to show a sense of place for historic shots, so I used a 50mm from my inside first position, with a 70-20mm around my neck. After the ball cleared the fence, I dropped the 50mm, and picked up the 70-200mm for the jog up the first base line with the scoreboard in the background. Three frames out of the box and the dreaded "error 99" froze the camera. I managed to pull the battery and grab two frames before he touched 2nd base. I stayed with the 70-200mm until he disappeared into the mob of teammates and then changed the 50mm on one camera to a 400mm for the rest of the celebration. Our position was tremendous for his first curtain call and, later, with Willie Mays when the video cameras and the butts of their cord pullers allowed us a view every once in a while.

Paul Kitagaki Jr., who was alone that night from the Sacramento Bee, grabbed my disk and New York Times shooter Pete DaSilva's from the third base remotes and I pulled their cards from the first base cameras. Editing the images was an adrenaline rush. The remotes fired and I discovered a surprising number of clean images from my handheld cameras after the hit. Sitting in that bunker under the stadium, sending off 20 pretty good images on a historic night, reminded me we have the greatest job in the world. I was there when the most important record in sports was broken. I'll never forget the feeling.

The Press Democrat has always known how to run good photos. The designers truly outdid themselves for 756. We ran 8 photos and didn't use AP. Three images ran six columns, all the way across the paper, along with a huge vertical image on the front page.

I gotta say what kept me sane, and really made the experience memorable for me, was hanging out with great old friends and getting to know new ones. When my editors called me into a meeting to discuss how I used remotes they were surprised to hear how much we help each other. I owe much to my old mentor Heinz Kluetmeier, who lent me radios and cords our paper can't afford. Pete DaSilva for an extra 16-35mm so I could try the long exposure of all the flashes. Martha Jane Stanton and Andy Kuno for a great shooting position and their help over the years. Rich Pilling for treating me like one of the big players even though nobody has heard of our little paper. Nhat and Gary for letting me bounce ideas off them. Sushi brothers Paul Kitagaki Jr. and Jose Luis Villegas from the Bee. The newly hitched Jed Jacobsen. Robert Beck and Kojo for all the laughs (really, attacking a mascot during a pop fly contest...priceless). The always-supportive master of baseball Brad Mangin. Sean Haffey for help with remotes. Telling stories with Rob Tringali between innings. The legions from Media News and the Chronicle and all those I've missed.

I then turned to Deanne Fitzmaurice of the San Francisco Chronicle to get her thoughts:

Ever since Barry Bonds got a Canon Mark II he is really into rights management. I gave him my song and dance about how I wanted to show his life behind the scenes like I did in 2002 for his 600th home run. He said he will give me all the access I want, but he wants to own the photos. That is not going to happen. The whole point is for these pictures to be seen - to humanize him, let the readers see who he is off the field. He then offered to pay me to shoot the kind of pictures I was talking about, but of course he would own them. I don't think so. He even suggested I drag out the old pictures I shot in 2002 and reuse them. Ahhh, no. So the Chronicle readers did not get to see Barry brushing his teeth the day he broke the all time career home run record.

Just after he hit #756, Barry Zito (who also has a Mark II) asked me to borrow a memory card to shoot pictures of Bonds authenticating the bat because Bonds wanted to own the rights to those images. Maybe he'll forget to format the card before he returns it to me.

Overall it was quite a scene as 450 credentialed media members (normally there are about 100) milled around trying to find stories. There was a lot of 'media interviewing media' since Barry didn't want to say much. Several of us had camera crews follow us around as we set up remotes.

Now I can take that vacation I rescheduled to cover this record and I'll send my new airfare bill to Barry.

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / Mercury News

Photo by Nhat V. Meyer / Mercury News

TOP: Bonds hits #755 in San Diego. BOTTOM: Matt Murphy caught home run #756.
Next on my list was San Jose Mercury News staff photographer Nhat Meyer. Nhat has covered Bonds extensively over the last several years and still manages to smile all the time:

Bonds had just hit his 756th home run and after a brief raising of his hands at home plate he starts to trot to first base as I hit the buffer on my Mark IIn for maybe the second or third time ever. I'm sitting out in centerfield where the bleacher seats meet the bricks and I'm concentrating on Bonds rounding the bases shooting my one frame a second (because of the buffer). When he reaches home plate I see TV cameras and a tiny bit of jube far, far away. That's when, out of the corner of my right eye, I see and hear Lisa Blumenfeld (Getty) and Andrew Gombert (EPA) literally toss their 600 f4's to the side and run away. I'm thinking to myself, what the heck is going on? That's when I turned around and see, about 10 rows behind our shooting position, a site that rivaled the Lord of the Rings battle for Middle Earth, a mosh pit of epic proportions. I just assumed the ball was up there somewhere. So sprinted up there and amazingly found a calm area around the storm and hail-Mary'ed the whole thing.

What seemed like 5-10 minutes later - probably a minute or two, a bunch of San Francisco Police officers ran into the center and grabbed Matt Murphy, a story I'm sure you've all heard by now, a New Yorker on lay-over to Australia, who had out-fought his West Coast counterparts for the coveted ball. The aftermath was ugly with a bunch of people being thrown out, some helped out, many with bruises.

Some other factoids:
I think Andy Kuno and I were the only ones to start out in Milwaukee (though Andy did start sooner) and go non-stop 'til 756. Though I don't know if he counts since he got to fly on a chartered jet and I had to fly or drive.

Both the Chronicle and us had automobile related accidents, the Chron is much more serious than us when Michael Maloney and Kurt Rogers got T-boned while in Los Angeles. Gary and I blew a tire going 80 while heading up to the central valley, but amazingly from the time we blew to the time we were back on the road with new tires was 50 minutes (I put the spare on in about 15 minutes while Gary found a tire place online - which happened to be one exit away).

Unfortunately Bonds hit his two home runs on Thursday my fifth day of work - so on my sixth day I had to get up at 4 am to fly out to Milwaukee so that I could shoot the night game on Friday.

This one was much more fun than last years Bondage (which was 28 days - with only 1 day off), this year was the same 28 days straight (no days off) if you include my previous four work days and I had to work four days afterwards to finish up some stuff. But this one was more enjoyable because the majority of the time co-worker Gary Reyes accompanied me on the road - misery loves company - at least it makes things much more bearable.

Major League Baseball's Director of Photography Rich Pilling has seen it all since he covered his first big home run story when he shot Reggie Jackson hitting three dingers in Game 6 of the 1997 World Series at Yankee Stadium:

I joined the "Bonds home run chase" on Tuesday July 23, shortly after Barry hit his 753rd career home run. My reasoning for starting to follow Bonds then was because he was just two home runs away from tying Hank Aaron's record. And, knowing how when Bonds gets hot, he could hit home runs in streaks, I decided to go on the road.

The best part of following Barry's pursuit of the home run record was seeing old friends. Friends that I only see on rare occasions. I got to hang out with Eric Risberg (my spring training partner in crime), Robert Beck, Deanne Fitzmaurice, Bert Hanashiro, Jed Jacobsohn, Lisa Blumenfeld, Otto Greule, Andy Kuno, Martha Jane Jenkins, Mickey Palmer, Jon SooHoo, Andy Hayt, Jon Hayt, Heinz Kluetmeier, Andrew Gombert, John Mabanglo and others. It was like old home week.

I also got to hang out with some new friends as well. Jeff Chiu, John Burgess, Kurt Rogers and Justin Sullivan to name a few.

The worst part of the trip was being on the road for 18 days. Being away from my wife and family.

Photo by Rich Pilling / MLB Photos

Photo by Rich Pilling / MLB Photos

Barry Bonds and his son Nikolai celebrate #756.
Some memories from this trip:
Let me begin by saying that it was like the movie "Ground Hog Day". Every day was the same. Wake up, work out, eat breakfast, go the ball park, set up my remote, wait for the game to begin, photograph Barry, take down the remotes, pack up my gear, drive back to the hotel and transmit my photos from the day to MLB Photos picture editor Paul Cunningham. The next day I would wake up...

Robert Beck and Heinz Kluetmeier setting up what seemed like 100 remotes every day. I felt sorry for Beck's assistant Kojo, who was responsible for setting up and taking down each remote. Plus, daily, Kojo would change the batteries in every Pocket Wizard to insure that they were fresh and would fire.

Kojo participating in the Fly Ball Challenge at AT&T Park. Some SportsShooter.com members might remember the story and photos of when Mickey Palmer participated in this event in 2005. Well, not to blow the whistle on a story to run in the future,

But Kojo didn't disappoint us.

In-N-Out Burgers. For an east coast guy, these burgers are a rare treat. We can't get them on our coast. So for the first three out of four lunches on the trip, I ate a Number One (Double meat burger, fries and a soft drink). One day Eric Risberg told me to order "Animal Fries" the next time that I ate at In-N-Out Burger. I was certain that Eric was setting me up for a joke. But, sure enough, the next time that I ate my favorite lunch treat, I ordered "Animal Fries". Well, it wasn't a joke or set up. It seems that In-N-Out Burger has a special menu. You have to be in the know to order from it. This menu is never posted in the restaurant. If you don't know what "animal fries" are and you want to know, next time order them.

PS: I brought Mickey Palmer to his first In-N-Out on our trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles. He is now hooked on these tasty treats.

Watching Brad Mangin arrive at the ballpark around 1PM (for a 7PM game) every day. At AT&T Park, Brad would set up "his office" in the visitor's dugout. He would plug in his laptop, answer email, work on SportsShooter.com stuff and speak on his cell phone. Brad would also bring the five daily newspapers that he has delivered to his home every day to the park with him as well. He would peruse that papers, mostly the sports sections and discard them after he was finished.

Having a shot after each game with Andy Kuno and Martha Jane. The best part of this was doing the shots in old film containers. Yes, the Giants photographers shot FILM during every Bonds at bat. It seemed that Missy Mikulecky, manager of the San Francisco Giants photo department thought that the historical photos of Bonds home runs would preserve better on film than as digital images.

Watching Robert Hanashiro set up his three 600mm lens set up in the outfield in order to capture the record home run swing sequence.

Driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles with my old travel buddy Mickey Palmer. During the early 80's Mickey and I would travel around the country together, often times sharing a room to save expenses. We made the six-hour trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles without a mishap, and only stopping at one In-N-Out Burger on the way.

Mickey forgetting his shirts and pants that were hanging in the closet in our Los Angeles hotel. So he had to call the hotel and have his clothes FedExed to his home in San Francisco. And me, forgetting to take my laundry out of the dryer in our San Diego hotel. I realized this after I was at Petco Park. So I had to call the hotel to have them get my clothes out of the dryer and brought up to my room.

Meeting Andy Hayt's sweet little daughter. Andy brought her to our San Diego hotel to visit. Meeting Jon Hayt's son Andy (I know, this is confusing isn't it?). We learned that HE was the real Andy Hayt. :-)

Having Dim Sum in LA's Chinatown with Jon SooHoo and Mickey Palmer.

And, oh yes, the magical, historical moment. I admit I am not a fan of Barry Bonds. It has nothing to do with steroids, perjury or any of his latest problems. I just don't like his personality. But, give the man credit. He still has to see the ball, time his swing perfectly and hit more home runs than anyone else in the history of the game. It was really a thrill to witness baseball history.

Photo by Eric Risberg / AP (TOP) Robert Hanashiro (BOTTOM)

Photo by Eric Risberg / AP (TOP) Robert Hanashiro (BOTTOM)

TOP: Barry Bonds hots #756. BOTTOM: Eric Risberg sets up a remote.
I have been fortunate enough to witness many memorable baseball moments; Reggie Jackson's three home run game in the 1977 World Series, Mark McGwire's 70th HR, Bonds' 73rd HR and many more awesome moments. I guess that's what I like most about my job. It enables me to do what I love the best, take photographs, as well as to witness baseball history being made.

Disclaimer: These are my personal thoughts and have nothing whatsoever to do with my employment at MLB.

Next up is Pilling spring training golfing partner, San Francisco-based Associated Press staffer Eric Risberg:

Barry Bonds' 756th career home run was billed as the "Road to History." Now that it's over, I look back on it as "The Road to Rejoicing and Relief."

I first started contemplating the possibility of Bonds reaching 756 when he passed the 500 mark and hit 73 home runs in 2001. Since that time, I've watched him reach 600, tie and pass his godfather Willie Mays at 660 and 661, reach 700, then tie and pass Babe Ruth last year at 714 and 715. So the number 756 has been in the back of my mind for several years now.

Even though Bonds is one of the most controversial sports figures of our time, and it remains to be seen how he will be viewed by history, hitting the 756th home run will be one of the top - if not the top - sports stories of the year.

My feelings of rejoicing come from the moment itself. It was better than I expected. Nobody was quite sure what would really happen: Would he stand alone at home plate, would the team rush out? My impression was that when he hit 756, the stadium went wild and for a few minutes it seemed like a truly genuine moment with no dark clouds circling above. There was Bonds, standing at home plate, arms raised, fireworks exploding, circling the bases with crowd on their feet, then walking onto the field with Willie Mays, giving the tearful speech remembering his late father Bobby Bonds.

Then the moment that caught everyone off guard - when Hank Aaron spoke and paid tribute from the massive centerfield scoreboard. Aaron spoke like a god-like figure surprising everyone, especially all the media who built up this huge feud between the two.

I'm also happy and relieved that I did actually see the moment, especially since I've been covering this guy since 1992. With his recent hitting slumps, there were times when I was wondering if I would get to see him hit 756.

My relief comes from knowing that this is over and that he has passed the last big milestone. I know so many people that have had their lives on hold waiting for this moment to happen, especially the spouses of many who work in the media. I'm very relieved that the bulk of my remotes worked, unlike a year ago when they worked sporadically at best. For 756, I used three remote cameras: one on the backstop behind home plate, one overhead with a fisheye, and another camera shooting horizontally near where I shot at first base. Unlike last year for 715, we actually had several frames to choose from showing the ball leaving the park.

I'm also relieved about not getting to the park hours before to set up remotes. Speaking of remotes, it seemed that they multiplied like rabbits every few games. It was getting to the point where remotes were starting to block photographers' own positions where they were shooting with handheld cameras.

While we often hear so little about what we do and often only hear when things go wrong, what put a nice ending on 756 was getting an email out of the blue from a man who saw my picture (taken behind home plate), which was run half a page in his paper. He told me it was one of the most spectacular sports photos he had seen in his 75 years. And that helped make the wait for 756 even all the more worthwhile.

Justin Sullivan is a Getty Images staff photographer based in San Francisco who usually covers news. However, Justin has also covered his fair share of sports and is no stranger to shooting the Giants left fielder:

It has turned into an annual event to go out to the ballpark and spend days, if not weeks, waiting for Barry Bonds to pass someone on the all time home run list or break some sort of record. I first started on the Barry watch back in 2001 when he broke the single season home record. Then it was back out when he got close to passing his godfather, Willie Mays and then Babe Ruth for lifetime home runs. So, when Barry reached home run 753, it was back out to AT&T Park to play the waiting game one more time.

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Photo by Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Barry Bonds celebrates with Lou Seal after he hit #756.
The first four games were tough. It was looking as if Barry would never hit a home run again, let alone get a hit. He was slumping. He was popping out or striking out just about every at bat. It was ugly. The worst days were when he wasn't in the starting line up, but you still had to get to the park 3-4 hours early to set up remotes just on the off chance that he would come in late in the game to pinch hit. It wasn't until the fifth day of a home stand against the Florida Marlins that Barry hit 754. People were starting to get excited. Had Barry found his groove? Would he knock two out of the park before heading to Southern California for six games? Not so much.

Fortunately for me, I didn't have to go on the Barry Road Show. My co-worker Jed Jacobsohn wasn't so lucky. I spoke with him as he was making the long drive from Los Angeles to San Diego after Barry had no luck after three games against the Dodgers. Jed was pulling his hair out. He wanted this thing to end and was worried that Bonds would enter another one of his two-week slumps. Two days later, Barry hit 755 in San Diego. I was surprised that he did it on the road, I was sure he would wait until he got home.

The big day came on the second game with the Washington Nationals. As usual, I got to the park about 3-1/2 hours before the start to set up my three remotes. Three of us were covering the game, me Jed Jacobsohn and Lisa Blumenfeld. We also had the great privilege of having Sara Wolfram edit for us. As game time approached, many photographers were saying: "Tonight is the night, I can feel it." Well, sometimes you get what you hope for. With a swing of his bat, Barry knocked 756 into the center field bleachers during the fifth inning and just like that, history was made.

The next 10 minutes were pretty exciting. Players and television crews dashed out onto the field to meet Bonds at home plate. The crowd was going nuts. The stadium was alive, the cheers were deafening. After the brief on field ceremony where Barry shed a tear and proclaimed how much he loved the people of San Francisco, dozens of photographers scrambled to edit and transmit images before east coast deadlines. Jed might have been the happiest person in the park, a smile from ear to ear. It was over.

As much as I don't like Barry, it was pretty cool to witness him break the record. It was definitely a rush. I'm sure we will all be out there again next year when the Bonds watch continues as he attempts to reach the 3,000 hit mark.

Finally, I turned to long-time San Francisco Giants team photographer Martha Jane Stanton for some parting thoughts:

What I will remember most from the Barry Watch were the folks that I worked with and the energy that circulated throughout.

An event like this doesn't happen very often. It's hard to see it when you are in the middle of it. It's only later you appreciate it's significance.

I appreciate being with the best in the business. I love the laughter, the banter and the professionalism.

There you have it. A nice round up from some folks who know how to make a frame or two of the new home run king. It will be along time before this group of shooters has an excuse to get together and photograph history of this magnitude again.


(Brad Mangin is a freelance photographer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He is a co-founder of SportsShooter.com. You can see his member page here: www.sportsshooter.com/brad and his personal website here: www.manginphotography.com)

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