Years back I lost some film negatives. It was a processed and sleeved roll of Kodak Tri-x that I shot at a baseball Old Timers Day game in June of 1989, the first Summer I spent working and living in Buffalo while I was still in college.
That Summer I had 2 jobs. I was a photography intern for the Niagara Falls Gazette, a daily newspaper owned by Gannett Corporation, I was a staff photographer for a chain of weekly newspapers in Western New York called the Metro Community News.
The internship was 2 days a week and the staff job was 5 days a week, which left a grand total of zero days for myself that Summer, but I was OK with that. Actually, I loved it. I was sharing an apartment with 3 other photographers who were all much more experienced than I was. It was intimidating, but there was no better learning situation for a young photographer looking for experience. I lived photography 24/7 that Summer and those years were formative for me as holding a camera in your hands 8-10 hours a day 7 days a week gets you closer to the 10,000 hours you need to be any good. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Outliers_%28book%29
At some point that Summer I heard that Buffalo (specifically Pilot Field, as it used to be called) was going to host a baseball Old Timers Day game. Now you ask, why would Buffalo, with no major league team, host a game of former major leaguers, with many big names coming to this upstate NY city with only a AAA baseball team? I’m not sure even to this day, but I wasn’t complaining. I just wanted to shoot everything I could to build a photography portfolio of my best work and what better way to do that than with photos of big name big leaguers.
I got a photo credential from the weekly newspaper I was working for and shot the whole game, but the highlight for me was when they introduced Joe DiMaggio, a NY baseball legend and by far the biggest name in attendance. He was introduced, he walked out, waved his ball cap and went back to the dugout. Honestly, It was kind of anti-climactic. He seemed to be in a hurry or maybe he didn’t want to even be there. I was stationed on the infield with my trusty Nikon F-2 and a 180mm f2.8 lens and was just praying I’d make a good frame. It happened so fast, I just follow focused with my telephoto lens the best I could and fired away with the motor drive.
As it turned out, I made a pretty nice frame of Joe, despite his hurry. Watch this video of Joe DiMaggio’s intro at the game I found while researching the date of this game, which was June 19, 1989. He’s there and gone in a blink. You can even see me at the :10 mark of the video (frame grab below…yes I had hair then) Just a 21-year-old kid trying to just make a good image. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L9xQh6rrY0M
Years later as I carted my work and negatives around, I somehow lost track of the image. For years I had been hoping it would turn up. Well, today was the day. Doing some long overdue office cleanup and organizing, I found a folder of slides and negatives returned from my stock photo agency when they had digitized everything and they no longer needed the film.
There it was among the 35mm and 120mm slides…a lone sleeve of 35mm black and white film. My image of Joe neatly circled in red sharpie.
I was happy to find this little gem I had been trying to located for a bunch of years. The image has no huge value. I’m not sure it’s ever generated any revenue for me, but it does represent a time in my photo career that was immensely important to my professional development. And it was a damn fun Summer.