Wednesday, February 14, 2007

First Pitch Panorama

As a kid growing up under a canopy of muddy gray Wisconsin winter skies, I'd look for signs of spring. Anything.

Valentines Day would be one sign that spring would soon arrive, and occasionally you'd see a robin or a cardinal that got a jump on spring and came back north just a little early or perhaps spy a lone blade of grass that somehow pushed through the snow.

Another sure sign was spring training and especially the mid February ritual of major league baseball pitchers and catchers reporting to camp.

This week they did that again, so it's official -- spring is almost here.

This photo is another image pulled from the vault and it's from the actual first pitch thrown in the Arizona Diamondbacks home opener on March 31, 1998 at what was then called Bank One Ballpark.

Growing up cheering for the Cubs and later the Brewers I was jazzed that Jerry Colangelo was bringing a major league baseball team to Phoenix in the mid 90s. The Republic even sent me down to Palm Beach for the team meetings when the franchise was awarded in 1996. It was huge front page news for the town that was just dying to be considered a big-league city.

Even though the stadium looks like an aircraft hanger from the outside, the inside has some cool touches and an intimate feel that reminded me of the old time stadiums like Wrigley Field in Chicago, where fans could actually see the players and get a feeling for the game.

It was such a departure from the mega, multi-use stadiums built in the 70s in Philadelphia (the Vet), or in Pittsburgh (Three Rivers), or Cincinnati (Riverfront Stadium) which were circular, oversized and played on (ugh) AstroTurf. Thank God they're all gone.

But the BOB, as it was affectionally called, was so unlike that, even down to the natural grass field (quite a feat if you've ever spent a summer in Phoenix).

As the two year wait for opening day was almost over and about a couple of months out, I reserved a Fuji G617 panorama camera that shoots medium format film. The actual image size is 6 cm x 17 cm and so the quality is simply superb.

I had envisioned an image that captured the first pitch and would be historical and grand -- it demanded the panorama.

I kept thinking back to images burned into my brain since childhood that I had seen of milestones in baseball, like the first night game at Crosley Field in Cincinnati back in the 30s and Bill Mazeroski rounding home as the Pirates won the Series, Yogi Berra leaping into Whitey Ford's arms after the perfect game, and thought that ideally this image would be black and white, or better yet, a sepia image to further give it that sense of timelessness.

Shooting color negative film, I kind of hedged my bet. While I had envisioned the sepia in the final presentation, an editor at the paper may want to run it in full color.

My goal was for the paper to run the image horizontally on the back page of the sports page the day after the game as a pin up poster. And thankfully, it didn't.

Of course, at the time I was crushed. The planning and the hopes for a really cool and historical presentation had been for naught, or so I thought.

But a funny thing happened. The paper's marketing department (a separate branch from editorial), though, had heard of this image and took it and ran.

They secured all the required releases from every player on the field in the starting lineups, in order to make what would turn out to be a promotional poster.

It was like a dream, the mock up that I had made on a inexpensive scanner and an epson printer was followed to a T, including font selections (Copperplate, an old foundry font, was used at the stadium which also gave it that sense of old world feeling and that's why I selected it for the title).

When I first saw the final printing, my jaw dropped.

Nothing in the years I had been in journalism had exceeded my expectations -- until now. The printing was flawless.

It became an instant best-seller in the team shops and a framed copy of it hangs in the studio today...a reminder that sometimes the best laid plans not only go astray they turn out for the best.


Blogger Peggy Gero DaValt said...

Way too cool a story. I remember seeing that print/poster in your Phoenix home when I was there for your wedding.

And...I hear the sound of the Philly cousins saying..."C'mon, Bowa...hitta homa..."

Peggy :)

9:13 AM  
Blogger Paul Gero said...

thanks Peg...glad you liked it...

Boy the Vet was something...


9:48 AM  
Blogger Ruth Anne Adams said...

And others have copied it as well. I've seen that style in mall memorabilia stores.

Peg: Ya' want some wooter-ice or a hoagie?

2:02 PM  
Blogger AnneGero said...

Paul, That is some special shot!!!!! You do have it in our new studio, don't you? It really tells a wonderful story.
Don't stop dreaming or thinking.

8:45 PM  
Blogger Peggy Gero DaValt said...

The memories of all the sporting events we went to as kids was great!! Packers, Brewers, Phillies...

Also..don't forget the time you and Mary were going to an afternoon Cub game in a refrigerator box....*grin*

Mom: I doubt the creative Gero machine will ever stop dreaming or thinkin' big thoughts!!

Ruth: I'd love a hoagie...but for now, I have to go get this temporary crown into a real crown...then it'll be one less dental thing I have to do..still part of my continuing orthodontic experience as an adult-teen...*grin*

9:43 AM  
Blogger Bethani lynne said...

I remember you showing us that shot in class. Hope things are going well and your little one is as cute as ever!

7:49 PM  
Blogger Paul Gero said...

beth...thanks...we're doing well...kate's growing like crazy...and walking pretty much wherever she wants to go...she's fearless!


8:59 AM  

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