A toast to Eric Risberg: 30 years at the AP!

Posted on July 12, 2012

Eric Risberg chats on his cell phone while shooting a San Francisco Giants spring training game at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona on February 26, 2009. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

 

A very special moment occurred earlier today in San Francisco. My good friend and legendary staff photographer for the Associated Press Eric Risberg was honored in the San Francisco bureau for 30 years of service for the AP. That’s right sports fans, the man you see all over town with a smile on his face working his ass off day after day was hired by the AP 30 years ago when he was only 22.

Associated Press staff photographer Eric Risberg is honored by his colleagues, including picture editor Stephanie Mullen (right) and staff photographer Ben Margot (left), for 30 years of service with the AP in the San Francisco bureau of the AP on Thursday, July 12, 2012. (Photo by Marcio J. Sanchez / Associated Press)

I have had the good fortune to know and work with Eric here in the Bay Area and at spring training in Arizona for over 20 years. In that time I can say that I have never come across a photojournalist who was more professional or cared about doing the best job possible for his employer.

Eric Risberg and Brad Mangin pose for a picture outside Pacific Bell Park in San Francisco, California on March 31, 2000 before the first game ever played at the Giants new stadium (an exhibition against the Milwaukee Brewers). (Photo by Dan Rosenstrauch / Contra Costa Times)

I first met Eric while I was a student at San Jose State in 1987. Our NPPA group took a field trip to the old AP bureau at Fox Plaza in San Francisco where former photo editor Pete Leabo gave us a tour one evening. Eric had shot a day baseball game in Oakland and was working in the darkroom on some color prints from that day’s action with the old Kodak Ektaflex process. Remember that?

AP staffer Eric Risberg shoots a football game between the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on December 10, 2000. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

Bay Area press photographer Eric Risberg poses for a picture at home plate with his Widelux camera before the San Francisco Giants game against the Cincinnati Reds at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, California on September 27, 1992. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

Once I started shooting professionally in 1987 as a a college intern at the Contra Costa Times I began to hear stories about what a great photographer Eric was. He was always helpful to a knucklehead who did not know his was around the ballpark like me, and he always got THE picture.

AP staffers Ben Margot and Eric Risberg plan their strategy before shooting the 2006 American League Championship Series between the Detroit Tigers and Oakland A’s at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California on October 9, 2006. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

My first real connection to Eric occurred around 1990 when I learned that he was related to one of the notorious 1919 Chicago Black Sox. That’s right, the shortstop on that ill-fated club who helped throw the World Series against the Cincinnati Reds was Swede Risberg! Eric loves to talk about The Swede and everything else related to baseball, especially Joe DiMaggio and the San Francisco Seals.

Eric Risberg and Deanne Fitzmaurice pour over the win list at the Acme Chop House in San Francisco after shooting the Giants home opener on April 3, 2007. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

We started to make trips to spring training together in Scottsdale, Arizona in 1992. It was then when I learned that no other photographer in America knew how to have a good time eating and drinking like Eric. Always the classiest guy at the table, Eric new how to have a good time back then, and he has continued to enjoy everything in life with the most enthusiasm of anyone I know. We still hang out at spring training and I cherish every moment we do.

Michael Zagaris, left, and Eric Risberg celebrate the Z-Man’s birthday in the bar at the Italian Grotto in Scottsdale, AZ during a celebration on Friday night, February 28, 2009 during spring training. Z was telling Risberg a GREAT story. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

Because he enjoys the good life unlike any other person I know we had Eric write a column for the Sports Shooter Newsletter entitled “The Count on Cigars.” His first piece for us, “How The Count got Hooked on Stogies” was published on October 22, 1999. “The first cigars I had were in the late ’80s following San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s playoff games and were provided to me by colleague Lenny Ignelzi from San Diego,” Risberg wrote. From then things snowballed and soon The Count was educating readers on topics like “Storing & Transporting Your Cigars,” “The Perfect Beverage,” “How to Choose a Good Cigar,” and “How to Spot a Fake Cigar,”  Eric was becoming a well-known expert who influenced the way photographers all over the world drank and smoked! I think that’s pretty cool.

Governor of the State of California Arnold Schwarzenegger and Eric Risberg enjoy a cigar together during a trip to Hong Kong in 2005. (Photo by Brian Baer / Sacramento Bee)

Photographers Kevork Djansezian and Eric Risberg take a break on the field before the spring training game between the Texas Rangers and the San Francisco Giants on March 8, 2011 at Scottsdale Stadium in Scottsdale, Arizona. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

Over the years Eric has been a historical bridge between the great photographers of yesterday and the young shooters coming up today. He started in 1982 when several of the iconic Bay Area news photographers will still working. Because of this Eric became good friends with legendary Pulitzer Prize winners like Joe Rosenthal and Sal Veder. I can never get enough stories from Eric about shooting his first-ever baseball game with AP staffer Sam Houston in Oakland. After the game Sammy took Eric into A’s manager Billy Martin’s office where they had a few beers. The hilarity that ensued is nothing but old-school priceless.

Joe Rosenthal and Eric Risberg pose for a picture in San Francisco’s North Beach on December 20, 1994.

Throughout his career Eric has done pretty much everything you can do for the AP. He has covered countless Super Bowls, World Series, and Olympic Games. He has covered wars. He has flown on Air Force One. He ran the AP’s photo bureau in the summer of 1990. The common thread that has always run through all of Eric’s assignments, whether he is shooting a press conference at City Hall, or a golf tournament at Pebble Beach is the maximum effort he always gives. The man really cares about what he does.

Cooper the waitress plants a big kiss on AP staffer and Eric Risberg during the annual VJ Lovero spring training dinner at Don and Charlies in Scottsdale, Arizona on March 5, 2009. (Photo by Brad Mangin)

The young kid who left Portland 30 years ago has sure come a long way from the teenager who who worked for the Portland Timbers as their official team photographer as a young teenager and drove 18-wheelers for Risberg Trucking. He is still going strong at the AP and doing the best job of anyone I know enjoying his life with his awesome wife Elizabeth and their cat Julius.

Eric Risberg poses with the former San Francisco Giants mascot The Crazy Crab during the media open house at AT&T Park in San Francisco on March 29, 2012. (Instagram by Brad Mangin)

I can’t begin to tell you how impressed I am about Eric’s 30 years of service to the AP. The longest period of time I have ever been able to hold a job is two years. That was while I was working at Chuck E. Cheese during high school in 1982 and 1983!

John Mabanglo and Eric Risberg try out the new men’s room with a view during the media open house at AT&T Park in San Francisco on March 29, 2012. (Instagram by Brad Mangin)

No- this is not an obit- it is a celebration of 30 years of service by a man we should all respect and honor. I ask everyone to raise a glass of their favorite beverage this weekend (it doesn’t matter what you hoist as Eric likes most everything that is good) and toast our friend Eric Risberg. Here’s to Eric! Bravo my friend. I have learned so much from you. Cheers!

Eric Risberg raises a glass to himself while celebrating his birthday at Marlowe in San Francisco on May 4, 2012. (Instagram by Brad Mangin)

What Others Are Saying

  1. Tom Fuller July 12, 2012 at 10:58 pm

    Brad…this is – in one word…AWESOME! Just like Thurston!

  2. Ben Margot July 12, 2012 at 11:01 pm

    LOVE this article on Eric! I am surprised you only had to go back 12 years to find a shot of him shooting football! All kidding aside, Eric is the glue that holds AP San Francisco together, his behind the scenes contributions to photojournalism (without fanfare) are impossible to count, and it has been an honor and privilege to work, smoke, eat & drink beside him for the past 20 years. A more true friend and co-worker cannot be found.

    Ben Margot

  3. Deanne Fitzmaurice July 13, 2012 at 2:24 am

    Brad, What a wonderful tribute to a great man. Thanks for sharing some of those great back stories! Eric is without doubt one of the class acts in the business. -Deanne

  4. Bill Schiffmann July 13, 2012 at 8:09 am

    I remember many years of working with Eric — I have two of his photos propped on my mantle right now — and always liked and respected him as a great guy and an excellent photographer … It was an honor to work with him and watch his talents grow and mature … well, maybe “mature” is a bad word, since he’s been doing it for 30 years! Congrats, big guy!

  5. Kent porter July 13, 2012 at 10:39 am

    Thanks Brad, had no idea that that Eric had been with AP that long (maybe because I’m old). I still have the baseball he signed in the quake series. What a great guy to work with and as Deanne said, class act and darn funny too.

    -Kent

  6. Marcio Sanchez July 13, 2012 at 12:30 pm

    What more can I say about Eric Risberg. Easily the most talented photojournalist I have worked with. Has defined the art of capturing the moment, is a true leader, mentor and friend. We celebrate his amazing career, raise a glass of fine wine and smoke a cuban cigar in his honor. Marcio.

  7. Elizabeth Risberg July 13, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Brad,

    This is an awesome and touching blog post. I’m quite impressed with your Eric Risberg photo archive as well as with Eric Risberg himself — not that I’m biased or anything! Seriously, this is a wonderful tribute.

  8. John O'Hara July 13, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I say this, In all the years I have been known Eric, I never saw a bad side of him. Pleasant, fun, never jumped up in front of you or me. A man who does a good job .

  9. Dave Elkins July 13, 2012 at 2:31 pm

    Eric,

    Though we have only met a few times, and have never shared a drink or a smoke, I fell like I know you. I have enjoyed your published works for many years and recognize the talent that you posess. This tribute to you by Brad Mangin is well deserved. Congratulations for this milestone with the AP. I hope that you have no plans on leaving anytime soon.

  10. Brendan Riley July 13, 2012 at 9:55 pm

    Love this! Great toast to a great guy.
    Brendan

  11. Michelle Locke July 14, 2012 at 8:02 pm

    I’ve worked with Eric everywhere from death row to the fanciest of fancy pants parties; no matter the venue he’s always charming, professional, and pretty freaking funny. Ask him to tell you about the time we tracked down some logging protesters who were, shall we say, showing their naked opposition to timber plans.

  12. Paul Harrington July 15, 2012 at 12:25 am

    Congrats Eric and well done Brad.
    Eric, it was always a pleasure working with you in my years on the LA desk. A true Pro in the business. Hope you can hang in there for a lot more spring trainings.
    pjh
    PS: Stay away from Kevork he’s a bad influence and he’ll smoke all your cigars

  13. Kim Curtis July 15, 2012 at 12:44 am

    Yay, Eric! You’re one of the last of a dying breed – I’m sorry to say. Bravo to you for lasting so long and best of luck whenever you decide to take on your next adventure!

  14. Noel Gallagher July 15, 2012 at 1:59 am

    A great tribute to a great photographer! Congrats Eric!

  15. Dan Day July 15, 2012 at 8:10 am

    Congrats to Eric, one of the greatest guys in any business.

  16. Kent July 15, 2012 at 9:34 am

    whoa! Awesome!!! this is such an awesome article Brad. Eric is the man.

    Hey Eric, dq dipped cone on me when you’re back island side.

    //K

  17. Elaine K July 15, 2012 at 2:11 pm

    This is a fabulous article about a great guy. The Eric I know is actually very humble and even though I’ve known him for over twenty years, I never knew some of this. Thanks, Brad!

  18. jonmc July 15, 2012 at 3:02 pm

    Brad, Great tribute to Eric. Yeah he’s a great photographer but more importantly a decent, kind guy…

  19. Nancy Cross July 16, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    Loved this article and learning about Eric’s time with AP…sounds like a great adventure! We have always enjoyed having Eric here at Kapalua during the Tournament of Champions (of course I was happy to see him wearing a Kapalua /Mercedes-Benz Chamionship shirt in one of the photos). Congrats Eric on your 30 years and we hope you can make it out for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in January!

    Aloha,
    Nancy Cross
    Tournent Director

  20. Tom Murphy August 16, 2012 at 10:57 am

    I recall the first day Eric walked into the AP bureau in Fox Plaza, so naive about the ways of San Francisco that I expected him to say “Golly!” every 10 seconds. We became close, lifelong friends and bike-riding buddies, but most of all, I grew into one of Eric’s biggest fans. I’ve witnessed how he transformed an ordinary home plate picture into a compelling, emotional piece of art that ran in thousands of newspapers, and I’ve also seen the sensitivity he brings to every feature and news assignment. It was a delight to go on an assignment with him during my nearly 10 years with the AP, and it’s still a thrill to hang out with him now, three decades later. If there are any young photogs out there who want to know how to get ahead, I’d say model yourself after Mr. Eric Risberg. You’ll do fine.

  21. crystal davis August 24, 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Are you any relation to a jonas andersson risberg born 6/17/1872 (father) katherine nilsson risberg (mother) eric risberg b. 9/20/1899 (son), hugo risberg b. 5/27/1901 (son), john risberg b. 3/8/1903 (son), oscar risberg b. 11/24/1904 (son), thilda christina risberg-bowers b. 9/10/1907 (daughter), hilma linnea risberg-davis-stiles b.1/25/1910 (daughter), jefferey i. Risberg b. 12/20/1911 (son)???

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