Tim Lincecum no-hits Padres in San Francisco
Posted on July 2, 2014
Tim Lincecum #55 of the San Francisco Giants throws the final pitch of his no-hitter to Will Venable of the San Diego Padres with two outs in the top of the 9th inning at AT&T Park on Wednesday, June 25, 2014 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Brad Mangin)
It’s been said a million times. “Every time you go to the ballpark you see something different.” However, there are times when everything is stale. The home team is playing bad. My pictures suck. And they are boring. Nothing seems to be going right. And then Wednesday, June 25, 2014 happens.
I headed to the ballpark a week ago to shoot a ho-hum matinee between the boring San Diego Padres, and the free-falling San Francisco Giants. The Giants hadn’t won a game in a month, or so it seemed. Their first place lead over the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West was hanging by a thread. Not much excitement awaited me when I made my way onto the field about 90 minutes before the first pitch.
I had lunch in the press dining room with my good friend Eric Risberg from the Associated Press. We chit-chatted about pretty much everything but the game we were about to shoot. Little did we know that four hours later we would be side-by-side, documenting history.
After lunch I headed down to shoot from one of my favorite spots in our glorious park in the city: low inside third. I love this spot, especially when a good right-handed pitcher like Tim Lincecum was pitching. I was at the game to shoot stock, so my goal was to make clean images of guys throwing the ball and swinging the bat in nice light.
With the game staring under overcast skies I started shooting Lincecum from the very first pitch in the top of the first inning. I love shooting guys under soft, cloudy light. I thought the clouds would burn off and reveal the awful, contrasty, harsh June sunshine we get in San Francisco with 12:45pm starts. Little did I know that we would never see the sun during the ballgame.
As a Giants fan I was hoping they would score a few runs so they would have a chance at winning their first game of the series to avoid an embarrassing sweep to the Padres. Lincecum was throwing well, and after he was staked to a 2-0 lead entering the top of the 4th inning he was on cruise control.
I am always conscious of the scoreboard and how many hits a pitcher has allowed. By the 5th inning I really started to tune into the fact that Lincecum only had one blemish against him- a second inning walk to Chase Headley. I started reading notes on Twitter about the fact that Lincecum had no-hit the Padres last July down in San Diego. Could he do it again? I have the attention span of a four-year-old and am constantly screwing with my iPhone during games, especially this one. I could not stay off Twitter the rest of the day.
By now I was starting to shoot Lincecum in the dugout while the Giants were batting. He was the story, and I wanted to cover him as much as possible. I was already in a great spot to shoot the dugout from inside third base, and thanks to my buddy and Comcast camera operator extraordinaire Mike “Rusty” Phillips I was able to get some fun stuff of Lincecum with my 70-200mm lens over the next few innings.
The game itself had become a non issue. It was all about Lincecum. In the 6th inning I texted Nate Gordon, my baseball picture editor at Sports Illustrated. Nate and I have had endless conversations on how to cover a no-hitter. I knew Nate would want me on this possible no-no for him, and I was right. Now I officially had tunnel vision. I was ready to photograph my first ever Giants no-hitter and show Nate what I could do.
I photographed Oakland A’s pitcher Dallas Braden throwing a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Mother’s Day, May 10, 2010. I was a fan in San Francisco when Jonathan Sanchez tossed a no-hitter against the San Diego Padres on July 10, 2009. I was also in my season ticket box seats at AT&T Park on June 13, 2012 when Matt Cain threw a perfect game against the Houston Astros.
No hitters by Giants pitchers were always a big deal to me. I can tell you exactly where I was in my Fremont, California home on August 24, 1975 when Ed Halicki no-hit the New York Mets in the second game of a doubleheader at Candlestick. It was jacket day and my cousin Mike was there. I was so jealous! Al Michaels called the final out on KSFO radio and I was a crazed 10-year-old fan on a summer afternoon in the east bay. The following year John Montefusco no-hit the Atlanta Braves in front of over 50,000 empty seats in Atlanta. I also listened to that one on the radio and just assumed this would happen every year. I was wrong.
The closest I had ever come to shooting a Giants no-no was in July of 1990 when I was working for The National Sports Daily. Giants right-hander Scott Garrelts threw 8 2/3 hitless innings against the Cincinnati Reds on a sunny Sunday afternoon at Candlestick. I was shooting color negative film with my Canon F-1 and hoping to witness history. Reds batter Paul O’Neill ruined my afternoon and delayed my chance to photograph history for 24 years when he lined a two-out single to right field ending Garrelts’s bid.
By the end of the 7th inning I knew I had to get behind the plate and stake out a good spot to shoot the end of what I hoped would be a no-hitter for Lincecum. The Giants park has a cool scoreboard in dead center field, allowing me to get everything lined up between the pitcher, batter, catcher, and umpire to get a story-telling picture with the line score showing 0 hits for the Padres in the background. I just needed to position myself on my knees behind the plate, making sure not to block any fans.
I practiced shooting with both my 400mm lens and my 70-200mm lens during the top of the 8th inning. Dealing with the backstop netting can be difficult, so this was a big help. However, my practice time did not last long because he only threw a handful of pitches in dispatching the Padres. The top of the 9th inning was coming fast, and I was getting nervous. In fact, I was shaking when I walked over to talk to my friend and great Giants fan Rick Swig in the bottom of the 8th. Rick did nothing to calm my nerves!
When the 9th inning started my buddy Risberg was right next to me, four hours after we had enjoyed lunch on a mundane Wednesday morning. Now we were photographing history. It all went so fast, and before we knew it Padres batter Will Venable grounded out to second base to end the game. Lincecum had his no-hitter and we both had some good pictures.
The adrenalin rush was pretty incredible. I got the pictures I wanted from behind the plate, and even though the end of game jube kinda sucked I did all I could to put myself in position to succeed.
This day that started off like so many others with me eating my Cheerios in my Pleasanton home ended like non other. It was very fitting that as the final pitch was thrown the fog was so thick is was misting, ever so lightly. It was like the weather they have up in Seattle, Lincecum’s home town. It was Lincecum weather. No hot and humid skies for Timmy to wilt under. It was Lincecum weather, and it was perfect.