2016 World Series: Game 7
Posted on November 5, 2016
Kris Bryant #17 of the Chicago Cubs celebrates after making the throw to first for the final out in of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on Wednesday, November 2, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. The Cubs defeated the Indians 8-7. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos)
By now everyone knows that the Chicago Cubs won their first World Series since 1908 on Wednesday night in Cleveland when they beat the Indians 8-7 in a thrilling 10-inning Game 7 for the ages. I consider myself incredibly lucky to have had the opportunity to photograph all seven games of the Series in Chicago and Cleveland on assignment for Major League Baseball Photos (for the 17th straight year!). Sorry for the delay in posting this set of pictures from the deciding Game 7 but it has taken me a few days to travel home to the west coast and try to get back into my routine after being gone for a few weeks.
I had been rooting for a seven game Series since the beginning, because there is nothing quite as dramatic in sports as a final, winner-take-all game to decide a champion. I had a blast shooting the first six games of the Series from several different photo positions, and felt like I was on my game. Between pre-game features and in-game action pictures I felt my coverage was pretty good. I thought I was contributing to our team of amazing photographers in our quest to document the World Series the best way we could. Then Game 7 started at 8:02 pm EDT.
I had great stuff in the bullpen. My fastball felt great coming out of my hand and I was able to spot it wherever I wanted. My slider had great bite to it, and I was getting my curve over for strikes.However, when I took the mound to start the game it all went away. You ever have one of those days? It started when Cubs leadoff man Dexter Fowler homered to start the game. I wasn’t on Fowler, so I did not get the swing. That is fine as I am not someone who shoots tons of batters unless I am playing a hunch. What really pissed me off is that I followed him up the line with my 400mm lens from my spot in the first base photo well. I was all over him when he turned around and faced me as he backpedaled rounding first yelling into his dugout. This never happens! This would make for some really nice early jube pictures right in my living room! Not so fast. Seems like my cameras never focus well on objects moving away from me. Every frame was soft. NOOOOO! I felt like I gave up the solo blast to lead off the game, and it was downhill from there.
My working conditions could not have been better. I had a fabulous shooting position just past first base sitting in between two Chicago photography icons. Longtime Chicago Cubs team photographer Steve Green was on my left, and veteran rock star Chicago Tribune staffer Nuccio DiNuzzu was on my right. The weather was warm enough for me to wear shorts for the second night in a row- in Cleveland- in November! However, as the game unfolded I felt like I was just missing stuff, or I was coming into plays just a little late. This is not a good thing when you are shooting a ballgame as good as this. I kept telling myself that nothing that had happened so far mattered. The real pictures would come later. Or so I hoped!
Of course the game was crazy. The Cubs blew a 5-1 lead and when they scored two runs in the top of the 10th inning to take an 8-6 lead it all started to get real. The Cubs might actually win this thing. And I better not fuck this up. An Indians rally cut the lead to 8-7 with two outs. One more out to go and the Cubs would be World Series champs for the first time in 108 years. Where do I point my camera, and with what lens? I have mentioned before that getting a great picture at the end of a World Series is a very stressful scenario. You want to get a picture with a good, well-known player celebrating, not some crappy guy no one cares about. You want to see great faces that help tell the story about the team’s struggle to win it all. You don’t want to get blocked. You don’t want anyone to jump out of your frame. You don’t want to chop anyone’s arms off. Do you go tight? Do you go loose? Do you gamble? Play it safe?
Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo would be my first choice to shoot because he had been the most emotional all Series. I knew he would go nuts, but he would be running way from me to hug his buddy, third baseman Kris Bryant. I decided that Bryant was the guy I wanted. Coming off a great rookie season, Bryant is one of the favorites to win the National League’s MVP Award this season. The kid is a huge star. I was going to gamble and go tight and vertical with the 400mm lens. I would have another camera with a 70-200mm 2.8 zoom nearby to shoot a loose horizontal of the team doing a dogpile if I had time to switch.
Indians batter Michael Martinez was the Tribe’s last hope with two outs in the bottom of the 10th when he grounded weakly to the left side. Bryant charged the ball and made a tough play, throwing to first for the final out of the Series, smiling throughout the play. I was on Bryant vertically with my 400mm lens and shot the entire sequence. I was all set to shoot him celebrating and jumping all over the field. It was going to be amazing! Then my camera stopped working. Holy shit I wanted to die. I quickly grabbed my other camera and shot the dogpile with my zoom but was in a haze by then, wanting to crawl into a hole and get the Hell out of the ballpark. What a loser I was. How could I have screwed this up? Did I even get a picture of the ending of the greatest World Series game I might ever shoot? I eventually gathered myself and took my wide angle lens onto the field and shot some stuff of the Cubs celebrating but I really didn’t know what I was doing.
After the Cubs went into their clubhouse to celebrate with champagne I was exhausted and sat in their dugout trying to figure out what happened. I was in tears. I get way to emotional in moments like this. I care so much. I am part of a team of amazing photographers and editors who work so hard. I felt like I let everyone down. I had a spot on the field I was responsible for and I blew it. Because I work with such great photographers I knew they weren’t as lame as me and that they would be all over the celebration with wonderful pictures to document this historic event. Yet, as I was sitting in the dugout all I could feel was the pain of working so hard over a long seven game World Series and coming up empty at the end.
It took me a long time to make my way into the photo work room after the game. I was embarrassed. My take of the post game celebration must have looked like I ran out of film or something. I shipped my cards soon after the game ended so I had no idea what my stuff looked like. When I came over to our picture desk my director of photography Jessica Carroll told me how much she liked my tight shot of Kris Bryant celebrating. I guess I got off one frame before my camera stopped working. She had no idea what had happened till I told her. Then my picture editor Jim McKenna told me how much he liked my dogpile pictures. I assumed I whiffed on that stuff and hadn’t seen any of the pictures yet. It was really nice to hear some good news.
However, I still felt like shit. I always beat myself up when stuff like this happens. It wan’t my fault the camera stopped working, or was it? Three-time World Series champion coach for the San Francisco Giants Tim Flannery always says “Honor the game and the game will honor you back.” Well, there are few photographers out there who honor the game of baseball as much as I do. Maybe the photo Gods were playing tricks on me.
The next morning I was at the Cleveland airport getting ready for a long travel day back home after just two hours sleep when I got a text message from someone who is on my Mt. Rushmore as one of the greatest sports photographers working today, Getty Images staff photographer Ezra Shaw: “Dude. I hope you are doing ok this morning. I saw your Bryant shot and it was awesome… I know it must suck, but keep your head up. No one would every know with that great frame. There are always those nights. No matter what. They suck. But then you forget how much they suck because the next game it all goes away.” I can’t tell you how good it felt to hear this from Ezra. I was in such a better mood the rest of the day because of this text message.
The best news of all is that my MLB Photos teammates had my back and absolutely killed it at Game 7. Ron Vesely always gets the best celebration picture and he did it again Wednesday night. Ron was at third base and he never misses. His best frame is so good that Sports Illustrated is using it as one of four covers for their Cubs commemorative issue and LIFE is using it as the cover for their book on the Cubs season.
LG Patterson nailed everything from his overhead spot and is one of the nicest people you could ever work with. LG can shoot anything from anywhere and always does it with a smile on his face, and his love for the game of baseball is fabulous.
Rob Tringali is such a picture machine he scares me. Rob is amazing to work with. He pushes me to work harder and look for different stuff to shoot because he is always way ahead of me in everything he does. Rob is another guy on my Mt. Rushnore. His set of pictures from this World Series, from his portraits of players from both teams to his features from the Wrigley rooftops to the gorgeous action pictures from the faraway nooks and crannies of both ballparks leave me speechless.
Photographer / editor Alex Trautwig is so young and so talented it pisses me off. MLB Photos is so lucky to have him on staff. The kid is a five-tool player who is too good at everything he does. Without Alex our ballclub is in big, big trouble.
Picture editor Jim McKenna is the calm voice of reason that is always there for a hug when I need one. He can also drink more light beer than anyone I know. The southpaw works so hard for our team during the Series I can almost forgive him for being such a hockey guy.
Finally our boss Jessica Carroll somehow puts up with us. My God I know what an absolute high-maintenance nightmare I can be to work with. She figures out a way to deal with us and handle all the other photographers who aren’t happy with their photo positions. Mostly, she lets us be us and shoot our style. She puts us all in a place where we can succeed, and that is a very cool thing.
A few days after I thought I shit the bed I don’t think my stuff is that bad. I just wish I knew how to handle disappointment better. When bad things happen I freak out, and man did I freak out Thursday night.
Congrats to the Cubs. 108 years is a long time to wait. Most importantly, congrats to everyone’s good friend Steve Green. After being the team photographer for over 30 years Steve will finally get a World Series ring in April. I am so glad I was able to shoot this clinching game next to him.