Bad for pictures: No more home plate collisions
Posted on December 13, 2013
Buster Posey of the San Francisco Giants tags out Cincinnati Reds base runner Paul Janish at home plate during the game at AT&T Park on August 25, 2010 in San Francisco, California. Photo by Brad Mangin
I couldn’t hack it as a catcher. The year was 1975. I was 10-years-old and playing Little League for the Tigers. I was a pitcher. I threw strikes. I was a pussy. I was afraid of getting hit when I was in the batter’s box. I tried to catch batting practice one day after school. I blinked every time the batter swung. I was a disaster. That was it. Back to the mound for me so I could throw strikes and not worry about getting smoked with a line drive off the bat of 4th grader.
I thought about my day squatting behind home plate at John G. Mattos Elementary School in Fremont, California the other day when news came out of the MLB Winter Meetings in Orlando that the Playing Rules Committee had voted to outlaw home plate collisions between runners and catchers. There is no way in Hell I would have been good at blocking the plate and surviving a collision in Little league. I know collisions are not allowed at the youth level, but the thought still would have scared the crap out of me! The new rule will go into effect for the upcoming 2014 season. While this new ruling will help to protect players, it is a sad development for photographers.
Ever since I shot my first big league game in 1987 between the California Angels and Oakland A’s as a 22-year-old college intern for the Contra Costa Times the picture I was always in search of at the ballpark was a kick-ass play at the plate. A nice cloud of dust and some great facial expressions always helped out. A collision between a base runner trying to score and a catcher blocking the plate? That was the Holy Grail.
Over the years I managed to run into a few decent collisions at the plate, but I always wanted more. The best collision picture I ever saw was shot by my friend, the great Sports Illustrated photographer Chuck Solomon. Chuck nailed an incredible collision in 1995 during a game at Tiger Stadium in Detroit when Kirk Gibson bowled over Kansas City Royals catcher Pat Borders. Gibson’s helmet is flying off, and what little hair he has left is all over the place. It is a great moment involving a great player in a great venue with great light shot while Chuck was kneeling in the gravel at the old yard, because that’s how photographers shot ballgames at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. I always dreamed of getting a picture this good.
Collisions at home plate have been a part of MLB forever, and a ruling like this would seem unthinkable, until Giants catcher Buster Posey was bowled over at home plate by Miami Marlins base runner Scott Cousins during a game at AT&T Park in San Francisco on May 25, 2011. Cousins scored the winning run in the 12th inning of a 7–6 Giants’ loss, and Posey suffered a fractured fibula and torn ligaments in his ankle, requiring season-ending surgery. Soon after this play there was talk of getting rid of the collision as a way of protecting players from serious injuries and concussions. When Posey came back in 2012 he was under strict order NOT to block the plate anymore on a play at the plate. Instead he was instructed to step in front of the plate to take the throw, and apply a sweep tag to the base runner sliding by (see below).
Enforcing this new rule sounds like it is going to be a nightmare, but that aint my problem. Because I am a selfish photographer who only cares about my own baseball photographs, I am sad that I will not be able to make a great home plate collision picture anymore- unless one happens in front of me illegally!
It looks like I will have to settle for the picture above as my last collision picture EVER. Bummer. Decent light, but no face, etc. Yankees catcher Chris Stewart is getting his clock cleaned, but he is facing the other way. Looking at this B- picture just reinforces my original thought. There is no way I could have donned the tools of ignorance and succeeded. Some of us were meant to be tough ballplayers who eat chipped beef and Scotch for breakfast. Some of us, like me, were not. I would rather have a bowl of Cheerios.