Monday, March 30, 2009

#17 - First or Third?

When I came up to bat with three men on and two outs in the ninth, I looked in the other team's dugout and they were already in street clothes. - Bob Uecker

The crack of a bat, a peanut shell, and a Bob Uecker one liner on the radio -- three unmistakable sounds that signal it's spring in Milwaukee, WI. Forget for a minute that you can still see your breath and the snow bank-rimmed outfield looks more like a hockey rink than a baseball diamond -- it's opening day and time once again to ponder the two great questions of the season: was Bob Uecker the worst player in the history of the major leagues and now its premiere radio announcer, and which photo position offers shooters the best vantage point during a game -- the first base or third base side of the field?

Question one has a simple answer: statistically speaking, few players have posted more marginal career numbers than Uecker, and even though he jokes about it, the records don't lie -- he was the King of the Pines! But on the other hand, growing up listening to Brewers baseball on AM 620 WTMJ, I can say without a doubt that his smooth delivery, unparalleled knowledge of the game, and razor sharp wit make Uecker the most enjoyable commentator on the airwaves. Sure my opinion may be subjective, it's probably even biased, but the same can be said about the selection of a photo position too.

After covering countless innings of baseball from virtually every spot on the field, I've concluded the first base and third base sides work equally well -- but for completely different reasons. Great action and feature shots occur diamond-wide, it all comes down to what you're trying to capture and often how much time you have to do it.
The third base side is for gamblers -- shooters after a unique perspective typically without any deadline pressure to worry about. It presents the cleanest view of plays at home plate, and even though they happen less frequently during games, choose this spot if a collision, missed tag, or winning run is what you're after. I've also discovered the dugout seems more accessible from third base too, and tight portraits and other types of feature photos abound there.
If you absolutely need any kind of action photo, especially in a hurry, select the first base side as it offers the most photo opportunities and hence the highest rate of success. Not only is a play at second base almost guaranteed (see the Archives for April 2007 and "#2-Stealing 2nd"), you can cover every player around the infield as well as watch the batter's box for hitters slugging homers or striking out.

Milwaukee County Stadium may be gone now, taking the UPI darkroom along with it, but Bob Uecker remains on the radio and I'm certain the new Miller Park press room still resonates with the same old baseball photog's debate: after lunch, where should I be -- First or Third?

I knew when my career was over. In 1965 my baseball card came out with no picture. -Bob Uecker