The Story Of The Greatest Photo From The Greatest Game Ever Played
Sports . Sponsored Content . 14 Minutes . David Davis
Game 7 of the 1960 World Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and the New York Yankees has been described as “the greatest game ever played” and “the best game ever.” Entering the bottom of the ninth, the score was tied 9-9, and Bill Mazeroski was leading off.
All throughout the day, photographer Marvin E. Newman had been roaming the stands at Forbes Field. He kept returning to one particular spot: an aisle between home plate and the Pirates dugout on the first-base side of the diamond, where he was just high enough to see over the spectators sitting in their seats. From that vantage point, he found that he could compose a unique shot, with the batter, the outfield scoreboard, and the left side of the infield and outfield all in one frame.
“Every time there was an important moment, I would go to that point and photograph,” he told me. “I knew exactly where I had to go.”
The Longines clock atop the mammoth scoreboard showed that it was exactly 3:35 in the afternoon on October 13, 1960, when Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski came to the plate. As Mazeroski awaited Ralph Terry’s delivery, Marvin Newman peered through the viewfinder of a Bell & Howell Foton camera.
The so-called “Mazeroski Moment” was about to happen, and Marvin Newman was about to shoot the picture of a lifetime: a walk-off home run in Game 7 of the World Series, the first and only time this feat has happened in Major League Baseball history.
But despite his meticulous planning, even Newman could not anticipate the “happy accident” that was revealed after the black-and-white film was developed and the photo was published in the pages of Sports Illustrated.
“People would say that you’re lucky, but I worked that shot the whole game,” said Newman. “I knew that if I was shooting from that spot I could get the key shot to winning the game.”
From their aerie in Jersey City, Newman and his wife enjoy a splendid view of the Hudson River and Manhattan’s West Side. Now 90 years old, he keeps one room dedicated to his seven decades taking photographs. It’s chockablock with rows of metal cabinets and file drawers that hold tens of thousands of prints and transparencies from his days shooting for Sports Illustrated, Sport, Playboy, Look, and countless other publications.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Newman’s family owned a bakery on Tremont Avenue for several generations. Elbow-deep in rye-bread dough every day, Marvin opted not to go into the family business. Instead, he put himself through Brooklyn College and learned design principles from sculptor Burgoyne Diller and photography from Walter Rosenblum (famed for his pictures documenting the D-Day landing in Normandy).
Newman hitchhiked to Chicago to enroll at the Institute of Design. He studied under pioneering contemporary photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. There, he began to stray from convention by embracing color film at a time when art galleries and museum curators sought only black-and-white prints. “I felt very strongly about color early on because we see in color,” he said. “The people in the art world weren’t doing it because the technology to preserve and keep [the images] stable wasn’t around yet.”
In 1952, Newman returned to New York with a master’s degree in photography. He scoured the city shooting street scenes in Coney Island and other places, and his work was selected to be in a show at the Museum of Modern Art. But he also had to pay the bills. He showed his portfolio around town and found an outlet for his creativity in sports. He‘d been a good athlete at Brooklyn College—he ran track and played football—and he began to parlay that knowledge with his camera skills.
Glossy magazines like Life, Esquire, and Colliers published occasional spreads devoted to athletes. (Fledgling film director Stanley Kubrick, whose career as a still photographer is the subject of a new exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, shot two photo essays about boxers for Look magazine.) But it was the arrival of Sport, a monthly publication founded by fitness guru Bernarr Macfadden in 1946, and Time Inc.’s Sports Illustrated, a weekly that originated in 1954, that kicked off the first golden era of sports photojournalism.
Newman joined with a small group of pioneering shooters who would establish and define the intersection of journalism, sports, technology, and art: Mark Kauffman, John G. Zimmerman, Hy Peskin, Robert Riger, Herb Scharfman, Ozzie Sweet. He soon earned cover assignments from Sport editor Al Silverman, who became a lifelong pal, and worked on “Project X,” the prototype for the magazine that would become Sports Illustrated.
Not only did magazines pay decently, but they were eager to use color. In those early years, Newman recalled, the process to transform color transparencies into the plates used by the printers was so laborious that magazine publishers couldn’t quickly “turn around” a color-photo spread. “You would go shoot color at a baseball game, and then they would use the photos a few weeks later for an article about the World Series or maybe even the next spring for the preview issue,” he said. “But they had to do color. They had to try to compete with television.”
Newman was soon handling the choice assignments in baseball, college football, basketball, tennis, and golf. He shot the Yankees so much that he became very close to Mickey Mantle. Newman and Silverman even talked the 1956 Triple Crown winner into cooperating for a one-off pictorial magazine they published, titled, of course, “Mickey Mantle.”
As they were readying the magazine, Look sports editor Tim Cohane sent Newman to the 1956 World Series to shoot Sal Maglie, the starting pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in Game 5. Maglie was magnificent, allowing two runs on five hits over eight innings, but that was the day Don Larsen shocked the world by throwing the only perfect game in World Series history.
The indelible image from that game is Arthur Rickerby’s black-and-white photograph of Larsen throwing his final pitch, with the Yankee Stadium auxiliary scoreboard in the upper third of the frame providing all of the pertinent information about the perfecto: the balls-and-strikes count, the uniform number of the batter (pinch-hitter Dale Mitchell), and the hypnotic line of zeros. (Rickerby, working for U.P.I., was one of the first photojournalists to use the new-fangled 35mm cameras coming on the market.)
Newman missed capturing the climactic pitch, in part because he was so focused on the Maglie assignment that he’d already put away his long lens, but he managed to get pictures of catcher Yogi Berra jumping into Larsen’s arms in celebration as well as a long-distance photo of the big scoreboard after the game. But he still rues missing the “historical significance” of the moment. “Sadly to say, I was working with a long lens,” he said. “Come to the eighth inning I had done the job I was sent out to do.”
Less than three months later, Newman went to the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to shoot the New Year’s Day matchup between TCU and Syracuse, featuring All-American running back Jim Brown in his final collegiate appearance. Beforehand, Newman approached TCU coach Abe Martin for permission to photograph the scene in the locker room right before the kickoff. The two had met the previous year at the Cotton Bowl, when TCU was defeated by Ole Miss. Newman’s schmoozing worked magic, and Martin agreed to give him access. “That was unheard of back then,” Newman said. “The locker-room was sacrosanct. You just didn’t get to do that.”
He brought only his Leica, in part because the camera was so quiet. Working quickly in the cramped, dimly lit space, he had to his hands steady to accommodate the long exposure time (about a fifth of a second). “What you had to do was lose yourself in the scene,” he said, “as if you’re not there, because the players are so involved in their thoughts. I didn’t want to upset the scene. I must’ve shot 10 frames and then left.”
The result is a portrait of tense tranquility before the savagery begins (and before TCU went out and beat Syracuse and Brown, 28-27). Because Newman was shooting in color, the photo was not published in SI for nine months, until September’s college football preview issue (along with other college football tableaus that Newman shot in color). The photo was re-published in The Wonderful World of Sports, a greatest-hits book of articles and images published by Time Inc. in 1967 before it slid into obscurity.
In 1999, when SI marked the millennium with a series of special issues, the photograph was re-discovered. Gary Smith, the magazine’s long-form wizard, called it “our favorite [picture] of the century,” and composed a deep-dive paean to Newman’s artistry: “Not claiming it’s better than that famous one of Muhammad Ali standing and snarling over Sonny Liston laid out like a cockroach the morning after the bug man comes. Or that picture of Willie Mays catching the ball over his shoulder in the ’54 World Series, or any number of others. But you can walk around inside this picture in a way you can’t in those others, peer right inside the tunnel these boys have entered. Their boxer shorts are hanging right there, on the hooks behind their heads, but their faces are showing something even more personal than that. Almost reminds you of a painting by Norman Rockwell.”
The piece earned Smith his third National Magazine Award and was recently re-published in Football: Great Writing About the National Sport (Library of America). “I knew it was a great photograph from day one,” said Newman, who was flown to Dallas to shoot a contemporary picture of the TCU players from 1957. “But for someone like Gary to come along and recognize it after all these years was special. It was an experience because he got into so much about who I am and what I was trying to do.”
In 1960, Newman traveled to Rome for the Summer Olympics. He captured Wilma Rudolph winning the 100 meters and the relay as well as Herb Elliott taking the 1,500, but the shot for which he is best remembered wasn’t planned. An actress friend wanted to see the boxing action at the Palazzo dello Sport. Newman agreed to accompany her and, as always, took a camera with him.
Sitting ringside, he was unprepared for the speed of a light heavyweight by the name of Cassius Clay (later known as Muhammad Ali) as he defeated Poland’s Zbigniew Pietrzykowski for the gold medal. “The writers, the experts, sitting there said, ‘How could he win? He never even hit the guy,’” Newman recalled. “But Ali was so fast they never saw the punches. He didn’t knock out the poor boy, but he massacred him.”
Newman was equally impressed by the Palazzo dello Sport, Pier Luigi Nervi’s magnificent modern dome that doubled as the basketball venue. The natural light that streamed into the structure seemed to bathe the fighters in an ethereal glow. When Ali mounted the medal podium, Newman composed a timeless image that introduced the original GOAT to the world.
“The main reason for photographing it was the ceiling and such was beautiful, beyond anything you ever saw,” Newman said. “That was really what I was interested in. The photograph was asking to be made that way.”
When Newman arrived home from the Olympics, he was sent almost immediately to cover the 1960 World Series. On paper, it seemed like a mismatch. Managed by Casey Stengel, the Yankees featured the likes of Mantle, Berra, Roger Maris, Bill “Moose” Skowron, Tony Kubek, and Whitey Ford. They had won six World Series titles in the 1950s, including as recently as 1958, and would win again in 1961 and 1962.
They were 7/5 favorites over the Bucs, whose most recent appearance in the World Series came in 1927, when Babe Ruth and the Yankees swept them. The Pirates had Roberto Clemente, Dick Groat, Vern Law, Elroy Face, and a bunch of grinders, helmed by Danny Murtaugh.
The first six games of the Series were split, but with wildly different results. The Yanks flexed their power in winning three games by lopsided scores of 16-3, 10-0, 12-0. The Pirates’ victories were much closer: 6-4, 3-2, and 5-2. New York would ultimately outscore Pittsburgh by 28 runs in a series they lost.
The finale at Forbes Field, with Law starting against Bob Turley, was a day game (as all World Series games were back then). Some 36,683 fans were treated to a seesaw contest, with the lead switching hands several times. The Yanks overcame a four-run deficit and then a two-run deficit, while the Pirates came back from three runs down and then from two back.
Game 7 was, wrote journalist Jim Reisler, author of The Best Game Ever in 2007, “the wildest and arguably the most electrifying of the more than fifteen thousand major-league games ever played.”
In the bottom of the eighth, Pirates centerfielder Bill Virdon hit a grounder to short that looked to be a double-play ball. The ball took a crazy hop and struck Tony Kubek in the throat. Bleeding from the mouth, the Yankees shortstop had to leave the game. Four batters later, backup catcher Hal Smith drilled a three-run homer to give the Pirates the lead, 9-7. In the top of the ninth, a miscue by first baseman Rocky Nelson enabled the Yankees to tie the score, 9-9.
While the Pirates and Yankees battled on the field, there was another competition, unseen to most, among the photographers. Many prominent photojournalists covered all or part of the ’60 Series, including Neil Leifer, Herb Scharfman, Robert Riger, and George Silk. The talent around him, Newman recalled, drove him to find a fresh angle.
And so, as the game entered the final frame, he retreated to the spot that he had been scoping out all afternoon. He stationed himself at the top of an aisleway between sections, about 75 yards from home plate on the first-base side, on an incline that lifted him about 15 feet above ground level. “The game was flip-flopping,” he said, “and I kept going back to that one place. All I was looking for was the key shot to winning the game. I knew if I was shooting from that spot I would get the key shot.”
Newman always carried two or three cameras with him, with different lenses. For this situation, he used a Foton rangefinder camera manufactured by Bell & Howell with a medium telephoto lens of 100mm. Bell & Howell were known for movie cameras that operated with a spring-motor drive—you actually wound it like an old alarm clock—and the company incorporated that technology into the still camera. Championed by SI’s own Mark Kauffman, the Foton was considered to be one of the first true sequence cameras; its repeat exposure function allowed photographers to shoot six pictures per second. Inside the camera was Tri-X black-and-white film, which Newman “had to push a little bit to keep the speed as the light dropped in the later innings.”
Mazeroski led off the bottom of the ninth against the Yankees’ fifth pitcher of the day, right-hander Ralph Terry. Maz was a Gold Glove second baseman with a hint of power (he had 11 home runs in the regular season). As he settled into the batter’s box, Newman was steadying his Foton. He triggered the camera as Terry delivered to Mazeroski. Ball one.
Terry’s next pitch never made it to catcher Johnny Blanchard. Mazeroski swung at the offering, and the ball leaped off his bat. Berra retreated back toward the ivy-covered brick wall in left-center, but the ball carried into the trees near the 406-foot marker, sending all of Pittsburgh into paroxysms of ecstasy.
Newman kept shooting as Mazeroski completed his follow-through, oblivious to the ball’s flight. “You had no idea if he was going to hit a ground ball or a pop fly,” Newman told me. “To be sure I kept shooting through the after-swing.”
Fans jumping for joy blocked his view of the field immediately after the homer, and his pictures of Mazeroski’s trip around the bases are partially obscured. He stuck around to record the raucous aftermath, including Pirates players chugging champagne in the locker-room and a downcast Casey Stengel. (The longtime manager was fired immediately after the Series, with seven championships and 10 pennants in 12 years with the Yankees.)
After the game, Newman shipped the film back to SI’s offices in New York. Then he flew to Iowa City to cover the Iowa-Wisconsin football game, confident that he had gotten the shot of the climactic moment. “I didn’t think twice about it,” he said. “I knew I got the shot.”
He called in to SI picture editor Jerry Astor from Iowa, and it was then that he got a huge surprise. He remembers the conversation going something like this:
“Marvin, you got this great shot with the scoreboard,” Astor gushed.
Replied Newman: “What’s so great about it?”
“Marvin, one of the frames has the ball in it.”
Indeed, without realizing it, Newman’s photo included the ball in flight. It’s clearly visible to the right of the Longines clock. When SI published the photo as a double-truck spread in the October 24, 1960, issue, the editors deployed a long red arrow pointing to the ball so that no reader could miss it, under the headline “It Went All the Way!”
Even Newman was amazed. “I didn’t know the ball was going to be there so you could see it,” he said. “It was kind of a fluke, once in a lifetime. Everything else I knew was perfect. It’s exactly the picture I saw.”
Other photographers produced excellent work that afternoon. George Silk climbed to the top of the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh, where students had a bird’s-eye view of Forbes Field, for an astounding photo for Life magazine. Jim Klingensmith of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette used a ladder to access the rooftop of the stadium; his image of Mazeroski circling the bases, helmet in hand, served as the basis for the statue that now stands outside PNC Park, the Pirates’ current home. Neil Leifer, then a teen-ager, caught Mazeroski’s follow-through from a different angle.
But it’s Newman’s image, with all the telling details, that resonates: the fans next to the foul pole and the scoreboard operators peering at the action; Gil McDougald at third base, poised to react; the relief pitcher (was it Whitey Ford?) warming up down the left-field line; the two black-suited umpires standing in formation; Mazeroski’s powerful thrust; the situational information displayed on the behemoth scoreboard; and, of course, the white speck of the baseball, heading toward the trees and immortality.
In a sense, the picture bookends Arthur Rickerby’s photo of Don Larsen’s perfect game four years prior. Rickerby captured Larsen and the scoreboard, with the batter (Mitchell) absent from the frame. Newman captured Mazeroski and the scoreboard, with the pitcher (Terry) out of view. The moment, forever, from a storytelling viewpoint.
For a while, Newman seemed to be at every major sports event: the NCAA championship game, the Masters, the Olympics, Stanley Cup Finals, the U.S. Open, Tour de France, the Ice Bowl, Super Bowls, World Series. But the constant travel and the intense competition of deadline-driven photojournalism drained him. “I felt as a photographer I wasn’t doing what I wanted to do,” he said. “I wanted to do my own thing. I wanted to broaden my scope.”
He went to Europe and shot bikini-clad women on the French Riviera. He shot Wall Street, John F. Kennedy’s funeral, and Israel’s Yom Kippur War. He photographed men’s fashion for the New York Times, and did commercial work that was lucrative but unfulfilling. He continued to shoot vérité scenes that caught his eye: pre-Disneyfied Times Square; the Mustang Ranch brothel in Reno, Nevada; Inuit ceremonies in Alaska.
In 1965, he teamed with director Hiroshi Teshigahara to produce a 58-minute documentary about boxer Jose Torres preparing to fight Willie Pastrano for the light heavyweight championship at Madison Square Garden. Teshigahara, who earlier had made a short doc about Torres, had just been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Director for Woman in the Dunes.
Jose Torres II is a quiet portrait of the Puerto Rican fighter, with a cameo by Norman Mailer. Torres defeated Pastrano with a devastating kidney punch for a ninth-round TKO, but the detail Newman recalls more than 50 years later is the name of the young translator that Teshigahara hired. “It was Yoko Ono,” he said with a laugh, “before she hooked up with John Lennon.”
As Newman slowed down and took on less work, he experienced a late-career renaissance. The renewed interest jumpstarted with Smith’s Cotton Bowl tribute in SI in 1999, followed by his appearance in HBO’s Picture Perfect documentary (2002) about iconic sports photographs. The release of two popular coffee-table books, Yankee Colors (2009), which featured the Mazeroski photo as well as images from Larsen’s perfect game, and The Classic Mantle (2012), with text by Buzz Bissinger, cemented Newman’s reputation as a premiere baseball photographer. In 2009, he was awarded the prestigious Lucie Award for lifetime achievement in sports photography.
Meanwhile, curators and collectors were rediscovering his art photography, particularly the street scenes that he quietly shot in color for so many years. The Galerie Les Douches in Paris is currently exhibiting his pictures, and prestigious museums are buying signed prints for their permanent collections. Art-book publisher Taschen released a sumptuous monograph of Newman’s work last year, with the premier edition selling for $1,500.
The spate of publicity has upended his under-the-radar reputation in the art world, where words like “undiscovered,” “forgotten,” and “unsung” pop up when you Google him. “I always felt that I hadn’t been recognized by the art people,” he said. “Now I am. I’ll leave this world a very satisfied man. It’s as simple as that.”
Newman’s academic background and imaginative vision extended his oeuvre beyond sports. But those same components informed his story-telling ability when he was shooting inside stadiums and arenas. Those disparate strands of creativity came together late one October afternoon in Pittsburgh in a photograph that continues to awe.
“The picture was so perfect in capturing that moment,” explained photographer Walter Iooss, Jr. in the HBO documentary. “A lot of guys were there that day. They didn’t take a picture like that. You see Mazeroski, you see Yogi in left field, you see the time of day, you see the scoreboard ... What more could you ask?”