On Thursday, Deadspin published a cool piece on photographer Harry Cabluck, who shot iconic sports moments like the Immaculate Reception and the Miracle on Ice. He was also responsible for one of the most memorable sports image sequences of all-time, the photos of Carlton Fisk waving his home run fair in Game 6 of the 1975 World Series.
But as the Deadspin story explains, Cabluck very nearly failed to get the shot.
Cabluck kept his camera trained on Fisk. “He made the swing, and the ball went away,” he said. “I wasn’t going to follow the flight of the ball. That would be a nothing picture from my angle. I stayed on Fisk because I didn’t know any different.”
But the tumult of Fenway fanatics was threatening his work. “There was no firm base for the camera because the stands were shaking like crazy,” he said. “I knew I was on him. I knew that the exposure was right and the focus was right. But I didn’t know what I was gonna get because there was so much vibration.”
Cabluck handed off the film to a runner, who carried it to the AP darkroom in Fenway. What emerged from the darkroom was the sequence of the indelible moment: Fisk swinging and making contact with the ball, Fisk following the ball, Fisk’s unrestrained exuberance.
Unfortunately, Cabluck’s shots of Fisk rounding the bases and being mobbed at home plate were unusable. They were “full of motion—camera motion and subject motion—because of all the shaking in the stands,” he said. “They were fuzzy.”
First and foremost, this anecdote has to give you a little more appreciation for the unheralded heroes of sports media, the photographers. So much goes into a great (or even good) photo, particularly when world-class athletes are darting around at impossible speeds. And then right when you think you have it all figured out, the stadium starts shaking and you’re in danger of losing the shot.
It’s worth wondering whether Fisk’s home run would be such an indelible moment in baseball history if not for Cabluck’s photo, as well as NBC’s innovative camera placement. The blast did not decide the World Series, and the Red Sox lost the following game anyway. But in part because of the images that came out of the home run, Fisk’s walk-off remains on the short list of most famous baseball moments.
Nowadays, with video replays available almost immediately online, photos are no longer quite as crucial to how we remember sports. Once, you could remember a great play of dramatic moment only through a still image in the newspaper or a magazine. Now, there’s video on social media within minutes and on YouTube forever. But if iconic photos like Cabluck’s are somewhat of a relic, they’re certainly a relic worth remembering.