My friend and Times photographer Doug Mills has a saying that I never quite understood, until last week. He says, "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good."
July 9 felt, for all the world, to be The Day. Derek Jeter was a mere two hits away from being the first Yankee to get 3,000 hits. The sun was smiling down beneficently on all things Yankee, and those white jerseys were sparkling. From where I was sitting, in the third base camera well, it felt like -- on that most beautiful July day -- we were screwed.
Sometimes the camera well at third base can feel like the Siberia to which you've been sent when your paper has a man in each of the (better) photo positions.
"I think we're screwed", said my friend and Post photographer Anthony, shooting from next to my right shoulder. We strike up a conversation with Tampa Bay Rays first base coach George Hendrick, who says he wants it to happen today; he wants to see history. Even if it's off his own team and pitcher David Price.
Which it is -- and a solo home run, at that. Price hangs his head. We start shooting at the backswing, follow his home-run trot and fierce embrace with Jorge Posada and teammates at the plate. We don't stop until after Jeter has taken his curtain call and downed a Gatorade. I hear Anthony woo-hooing. At that point, everyone in the third base camera well is smiling into the backs of their cameras, if they haven't left to file already.
And that brings me to "Sometimes it's better to be lucky than good".
Because you never know which way it's gonna go. You can second-guess your photo position until you're nauseous with anxiety, but if there's only one spot left, you may as well let the game unfold and quit worrying. And hope that this is the day it's better to be lucky than good. Will Jeter put his fist in the air as he's trotting up the first-base line and give the first-base camera well shooters a reason to "Woo-hoo"? Will the picture of the day be from the outfield, a slightly elevated view that will include a pitcher looking over his head at a vaulting ball? When -- or if -- he takes a curtain call, which way will he turn? Will he even get a hit that day, or is this just another game in the shimmering July sunshine?
It wasn't, and he smacked that thing. Rounding second base, Jeter allowed himself to smile against a backdrop of joyous fans. In the parlance of sports shooters everywhere, he "gave it up". To third base.