by Mark Hertzberg
Director of Photography
Racine Journal Times
"Thanks for chasing me down. It was the best day of my life!" That's what a reader of the paper told me when he ran into me in our newsroom yesterday.
Like many of my stories, this one begins with my morning bike ride. Somebody had squeezed too close to me as he drove past me on his way to work Thursday, and I was mad. I chased him for five blocks to give him a piece of my mind, as I sometimes do with drivers who don't respect cyclists. I caught up to him in the parking lot across the street from where he works.
The guy rolled down his window, and I lost the nerve to chew him out when I realized that it was someone I know. He was reading the Milwaukee paper, our competition. Instead of lecturing him about his driving, I chided him for reading "pornography" in his car instead of reading our paper.
He's a baseball fan, and the big story this week was the closing of Milwaukee County Stadium Thursday after 47 years as the home of the Milwaukee Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers. The new stadium, Miller Park, opens next year.
Thursday's paper had a front page column by me leading readers to a doubletruck inside of my favorite County Stadium photos from 1975-2000. I told him he should buy the paper every day anyway, but especially that day to see the stadium photos.
My column lead told readers not to call me that day because "going to the office" meant covering the last game at the old stadium. A mile from my parking lot conversation I passed a city worker up on a post, putting up traffic signs. He waved and yelled, "Have a good time at the stadium today!" He'd read the paper before work!
County Stadium is known for its tailgate parties, and a dozen photographers held the stadium's last one at 9:30 p.m., long after everyone had left, when we got done transmitting our pictures. Jeff Phelps of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had brought a grill and hot dogs, and we had the parking lot to ourselves.
AP photographer Morry Gash and I had shared a plane for aerial photos, and our paper led with an almost-half page display of my photo of the two stadiums. Our secondary photos was one that new staffer Ron Kuenstler shot, that no one else had, of baseball commissioner and former Brewers owner Bud Selig dabbing away tears at the closing ceremony. The Wisconsin State Journal in Madison remade their front page to lead with that photo when it came over the wire.
We'd had fun, we got good display, and we had good memories of the day. The punctuation came the next morning though, when I ran into the errant driver in our newsroom. He told me he'd bought the paper after I chided him, loved my photos, and called his wife with a "I won't be home for dinner" message.
He had decided to go to play hooky and go to the stadium. He got a ticket to the game somehow and had the "best day" of his life.
"Reader feedback" is a corporate buzzword that consultants love to kick around. Reader feedback doesn't get any better than being told that someone had the best day of their life thanks to your photos.
THIS IS THE THURSDAY FRONT PAGE COLUMN THAT HELPED GET THE GUY TO THE GAME.
Don't bother to call me today. Going to the office todaymeans that I'm covering the last baseball game at Miwaukee County Stadium.
I grew up in New York, but my home field for the last 25 years has been Milwaukee County Stadium. It's a quirky stadium, one that will win no architectural awards and one that has none of the amenities of Miller Park and other contemporary stadia. It's the Ugly Duckling, the runt of the litter, by today's standards, and that's why I like it.
I shot my first game at County Stadium in 1970, the year theBrewers moved here from Seattle. Five years later, press pass in hand, I photographed Hank Aaron's triumphant return to the stadium. In September, 1992 I covered Robin Yount for three games, waiting for his 3000th hit.
I've shot numerous games from the photographers' wells, and I've sat in every part of the stands as a spectator. I've also left a bit of myself on stadium history. In 1984, I shot part of the video presentation which played on the scoreboard during the National Anthem. It included a photo of our sons. The Danbury Mint model of the ballpark is based on architectural photos I took for their model builders.
Tomorrow workers are supposed to start taking out the seats,and demolishing the bleachers. Though part of the diamond will be left for youth baseball, most of the stadium will be gone.
We will all have our own memories of
the ballpark. Some of mine are on pages 6A and 7A of today's newspaper.
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