Another way of putting the old saw about words and pictures is that one great photograph may require a thousand words to describe its qualities adequately. By that standard, Baseball, photographs by Walter Iooss Jr. with text by Roger Angell (Harry N. Abrams, Inc.), demands a multitude of favorable words. It signals an early start for the gift-book season, and even at $29.95 there may not be many copies left on the bookstore shelves come Christmas.
Like all the superior sports photographers, Iooss understands his game, and it shows not only in his sense of anticipation, but also in the way he has culled 133 images (95% taken while a staff photographer for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED) for the book from 20 busy years of assignments. Iooss is fascinated by the way twilight and stadium lights add mystery and drama to the game of baseball, and there are a number of excellent examples of this, including the cover. But there's plenty of good, hard baseball, too.
The start of the double play at second base has become almost a cliché in baseball photography, but it has never been better shown than here, in a photo from the 1976 World Series. The ball has just arrived in Joe Morgan's glove, and he's beginning to shift his attention to Mickey Rivers flying in from first. A beauty!
At spring training in 1963, Pirate rookie Bob Bailey scooped up a grounder at third, the umpire signaled fair ball and Bailey started his throw. Iooss's view of this—in technique, tension and composition—is a masterpiece. On the Mets' first Opening Day, in April 1962, Iooss made a portrait of Casey Stengel looking out at the field; it describes better than any thousand words could the informed apprehension of this gnarled, wise old man as he faced a full season with no-longer-, never-were-and semi-competents on his side. Angell's text, especially its analysis of televised baseball's distortions of the game—it seems to move at a faster pace than the game being covered, he says—is a welcome bonus. But Baseball is Iooss's triumph.