The word classic is defined as "having lasting significance or recognized worth," and the athletes, achievements and memorable episodes that have been gathered in this special issue fall easily under that definition. SPORTS ILLUSTRATED CLASSIC is our way of celebrating the lasting joys of sport.
The word classic is also defined this way: "Serving as an outstanding representative of its kind." Into that category falls the sports photography of Ozzie Sweet. His name is itself something of a classic, and his pictures from the '50s and '60s, beginning on page 38, are as colorful as his name. In his 18th-century New Hampshire farmhouse (a classic), the 73-year-old Sweet still works as a free-lance photographer, surrounded by examples of a half century of work. His subjects have included soldiers and scientists, presidents and pets, vintage cars and movie stars.
Sports photography was at first just a good excuse for Sweet to head to Florida for baseball's spring training. But his splashy stylized portraits of sports heroes soon became his specialty, and today they provide a richly nostalgic glimpse of an earlier era. Some of his photos, though, were of a more candid, documentary variety, among them a series of black-and-white shots (left) of the 25-year-old Mickey Mantle enjoying fried chicken on a Sweet-sponsored fishing trip in the spring of 1957.
In many of Sweet's sports photos, he employed a technique he called "simulated action," a term perhaps borrowed from his first career—in Hollywood. In 1940, as a 21-year-old, he pitched a tent in the Paramount parking lot and stayed 24 nights, until Cecil B. DeMille gave him a part as a pirate in Reap the Wild Wind. But after a brief career in mostly B Westerns, Sweet moved behind the camera, turning to still photography. His training in filmed illusion came in handy. To get a shot of Jackie Robinson stealing second base, for example, Sweet propped the Dodger speedster on a specially built stool while an off-camera assistant threw ashes at Robinson's feet to look like flying dirt.
October 15, 1991
These days Sweet likes to keep things simple; his wife, Diane, in fact, sometimes serves as a model in his vintage-car photos. But if he feels a need for unsimulated action, Sweet just jumps into his old station wagon for a spin. It's a 1950 Buick woody—a classic, of course.