In the fall of 1942 a young Army corporal stationed at Camp Callan, near San Diego, slipped onto the training grounds during drills and began shooting his fellow soldiers—with a Rolleiflex 120-millimeter camera.
One of the photographs he took that day, a striking black-and-white image of an infantryman with a combat knife clenched between his teeth, landed soon thereafter on the cover of Newsweek. It was the first of nearly 1,800 magazine covers, ranging in subject from Arthur Godfrey to Albert Einstein, that would decorate the career of photographer Ozzie Sweet.
In June of 1947 Sweet created a Newsweek cover shot of Cleveland Indians ace Bob Feller, and a vast new photographic playground was opened to him. Over the next two decades, Sweet captured the athletic heroes of the era on bold oversized color transparencies; in an age of slower film, he pioneered the stylistic technique of "simulated action," which became his trademark. "I'd freeze the frame by freezing the subject," he says. On the following pages, accompanied by Sweet's reminiscences (at the age of 73, he is still happily plying his trade), are some of the memorable images of the 1950s and '60s selected from the Sweet portfolio.
RALPH KINER 1950
"Ralph got a big charge out of it when we surrounded him with these beautiful girls. When we'd finished, he said, 'Ozzie, you sure that's all you need?'—one of the rare times a player wanted to prolong the shooting."
ROBERTO CLEMENTE 1967
"Clemente was thoughtful and very quiet. He'd answer questions, but he wasn't the type to initiate a conversation. He always had a serious expression, but when he held his hat over his heart, it became a special moment."
JIM BROWN 1964
"When I told Jim that it takes acting ability to do simulated action, he smiled and said he'd just done his first role in a movie ['Rio Conchos']. He told me he didn't know how much longer he could go on as a football player."
SANDY KOUFAX 1963
"He was a very temperamental fellow. Very moody. He was like that as an athlete, too. If he was in the right mood, swell, but he sure had his off days. And his off days were way off. On this day he was feeling great."
MAURY WILLS 1963
"I shot this one while lying on the ground. Wills would leap up in the air; the idea was to time the shutter to capture that moment of suspension. In those days, with the slower film speeds, that's how you had to do it."
PAUL HORNUNG 1962
"He was one handsome son of a gun, probably the most handsome profile I ever shot. Like the famous Barrymore profile, he had the famous Hornung profile."
WILLIE AND MARGHUERITE MAYS 1957
"This shot I took in their home—a brownstone in New York, as I recall. She'd done all the decorating. Was that a bedroom or what? And Willie dressed like a sultan. I didn't bring costumes—this is what they wore."
TED KLUSZEWSKI 1956
"Ted had those big arms, and he wanted to show that off. So we corned it up, sort of like they do with pro wrestlers. He'd say, 'Is this O.K.?' and get this fierce expression, and then we'd have a good laugh."
MICKEY MANTLE, BOB GRIM, BILLY MARTIN, WHITEY FORD 1957
"This is from a fishing trip back when the Yankees were still training in St. Petersburg. I got a bunch of fried chicken and beer, and we went fishing. They ate plenty of chicken and drank plenty of beer. Martin and Mantle had some real action—got some big tarpon. Those guys were real buddies."
ROCKY MARCIANO 1954
"This was at a training camp in the Catskills, and that's Marciano's daughter [Mary Anne]. This was later on in his career. Here's this big, brute slugger and this cute little girl. My, did he love his little daughter."
LUIS APARICIO 1962
"Actually, he never threw that ball—it's suspended by fishing leader. I remember telling Aparicio I hoped he'd have a big season, and he said, 'I hope so too. I don't want to have to go to work for a living.' "
BOBBY HULL 1968
"The thing I remember best is that Hull was extremely cooperative. The success of the picture was as important to him as it was to me. He had a great smile, too. Such a nice smile."
BOBBY LAYNE 1960
"He sure was a jolly guy—even on a hot summer day in the Steelers' training camp. Of course, this was back when all athletes had good, short haircuts."
ROGER MARIS 1962
"This was the spring after he broke Babe Ruth's record. When I told him what I had in mind for the picture, he looked at me like I was a nut. Roger had this happy look on his face mostly because he was amused."
YOGI BERRA 1957
"That was one of Yogi's typical mannerisms. When reporters would ask him questions, he'd smile, take his hat off and scratch his head while he'd think of what he was going to say. You just couldn't help but like Yogi."