Baseball never looked sweeter than it did through the lens of
V.J. Lovero. He captured in the game a life, to borrow from
Whitman, "immense in passion, pulse, and power." And more than
that, he captured its joy, which he carried in his heart.
What man is richer than the one who lives the dream of his youth?
V.J., inspired by Hall of Fame ballplayer and photography buff
Rod Carew, grew up in Santa Ana, Calif., wanting to be a
photographer for SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. He did so from 1985 until
his death on Monday at age 44, when the cancer to which he
refused to make concessions took the last of his trademark
optimism. V.J. leaves behind a wife, Trish, and two sons, John,
16, and Jay, 13.
V.J.'s passion for baseball and his talent with a camera produced
many indelible images--he shot over 30 covers for SI. His work
during the great home run race of 1998 between Mark McGwire and
Sammy Sosa was extraordinary but never more so than when he
captured the bond between McGwire and his son, Matt (left, Sept.
7, 1998). Ballplayers gravitated to V.J. because of his
infectious smile and his love for the game. I remember the time I
thought I had conducted a good interview with Greg Maddux at the
pitcher's home in Las Vegas. V.J. was there too. As I began to
leave, V.J., ever curious, asked Maddux how he was able to so
precisely repeat his delivery, the key to his impeccable control.
Maddux gave a beautiful response, and I made sure to use the
answer prominently in the story.
One day V.J. found himself peering through his camera at Carew,
then a coach for the Angels. V.J. posed some players around Carew
for a picture to run with a story about the hot bats of the
Angels. As the shoot was ending and he was down to his last few
frames, V.J. yelled, "Dog-pile on Rod!" The players jumped on
Carew with glee. Classic Lovero. Captured in that moment in the
Southern California sun was his early inspiration, Carew, the
impossibly white uniforms on the lush green outfield grass and
most of all, the boyish enthusiasm deep within the hearts of pro
ballplayers. It was a feeling V.J. never lost. Gazing upon that
picture (next page) is like remembering V.J., and it is
impossible not to smile. --Tom Verducci