July 23, 2012
A photo by Matt Dilyard from the 2009 NCAA Division III National Baseball Championship game is the only collegiate image in Sports Illustrated's The Baseball Book (Expanded Edition).
WOOSTER, Ohio — The most compelling baseball photos of all time have been published in a new expanded edition of Sports Illustrated’s The Baseball Book (Expanded Edition), and included in its 325 pages is a gripping image by College of Wooster photographer Matt Dilyard — the only college baseball photo in the entire book.
Dilyard, who has been at the College for 25 years, captured the aftermath of the Scot baseball team’s bitter defeat in the 2009 national championship game. The photo shows senior pitcher Mark Miller walking off the mound after giving up the game-winning run following a brilliant 12-inning performance against St. Thomas. With players from the Tommies mobbing one another in the background, a stoic, but dignified Miller emerges in the foreground.
The innings leading up to that fateful frame were filled with angst for the veteran photographer. Not only was he nervous about the outcome of the game, he was also concerned about how to capture the post-game reaction. “I was having a panic attack trying to figure out what to do,” he said. “Should I rush the field or stay back (and shoot from a distance). Which lens should I use? Is my exposure dialed in?”
Dilyard’s anxiety turned to despair when the Tommies scored the winning run in the bottom of the 12th, but there was no time to wallow in the disappointment. “I just kept shooting,” he remembers, and as he did a remarkable scene played out before him — one that illustrated a classic contrast between the “thrill of victory and agony of defeat.” Fortunately, Dilyard was in perfect position to capture the image. “I try to stay high enough to keep the background clean,” he said, “but I was so lucky that I wasn’t too high or I would have lost Mark’s eyes under the brim of his hat.”
Dilyard added that his 400-meter lens helped Miller “pop out” from the backdrop, and create an almost three-dimensional image, while the colors of the two teams (St. Thomas’s purple and gray against Wooster’s black and gold) further highlighted the contrast.
Although he felt like jumping in the car and heading for home, Dilyard took a moment to review and transmit some of the images on his laptop in the press box. When he came to the one with Miller, Sandy Howard, wife of Wooster sports information director Hugh Howard, gasped. At that point, he knew he had a winner. He transmitted the photo to The Daily Record in Wooster, and by 6:30 the following morning, he was receiving comments via e-mail. That further bolstered his confidence in the quality of the photo, but it took some additional prodding from Hugh Howard for him to consider sending it to Sports Illustrated.
When Sports Illustrated photo editor James Colton saw the image, he took an immediate liking to it, saying it was one of the best baseball photos he had ever seen. Thirteen days later it appeared as a double-page spread of the magazine’s “Leading Off” section.
Last fall — unbeknownst to Dilyard — the photo was republished in Sports Illustrated The Baseball Book (Expanded Edition). It appears on page 221 —two pages after an essay by renowned baseball writer Tom Verducci about the blown call by umpire Jim Joyce that cost Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game, ironically enough, against the Indians. A photo of that moment appears opposite the essay on page 219.
The book features many of the game’s legends, from Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio, and Ted Williams to Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Mickey Mantle to Derek Jeter, Albert Pujols, and Chipper Jones. It also includes fascinating facts, figures, and historical references. Even the casual fan can spend hours paging through this masterpiece. “To be included in the book is very satisfying to me,” said Dilyard. “It’s the gold standard for baseball photography. I’ve looked up to these (photographers) my whole life.”
Needless to say the photo has had a significant impact on both the photographer and the pitcher. “It’s amazing,” said Miller. “It’s stunning to be included in such a prestigious book.” Miller’s mother first saw the photo on Wooster’s website and suggested that it was worthy of being in Sports Illustrated. Little did she know how prophetic that statement would be. As for Miller, he is guardedly modest. “I’m not one to toot my own horn,” he said. “It’s really neat, but I don’t talk much about it, unless someone else brings it up. I’m more proud of being a husband and a father (to a four-month-old daughter).” Still, he admits that it will be fun to share with his children and grandchildren.
What Dilyard likes most about the photo is that it transcends winning and losing. “It’s about dignity,” he said. “I showed it to my sons and told them that’s how I want them to behave. The sporting world needs people like Mark to show how to display dignity.”
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