That’s my technique with people. I’m sort of a fly on the wall. You try not to interfere, hang around, hope that they don’t even notice you, and if they do, they don’t care.

-John Dominis

Mickey Mantle Having a Bad Day at Yankee Stadium, New York, 1965 © John Dominis

Mickey Mantle Having a Bad Day at Yankee Stadium, New York, 1965 © John Dominis

Sports photography is extremely tough. It may be the most active of photography genres as games and events are being recorded by thousands of photographers every day. The moments are captured and the action is documented to convey what has occurred but few images ever break through this base level of reportage to become iconic moments. Think of it. How many great sports photographs can you remember? Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston (in 1965 also), Mary Decker’s fall at the 1984 Olympics, the Black Power salute by Tommie Smith and John Carlos performed at the 1968 Olympics.

Is that it? Is it because sports photography is overshadowed by the video of these great moments that we are watching live? Or that what strikes most sports fans are the unusual photos, the physically incredible images that can have little lasting value; the moment of impact, crashes, great catches, etc. I do not know.

This shot of Mickey Mantle has always been an important one to me. Ever since I first saw it, this image has been burned into my eye, this great moment of sour frustration and dejection by one of the greats as he heads back down into the dugout. The empty frame, the curve of his body from the S line of his spine, crowning to his bowed head, and the delicate dancer’s line of his arm to the splayed out fingers to the batting helmet looking forlorn hanging in mid air as if on the head of the person to blame for Mantle’s mood.

There is so much emotion and drama in sports but so few images capture something that seems more complicated than victory or defeat.