Jesse Marinoff Reyes:
October, 1955 issue
Photograph: Ozzie Sweet (b. 1918)
Happy 87th Birthday Yogi Berra!
Or as Yogi himself has quipped, “You should always go to other people’s funerals, otherwise they won’t come to yours.” Happy to celebrate the all-time great Yankee catcher’s ongoing boyhood, as the Design Page has seemed a bit more like the Obituary column of late.
What better way to call attention to it than by highlighting this great, SPORT magazine cover from 1955 (although that October Berra’s Yankees took a break from their unprecedented domination of baseball in the 1950s by losing the World Series to the Brooklyn Dodgers in seven games) shot by the dean of sports photographers, and really, most any genre as he was accomplished in every aspect of editorial photography—the Norman Rockwell of photographers—Ozzie Sweet, himself continuing his ongoing boyhood at 94 years young.
Although best known for sports photography, he had shot more than 1800 magazine covers alone during the Golden Age of Magazines, including those for Time, Newsweek, Playboy, Ebony, Cosmopolitan, TV Guide, The Saturday Evening Post, SPORT and Sports Illustrated. He has spent private moments with the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Albert Einstein, Joe DiMaggio and President Dwight D. Eisenhower in the six decades since his WWII images first appeared on the cover of Newsweek. Sweet first learned how to shoot as a photo officer in the Air Force, and while photographing his fellow soldiers at Camp Callan near San Diego, Sweet came up with a shot of a GI with a knife clenched in his teeth—that image made the cover of Newsweek. The rest, as they say, is literally history, not that sometimes a little editorial license wasn’t called for on occasion: Sweet’s shot of a “Nazi” soldier, hands reaching for the sky in defeat—when Germany surrendered in May of 1945—an incredibly symbolic image that still resonates nearly 70 years later, was an image Sweet considered as an op ed piece and not a documentary image. After all, that “Nazi” was just a friend of Sweet’s dressed in a German uniform and posing “on cue.”
I was very pleased, and more than a bit awed, to have researched this cover of SPORT while designing the jacket for a recent biography of Yogi Berra—Yogi Berra: Eternal Yankee, by Allan Barra (W. W. Norton, 2008)—and was able to use this terrific shot for the cover and be able to set Ozzie Sweet’s credit next to mine.