(Photo by Sun photographer…)
Forty-six years later, the photograph still gives people goose bumps. There's Dave McNally, Baltimore's "other" No. 19, the triumphant pitcher whose grin is as wide as his native Montana. And Andy Etchebarren, the catcher who's poised to embrace him, mask still on and mitt in hand.
And there, on the left, is a jubilant Brooks Robinson, or at least a chunk of him: the Orioles' third baseman is airborne and looks as if he parachuted into Memorial Stadium. Why? The Birds had just swept the 1966 World Series in four straight games.
"I've autographed so many of those pictures," said Robinson, "and people still ask, 'How did you jump so high?' I tell them it was trick photography."
A framed copy of the picture hangs in the study of Robinson's house, a flashback to a seminal moment in Orioles lore.
"It was the most exciting moment of my [23-year] career," the 75-year-old Hall of Famer said. "That picture is a big part of Orioles' history. That picture's got legs."
The photo, taken by The Baltimore Sun's Paul Hutchins, was named sports action shot of 1966 by the Baltimore Press Photographers Association, which also made Hutchins its photographer of the year. On Oct. 11 — two days after the Orioles defeated the favored Los Angeles Dodgers — Hutzler's department stores cranked out commemorative $3 mugs and ashtrays emblazoned with the front-page photo and accompanying headline from The Sun which read, "Would You Believe It? Four Straight!"
Now retired, Hutchins, 85, called the photograph "the most important one I took in 42 years at the paper," and said it was Robinson's leap that won it acclaim.
"Brooks made the picture," said Hutchins, who took it with a large-format, 21/4 -inch Praktisix camera, using a 600 mm lens. "When the last ball was hit to the outfield, I thought, 'This is gonna be a big deal.' So I watched the pitcher [McNally] and, as he came off the mound, I snapped his grin."
If the photo had been of McNally alone, "it probably would have been a one-column picture," Hutchins said. "Fortunately, Etchebarren and Robinson were running toward him, and it all coalesced into a pretty decent photo. I remember looking at McNally in the viewfinder, and seeing something coming from the left. I didn't know it was Brooks, in midair, until I got back to The Sun and developed it."
That evening, having handed the picture to the news desk, Hutchins was walking with a friend downtown, enjoying the hoopla and horn-blowing, when he spotted a newspaper box with early editions of The Sun. His photo was splashed across the front page, above the fold, over six columns.
"That was pretty rare," he said, "like something they save for the Hindenburg disaster."
Another department store, Hochschild Kohn, ordered 2,000 prints of the picture, for which they paid Hutchins $200, then sold the 8x10 copies for $1 apiece.
"The Orioles asked me to make a large print for each of the players," he said. "Years later, I was sent on assignment to photograph McNally at his home in Billings, Mont. The '66 picture hung overtop his fireplace."
Players cherish the picture. Etchebarren, 69, has the photo hanging in his house in Nokomis, Fla. He also keeps it as his screen saver.
"Every time I turn on my computer, that [image] is what I see," he said. "I don't believe in living in the past — I've given my World Series rings to my daughters — but that is one neat picture. Once [outfielder] Paul Blair caught the last out, I started running to the mound to hug McNally, but there came Brooksie, flying through the air.
"How he got that much spring in his legs, I don't know. Brooks never ran real well."
The picture is mounted in Boog Powell's trophy room, alongside his 1970 American League Most Valuable Player award, in his home in Key West, Fla. Though Powell, the slugging first baseman, wasn't part of the photo, the reactions of those pictured speak for the team, he said.
"To have a smile that wide, and to jump in the air like that, exemplified how we all felt — total elation," said Powell, 70. "It was a long time coming, 12 years since the Orioles' inception [in 1954]. What a great day for the city of Baltimore. It was like Mardi Gras."
Even now, said Powell, "we tease Brooks about the picture. I ask him, 'Who did you pay to get yourself [airbrushed] that high?'
"Truth is, I was running toward the mound from the other side, and I jumped three feet higher than Brooks. But the photographers didn't get my picture."
Truth is, Robinson said, he cheated just a bit.
"When I saw the ball go to center field, that's when I started my 'run' into the air," he said. "For Blair, catching that ball was a cup of tea."
Blair, who recorded the final out, watched the whoopee while dashing from the outfield.
"I couldn't wait for that [fly] to fall into my glove," said Blair, 68. "I squeezed it harder than any ball I ever caught. If I dropped it, I knew I'd have to leave Baltimore."
Squeeze it, he did. At that moment, said Blair, "you realize that all of your dreams have come true."
McNally, Etchebarren and Robinson all showed it.
"I've got that picture memorized in my brain," Blair said.
"God bless the photographer, that was a helluva picture."