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spacer Bucky Dent, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1981
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Bucky Dent, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, 1981

Here we are at Yankee spring training camp in sunny Florida, three years after Bucky blasted the infamous home run that stole the AL pennant from the Red Sox. I had been at that game in Boston with Billy Joel and another friend, sitting in crappy seats, the three of us wearing Yankee caps that almost caused a riot. I was with a relatively new girlfriend whose stepfather had played briefly for Boston, and we got into a silly argument after the game about whether the Yankees had yet again deprived the Red Sox of a deserved trip to the World Series. I grew up having a love/hate relationship with baseball – which definitely moved into the realm of indifference as I got older. As a kid in Bayonne, NJ, prime-time Sopranos territory, my construction-business father had season tickets, and if the Yanks had a home game on weekends, we’d be there. On my tenth birthday, I convinced my dad to take me to a night game, even though there was school the next day. I had received a new baseball glove as a present earlier in the day, and after the game waited outside the Yankee clubhouse in hopes of getting Mickey Mantle to autograph it. It grew later and later. My father wanted to leave. Finally Mantle emerged from the clubhouse. “Mickey, Mickey, please can I have your autograph,” I shouted. “Fuck off, kid,” came the reply. And with that my father fired off a roundhouse right and downed the great slugger, grabbing me by the hand and speaking down to the still-decked champ: “You should have a little more respect for the kids who idolize you.” Flash forward to 1981, while I’m visiting Yankee training camp with my Washington Post colleague Tony Kornheiser. I’d already shot and printed this portrait of Bucky, a gift for our editor Jane Amsterdam back at The Post, who considered Dent the sexiest man on the planet. (Jane has sometimes displayed odd taste in men.) And who should appear in uniform one morning but Number Seven himself, Mickey Mantle, who’s kind and charming and happy as can be to have me shoot his portrait. When I got back to the hotel I discovered that I’d forgotten to put film in the camera.

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