The baseball player Reggie Jackson once said he remembered every home run he’d hit—the where and when, and who’d pitched that day—which may be a more prodigious feat than any of the 563 dingers he launched during his Hall-of-Fame career.
Photographers don’t often hit home runs, but when we do they’re called keepers. If I’d collected as many of those as Jackson did homers, over the past twenty-plus years my average, like his, would be about 28 per year. But because a photographer’s season may be year-long (or unending), we have an advantage over sluggers like Jackson, who have only six months in the batter’s box. Put another way, Reggie had a lot more pop than most of us.
I began thinking about this odd parallel because 1) like it or not, another Major League baseball season begins shortly and 2) our weather’s been so gloomy and wet that almost anything seems better in comparison, even sports. (Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know: March Madness originated on the West Coast, in Oregon, to describe how its people felt at the beginning of spring after nearly five months in a damp, dark, and dreary hermitage.)
Jackson didn’t get to keep his home runs—those baseballs became trophies to the lucky fans who caught up with them—but photographers can save their best blasts in multiple places, from file cabinets to hard drives, and make another exact copy—or copies—from the original. That wouldn’t work in baseball—there are only so many homers to go around.
So, while Reggie probably has cases full of interesting jock stuff he collected during his playing days, baseballs aren’t among them. I envy this lacking as I sift through hard drives (I don’t go near the file cabinet) searching for keepers. Once in a while, when I chance upon one, the excitement I felt taking it returns with enough strength to shake loose long-forgotton memories. I can usually recall the camera I was using at the time, and maybe the lens, but mostly I’m guessing. The years, months, and places are now mostly vague question marks, and I have absolutely no idea who was on first.