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Sports Illustrated photo shoot with Buster Posey too good to pass up

  • Giants catcher Buster Posey (John Burgess / The Press Democrat)

In my 22 years as a Press Democrat photographer, I've often snuck away on weekends to shoot more than 300 assignments for Sports Illustrated. I covered the west coast portion of the golf tour for seven years, but most of my assignments were portraits of athletes.

I've duct-taped Terrell Owens' mouth shut, visited the Navajo and Hopi reservation on a private jet with Steve Young, rode down Highway 1 on the back of Ricky Watters' Harley and rented 5,000 range balls for a Tiger Woods portrait. I wasn't surprised when Tiger imploded a few years ago. He refused to shake my hand when we met; the only word he said to me was “no.”

The strangest shoot over the years was when a judge gave me legal ownership of Barry Bonds' record-breaking home run ball for one day. Alex Popov claimed he caught the ball and was bitten by Patrick Hayashi when he stole it from him in the pile of people going for the home run ball. The 10-page court order stated I could touch it only with cotton gloves and with lawyers from both sides present.

Sports Illustrated Photos By John Burgess

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Seven months ago, my heart shuddered and stopped in the end zone at a playoff game between the 49ers and Green Bay Packers. After bypass surgery, I fully intended to say no to any more Sports Illustrated assignments. My editor from New York called last week and said, “You're going to like this one ... Buster Posey.”

They had me at Buster.

When I first started at the magazine, my job was to hang out with an athlete for a day and photograph him in regular life. I photographed Jason Kidd during his rookie year. Between photo shoots we played pool, hit golf balls and played football in his front yard before watching a movie in his private theater that night.

With the proliferation of magazines, sports TV networks and team promotions, a photographer — even from Sports Illustrated — is lucky to have an athlete for 10 minutes.

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