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Matinee: Mary Schroeder Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

12 October 2019

Saturday matinees long ago let us escape from the ordinary world to the island of the Swiss Family Robinson or the mutinous decks of the Bounty. Why not, we thought, escape the usual fare here with Saturday matinees of our favorite photography films?

So we're pleased to present the 223rd in our series of Saturday matinees today: Blink of an Eye: Photographer Mary Schroeder.

This 8:07 documentary by Palomar Films profiles the career of Detroit Free Press sports photographer Mary Schroeder, who retired in 2018 after 39 years at the paper.

Most of that time was spent on the field and the court and the rink covering the Tigers, the Lions, the Pistons and the Red Wings. But at the end of her tenure she moved inside, as she puts it, working as a photo editor when multiple sclerosis prevented her from working in the field.

That didn't keep her from shooting photos out her office window, though. "It's just so much fun," she says.

She fell in love with taking photos when she was 9, as a way to explore the world around her. "It's a sense of discovery," she says. "I want to show you what I saw."

Her first assignment as a 21-year-old was to get a shot of Mother Teresa arriving at the airport. She came home with three winners: the airport, in the van and at the new convent.

But in sports photography, which she loved, she had to catch a few the arrows in her back as a pioneer. She was not just the first but the only woman on the field for a major market newspaper for a long time.

She was, in fact, barred from the Lions locker room until the Free Press when to court to fight for her right to access the facility. That case was settled out of court with an agreement to "at all times and all places provide the same access to players, coaches and facilities to all accredited media representatives without regard to sex."

"You get one one-thousandth of a chance," she said. "That's it." She was referring to the shutter speeds sports photographer requires. But it applies to a career as well. And we see in this video what she did with her chance. She nailed it.

Her shot of Kirk Gibson after he hit a three-run homer in the 1984 World Series for the Detroit Tigers sold a lot of papers and a lot of posters and even made Gibson jealous. Wikipedia remembers the moment:

Gibson had homered earlier in the game and Padres manager Dick Williams strolled to the mound to talk to Goose Gossage, seemingly with the purpose of ordering him to walk Gibson intentionally. Just before the at-bat, Gibson made a $10 bet (flashing ten fingers) with his manager Sparky Anderson that Gossage (who had dominated Gibson in the past) would pitch to him. Gossage talked Williams into letting him pitch to Gibson and Gibson responded with a three-run blast into the upper deck to clinch the Series for the Tigers.

She kept her eye on Gibson while the other photographers around her whooped it up. So she's the one who got the shot of Gibson jumping in the air that made history.

But she covered everything. And her war stories are as great as her images. "I know what I can photograph and what I can't, what will work for a newspaper," she says. "And it's always emotion."

There are even a few tips. Like the one about catching Michigan coach Bo Schembechler going for his 200th career win at 1/15 second as the team ran past him.

"I have to be there," she says, to get the story. "A reporter can phone it in."

She was there, all right. And her pictures prove it.

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