Behind the Lens: Journal-World photographer recalls Royals’ 1985 World Series run

Kansas City Royals third-baseman George Brett swings at a pitch during game 2 of the 1985 World Series. The Royals lost the game 4-2 but defeated the St. Louis Cardinals 4 games to 3 to win World Series.

Not long after I started work at the Lawrence Journal-World, our photo staff covered the Kansas City Royals in the 1985 post-season playoffs.

I was assigned home games No. 3 of the American League Championship Series against the Toronto Blue Jays and game No. 2 in the World Series against the St. Louis Cardinals. Our staff had covered Royals games through the regular season so I was familiar enough with photographing major league ball, yet I still felt a little like a rookie shooter just called up from the minor leagues.

Mike Yoder

One of my cameras was probably a heavy Nikon F2 Photomic with a motor-drive attachment the size of a brick. I did have one unique lens I used for the day game. It was an old Nikon 500mm, f8.0, mirror lens that was practically impossible to focus on still subjects, let alone base-stealing athletes.

My other lenses had similar focal lengths that I use today: 35mm, 80-200 telephoto zoom and possibly a 300mm, but they all required manual focus. There was no such thing as auto-focus — just “oughta” focus. When I climbed into my photo box position along the third-base line, just a spit away from George Brett, I knew I was outgunned.

A photographer with a national sports publication near me had five cameras attached to a piece of 2-by-4 board. The shutter releases were wired to a foot pedal and each camera was pre-focused on every base and the pitcher’s mound. With a simple press of his foot the photographer could snap multiple photos of the entire infield. At least I wouldn’t have to change film as often.

I remember little about the games other than how Royal starter Charlie Leibrandt shut down the Cardinals into the ninth inning in game No. 2 of the World Series, before losing 4-2. I recall that one foul ball almost landed in my camera bag. I don’t recall what they fed us at the pre-game meal.

I located some black-and-white negatives and color slides from the games, and there is a noticeable lack of game action images. Many of my shots captured pre-game activities and personalities on the field.

One highlight that did stand out was photographing New York Yankee Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson wearing a blue CBS suit coat instead of Yankee pinstripes. I grew up in Kansas City and was a lifelong Royals fan. For too many seasons, Jackson and the Yankees had crushed the Royals’ hopes at winning a championship. To see Jackson working as a journalist like me, and not slugging home runs against the Royals, was a really pretty sight.

Behind the Lens

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