That was made clear recently to Matt Dilyard, The College of Wooster’s outstanding photographer, when he found out that an iconic image from the Scots’ heartbreaking loss to St. Thomas in the 2009 Division III World Series had been brought back into circulation.
Dilyard’s picture captured a stoic Mark Miller, who had just given up the game-winning hit that allowed the Tommies to emerge with a 3-2, 12-inning victory over Wooster. Miller had been masterful as he worked 11 full innings before giving up a 1-out, full-count hit that allowed the winning run to score.
As the Tommies celebrated, Miller strode off the mound, neither changing expression nor showing emotion, his head held high and shoulders squared. Dilyard took the photo, which was submitted to Sports Illustrated (SI) and ran as a full two-page spread June 8, 2009. That earned Dilyard and Miller plenty of talking points, but like any good photo, it continues to resurface.
It did so again in late 2011 when SI revamped its 2004 Baseball Book Expanded. When it ran, though, neither Dilyard nor Miller was aware the photo was included in the book.
“This was a revision to The Baseball Book Expanded, which came out last October and brought it up-to-date,” said Dilyard. “The original came out in 2004, I believe, and covers the entire sweep of the sport from its beginnings to modern day. There are pictures from the early 1900s to today.
“The picture ran in the Leading Off section of the magazine and the editor at the time called it one of the best baseball pictures he had ever seen, and I think he took a particular liking to it. I think when the time came (for the revision) it was at the top of his mind. It’s tied to a story about fairness and dignity right before this picture ran. The story also talks about the blown call that took a perfect game away from a Detroit pitcher. (The Miller picture) is above all a picture of dignity that transcends winning and losing. It fit in with the piece of writing.”
The idea for the picture came a week earlier at the Mideast Regionals, which Wooster won to advance to the World Series and the showdown with the Tommies.
“It was another athlete,” said Dilyard. “I watched the Wooster guys pile on in celebration and the opposing pitcher for Marietta had a very different reaction – he mighta blown a snot rocket toward the pile-up. I thought, “Is that how I would have wanted my son to react?’ The following week there was a very different reaction from Mark.”
It wasn’t an easy picture for Dilyard to take, especially after the Scots needed only one win to claim the national title. Instead, Wooster dropped 6-4 and 3-2 decisions in a bile-producing day.
“It was a devastating moment,” said Dilyard. “Part of me wanted to be in the car headed home, but the grief of it made me glaze over that and fly on autopilot. I just let my instincts take over. If you think too hard you miss (those photos).”
The photo was also available because of “the gift of being in a small park (at Fox Cities Stadium, Appleton, Wisc.).”
“There were only a few people in the stands, so I had the run of the place to get high enough so the background was clean. Down low you pick up stuff in the background that destroys the composition of the photo,” said Dilyard. “I was going back and forth between first and third base and high, which is unorthodox because most shooters want to stay at ground level. This picture would have been blown if I missed Mark’s eyes. I was high enough to get a clean background but low enough to get the critical expression on his face.”
What is unique about the story is that neither Dilyard nor Miller knew the picture was going to resurface. What made that remarkable is SI’s Baseball Book Expanded does a great job detailing Major League Baseball, not college ball.
Dilyard found out via “one of those Facebook things,” he said.
“A friend of Mark’s saw it in a bookstore and he was somehow a friend of one of my cousins,” said Dilyard, who found out about the photo and ordered a copy of the book recently. “Mark knew about it earlier than we did, but no one thought to say anything to anyone else.
“It’s a substantial book. My wife loved it and she’s not a baseball fan, but she had a good time with it. … The Leading Off (section) was nice … but those magazines go into the basement a few weeks later never to be seen again. This will linger on the coffee table, which is nice for Mark. His great-grandchildren will have that.”
It wasn’t an easy picture to take, Dilyard reiterated.
“Looking at some of the edits, there were some brutal photographs,” he said. “They are hard to see. After the sting wears off, one has a better appreciation. There was a concern (publishing the photo) because we lost. That’s one reaction. It’s too bad we didn’t win, of course, but when a photo can show dignity, that’s important. There was a letter to the editor where a guy spoke about his sons and he showed them the picture as a metric on how they should behave. In sports, that can fall by the wayside – decency and dignity. It was a genuine moment.”
It was genuine, Miller said. He had seen enough foolish behavior and poor sportsmanship over the years to know how he wanted to act in the face of defeat.
“I’ve been married three years now and my wife, Deidre, and I have a little daughter (Tinley),” he said. “I still have flashbacks of that moment and it can still bring chills. I can walk back in those shoes, but what brings back the most (memories) was the battle the entire team had, even before that game. It was a great time for the entire team and a great opportunity to be out at the World Series. I’m three years out of college and doing other things, so that puts baseball in perspective and I have a broader view of how neat it was.
“It would have been nice to have a ring, but the people you know and love you still know you came in second. The people who don’t know St. Thomas don’t know they won.”
Just because Miller has put three years between that day and now doesn’t mean he has forgotten much at all.
“I can remember every step. I can remember the pitch – it was the same pitch I threw all game,” he said. “There was disbelief -- ‘I can’t believe it. I can’t believe we just lost.’ Hopefully that was everyone’s thought, that they couldn’t believe we had just lost. When the picture was taken, I would hope that everyone on the team would have the same pose – well, it wasn’t a pose. We had nothing to be ashamed of.”
The Scots concluded the season 43-11 and earned the second runner-up trophy in school history, the other runner-up spot coming in 1997.
“This was one of the best teams I’ve ever been on,” said Miller. “I’ve never been on great teams. I can only remember winning one (significant) tournament in my life. I saw losing teams and how they reacted. People cried and people would pout – they do those things. First, put it in perspective -- it’s a BB game. Yes, it was the biggest spotlight ever and things didn’t go our way that day. But everything went our way -- just one more thing went their way.
“There is nothing to be ashamed of if you gave it your all. I gave it my all, everyone on the team gave it their all. I was not going to hang my head – that’s why my head was held high. I’ve seen too many others hang their head. I was not thinking to hold my head up for a picture. That’s how I carried myself … it’s where your personality shows in sports.
“I held my head high because I gave it my best. That sums it up.”
When the book came out, Miller had bigger things on his mind. A manager for Tractor Supply Co. in Decatur, Ind., he and Deidre were in the process of moving into their new home.
“It was the day after Christmas, Dec. 26, and I had the day off and Deidre and I were moving stuff into our new home,” said Miller. “One of my wife’s friend’s boyfriend had a boy who was 12 and a huge Boston Red Sox fan. They even own a brick from Fenway Park.
“I got a text from him that said I was in a book he got his boy for Christmas. ‘You’re the only college player in it – the rest were professional (athletes).’ I thought that was pretty neat, but I never said anything to anyone. I’m proud to be in SI, but I’ve moved on. I’m proud to be married and proud to have a daughter.”
He does have a copy of the book, one his wife purchased for him. He didn’t say anything to Dilyard, though.
“I thought he got notification,” said Miller. “I just assumed he knew.”
In a society where word travels fast, that wasn’t the case. The proof, though, is in a book, where a moment caught in time carries a message that is too often lost on today’s fans, players and coaches alike.
Published: July 6, 2012