There aren't very many words in pictures '87, our portfolio of the year's most striking sports images, unless you believe, as we do, that each picture is worth a thousand of them. A shot that speaks with particular eloquence is the one on page 126 of an elderly gent sitting on a porch listening to a radio. "This photo has great color and good symbols. But most of all, it's so human," says Kyle McLellan, the photo editor who scrutinized almost 4,000 slides to start the process that ultimately yielded the 53 featured in this issue.
Photographer Bill Ballenberg was cruising a Baltimore neighborhood on June 21, looking for pictures for our July 6 One Day in Baseball issue, when an American flag caught his eye. Thomas Linton, the 82-year-old radio listener, was beneath it. "I asked him what he was listening to," says Ballenberg. "He said, 'The Orioles, of course.' I had my picture."
We later learned that Linton has listened to his team's games for 20 years from that very spot, just a few blocks from Memorial Stadium. "I tune in my transistor to WCBM, 680 on the AM dial," says Linton. "When somebody hits a home run, I can hear the roar from the stadium right on my front porch."
As a child in Catonsville, Md., Linton played ball with Fritz Maisel, who grew up to be an in-fielder with the New York Yankees and St. Louis Browns from 1913 through 1918. "Fritz lived on a farm off Engleside Avenue," says Linton, "and I lived on Engleside Avenue. Fritz was a great player even then. My only claim to fame is having pitched to him as a kid."
During the 1930s and '40s, Linton devoutly attended the home games of Baltimore's International League Orioles at the old Oriole Stadium on 29th Street. He was in the business of painting autos and hammering out dents in those days, and often he would sneak out the back door of the Old Town Body and Fender shop and go buy a bleacher seat—for a quarter. "I got away with it," he says, "because I owned the shop."
Linton listened to this year's Series from a hospital bed; his right leg had been amputated because of a circulatory problem. But it doesn't seem destined to slow him down too much. Last week he was fitted with a prosthesis and said, "I'll be home in plenty of time for Opening Day, April 4." Linton has promised to take his nine-year-old granddaughter, Catalina Valdez, to several Orioles games this spring. "Cat already has her own transistor," he says, "but I want her to see baseball up close."