Award-Winning Photojournalist Bill Eppridge Dies October 3, 2013

Photographers Joe DiMaggio and Bill Eppridge © JoAnne Kalish

Photographers Joe DiMaggio and Bill Eppridge © JoAnne Kalish

To All The Ships At Sea

On October 1, my friend Johnny Iacono called to invite me to have lunch with him and some of our old cronies from Sports Illustrated.  He mentioned Bill Eppridge would also be there.  I said if Bill’s coming I would surely come as well, as I hadn’t seen Bill in a while. He’s one of my heroes.  A day and a half later I was watching the news and saw a portrait of Bill Eppridge on the screen and some of his photos and guessed he had passed.

Bill was a beautiful, human being as well as an extremely talented and great photojournalist. He was humble about what he’d accomplished over the last few decades.

For the record and for those not familiar with Bill’s work , Bill made the very enduring historic image of mortally wounded Senator Robert F. Kennedy lying on the floor of a Los Angeles hotel in June 1968. Mr. Kennedy had just won the California primary and was delivering an acceptance speech when he was shot by an Assassin.  Both JoAnne and I had an opportunity to go to his retrospective at the Fairfield Museum a while back. I had no idea about how many other great iconic photographs, that I remembered in my minds eye, that he had made. The depth and scope of his work at that show really brought it home about how important his contribution was as a journalist.


Coach Weitz and Coach DiRico

Coach Marvin Weitz and Coach Val DiRico

Today is Tuesday April 30, 2013. In a small private graveside one of the most influential and powerful people God put on this earth will be placed 6 feet underground his name was Marv Weitz.

I would imagine on today’s date there are potentially tens, of thousands of people, who meet the same fate. This person was quite a bit different as he was one of the strongest most dedicated, ingenious educators on the planet. He was able to motivate thousands of average students to believe in themselves and believe that they could succeed in life. He was a great English teacher who happened to be an extremely talented football coach. He became head coach in my junior year at high school the previous year we had an abominable season. I believe it was two wins and six losses. but don’t quote me on that. He took his warm smile, calm demeanor and laid back attitude from the English class and would walk the three hundred yards to the football field and turn into a exceptional motivator. He had the ability of taking a below average or average football player and turn them into a powerhouse. He instilled the combination of  – you can do it,  you won’t fail, you will win. At the end of the day, you believed it. In believing it, it made you a more complete person that went far from any football field. Yes, it was a simpler time then.  At the end of his classes and football practice he would drive several of the players home in the opposite direction of his home, occasionally stopping for a cup of coffee and some positive words to your mother or father on how well their son was doing. Someone once asked me whether I had any heroes. I believe I answered my father, Coach Marvin Weitz and John Fitzgerald Kennedy. We remained close friends and  in many ways he was my Consilieri. He was there for my wedding, my children being born, the passing of my parents, my brother and my son Joe. Even though we were three hundred and fifty miles apart (round trip) I would go to visit him at least two to three times a year and spoke to him at least once or twice a month. I needed his confidence, motivation and beliefs. In his later years, and even today, he’s affected tens of thousands of young people. I call it the coach multiplication theory.  For every young man he coached, it wasn’t just one person, but they had maybe 2-3 children and then they in turn had children and they all inherited his spirit, drive and motivation. When I told him that he would smile with a little bit of disbelief but I know in my heart, he genuinely knew what I was saying. I know I will continue to go to him for motivation. Losing and failing has never been an option.  Honorable success is the only thing. It’s not just winning but how you play the game and how you treat your fellow combatants.  It’s a little known fact Coach was a great baseball player and football player. One day I found out he was a great boxer and I found out he sparred with the likes of the “Raging Bull” Jake LaMotta.

I will leave you with this –  one day every football game was cancelled in New York due to a hurricane. Coach called the head coach of the number one team – East Hampton and as the story goes, the East Hampton Coach demeaned him and our team, by saying it wouldn’t make any difference if we came in any weather condition, that they’d still kick the crap out of us.  The Coach simply said we’ll be there at 2PM.  It was the only game played on Long Island that day in the middle of a hurricane! The score was tied with two minutes left, we had East Hampton backed up to their five yard line. Our quarter back Artie Pollaci fumbled the snap from center and the ball popped out, I recovered the fumble, and Artie Milleisen scored.  It was the first winning season in the history of our school.  The head coach of East Hampton went home to a Victory Party and from what I heard proceeded to knock the food & drink to the floor. Winning isn’t everything but losing is unacceptable. There’s yet another story to be told about Coach DiRico, who also was a great motivator and leader who played shoulder to shoulder with the great Vince Lombardi. That story to be told another time.  Today is Coach Marvin Weitz’s Day.  Thanks Coach & thank you teammates.

On a photographic note I am ashamed to say that I’ve been unable to locate the negatives that I made photographing my Coach in the day.  The morale of the story is keep better records and files because you may be sorry some day.