Leifer took up photography in the 1950s when he was 13 years old. Soon he was the photo editor of his New York City high school newspaper. At 16, he volunteered to help people in wheelchairs onto the field level at Yankee Stadium so they could watch the Giants football games. It also got Leifer closer to the action.
Leifer got some great pictures, including photos of the battle-weary Giants bench and Baltimore Colts fullback Alan Ameche scoring the winning touchdown in the 1958 championship game. He was on his way as a professional photographer.
Many of Leifer’s best pictures are in the Newseum exhibit. They include: the wonder horse Secretariat pounding to the finish line in the 1973 Kentucky Derby; Olympic gymnast Mary Lou Retton waving to the crowd at the 1984 Games; and Vince Lombardi, the legendary Green Bay Packers coach being carried off the field in triumph after Super Bowl II in 1968.
If you go, be sure to check out Leifer’s most famous photo. It shows boxer Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston during their 1965 heavyweight championship fight. I don’t like boxing, but I have to admit the Ali photo is a showstopper.
Be sure to bring an older sports fan with you. Photo Finish is a great way to talk with parents or grandparents about sports and the past.
For example, notice the differences between what is in the pictures and what you see in sports today. Leifer’s pictures show a world of baggy baseball uniforms, mud-caked football players and fans who attended games in suits, not baseball caps.
One picture comes from a game between the Colts and the Washington Redskins in the 1960s. The Redskins helmets had a weird-looking white feather down the middle.
Older sports fans may mention some names you may not recognize. There’s New York catcher Yogi Berra, Olympians Kristi Yamaguchi and Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and four-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Terry Bradshaw. He’s the one smiling like Alex Ovechkin with a front tooth missing.
So go. Photo Finish will be at the Newseum through August 12.
Fred Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is also the author of 17 books for kids that combine fiction and sports history.