Pat, We’ll Always Love You!

©JoeDiMaggio

©JoeDiMaggio

To All the Ships at Sea,

There was a great man by the name of Pat Napolitano.  Patty was one of my oldest and

dearest friends and a person that was very important in my life.  On many

occasions, I’ve mentioned that I’m the luckiest man in the world. I have a

great family, great friends, and a great life partner I call Sunshine.  Most

of these people have been with me, most of my life. They’ve supported me and

helped me to be a better person.

When God made Pat he literally threw away the mold.  He was one of the

strongest, bravest, and true friends God put on this earth.  At the ripe old

age of 15, five people tried to kill me. They had me on the ground kicking

me in the face and chest and delicate parts of my body.  A total stranger

came along and literally pulled them off, one at a time and saved my life.

The bottom line is, if he did not help me, I wouldn’t be around today.  It’s

been many, many years ago and we’ve been friends ever since. This was the

foundation for a very long friendship.

©JoeDiMaggio

Ralph and Pat ©Joe DiMaggioWe’d all gather at Pat’s home 10-15 of us and we’d work on our cars, have a

We’d all gather at Pat’s home 10-15 of us and we’d work on our cars, have a

party and play poker. It was a beautiful time. The Napolitano family had a

curse. They all seemed to have genetic heart disease.  Pat’s dad passed away

at 55 of a heart attack, then his mom, then his older brother Ralph.

You should not be surprised that Pat was the Captain of the Football Team as

well as Captain of the Wrestling Team.  In those days we played both offense

and defense. He was an amazing physical specimen and extremely intelligent.

Patty had an interesting way of motivating people especially someone like me

who was considerably weaker, smaller, and not nearly as brave.  One day

somebody for no particular reason, called me a “Diego Wop”, and called me

out for a street fight. One of our teachers broke it up. and as truth be

known, I did everything I could to avoid it, because I was frightened.  I

managed to avoid this gentleman and I use the term lightly, for two to three

days.  One night after a movie Pat brought me to the back alley of the movie

house in the parking lot.  He had arranged for this person to be there so

the fight could happen.  I still had my doubts and fears but Pat made it

simple. He grabbed my shoulder and pulled me nose to nose, looked into my

eyes and simply said you have a choice Joe D, you can fight him or me the

choice is yours. The fight lasted maybe 40 seconds, I beat him because Pat

taught me you may be afraid but failure is never an option. On the football

field and on the wrestling mat he was an animal but once he left he was a

mild mannered sweet person.  He had a slight birth defect which made him

deaf in one ear. He talked low, slow and cautiously.  They called us the

“Shy Ones”  Andy Boy Saccone, Richie Walsh, Lew Staudenbauer, Teddie Milito,

Jerry Riggerio, Ronnie Valerio, Frank Alagna, Pete Picciano, Bobby Wein, Ray Williamson, Al

Bukowski, Tommy Halinar, Bob Hoffman, Ralph Brandofino, Bob Piracci, and Joe

DiMaggio.  I hope I did not forget anyone of the guys.

©JoeDiMaggio

Pocono Raceway ©Joe DiMaggio

Something happened in March of this year, exactly what it was, I don’t know

but it was very serious. It was the beginning of my friend Pat’s highly

specialized dementia.  As soon as I found out how serious this was, I got

into my automobile and drove to see my friend at Stony Brook University

Hospital. I spent about 3 1/2 hours with him and helped feed him.  He did

not recognize me.  I prayed for a miracle and prayed that God would come

down from the heavens and save him and his life would go on and it would be

good and complete.  My friend Patty had a great wife and two great children.

Pat had another close friend who was the third Musketeer by the name of

Ralph.Commack Titans 1386

Ralph, flew in from Fort Lauderdale.  I picked him up and we went to the

hospital together and visited Pat for 4.5 hours.  It was obvious then that

things were not getting better.  Pat wasn’t shaved in weeks so we asked the

nurse for a shaving kit and she brought us an electric razor.  We shaved our

friend and took turns holding his hand. While I was holding Pat’s hand I

could feel the strength oozing out of his body.  It was a strange feeling.

I had a funny feeling he was not going to be with us much longer.

At the end of our visit with Pat,  I changed my prayer.  Before we left,

Ralph kissed him on the right of his forehead I kissed the left.  At the end

of my last visit I change my prayer that God will take him quickly so he

wouldn’t suffer anymore. God answered my prayer but it didn’t make me feel

happy. I don’t believe in the word closure. I loved him the day I met him, I

love him every day of all the years I’ve known him.  I will always love Pat.

At the wake which was one day and only four hours, there were at least 400

people possibly more that came to pay their respect.  They came from all

over the United States. In all the years I knew Pat, I never heard one bad

word. One of the things I almost forgot to mention was his great sense of

humor.  One day coming back from Manhattan, he asked me for a light for his

cigarette.  He was driving his 1957 Chevrolet and I was sitting shotgun.  I

passed him my zippo lighter.  He lit the cigarette and threw the lighter out

the window. About 30 minutes later he asked me for another light. I pressed

the cigarette lighter in the car, he lit the cigarette and threw that out

the window. At the time I did not think it was funny but looking back at it

I find it hysterical.

I could write a book on what a great friend and helluva person he

was. Pat I will always love you.  To All The Ships At Sea – I pray you have

a great friend like Pat Napolitano

 

©JoeDiMaggio

Pat, Joe, and Ralph

 


Napolitano Collage 6621larger

Indy 500 Month of May

10 Greatest Indy Moments Indy Finish © Joe DiMaggio

10 Greatest Indy Moments
Indy Finish © Joe DiMaggio

S.I. Indy Third Greatest Photograph in 100 years © DiMaggioIt’s the month of May, and the Month of May means the Indianapolis 500. Sports Illustrated, selected one of my photographs as the third greatest photographs in the last 100 years of the Indianapolis 500.  As we know Sports Illustrated, is the definitive expert on all things photographic and sports oriented. Now at this point, I have to take my humility and modesty, and for a few seconds and put them aside. Personally, I think it’s the best photograph in the last 100 years. Putting that photograph aside for a moment, let me share one of my favorite photographs of the Indianapolis 500.  In 19?? AJ Floyt passed the start-finish line (before the days of radio transmission) screaming at 185 miles per hour, waving his arms.  At the next lap he came into the pit  – there was no speed limit and he came in at 150mph and slammed on his brakes. He screamed at the top of his lungs that he only had two gears and his linkage was hung up!  There was nothing his crew could immediately do, so he got back in the car, went back on the track (while still screaming I add.) He made another lap, and came back in; only this time he took his belt off. By the time he hit the brake box, he had jumped out of his number 14 racer, removed his helmet (almost knocking me over), grabbed a hammer, and started to beat the linkage to death.  When he was satisfied, he put his helmet back on, & jumped back into his car.

A.J Foyt Indy © Joe DiMaggio

A.J Foyt Indy © Joe DiMaggio

Michael Schumacher – Get Well Soon

Driver Michael Schumacher© Joe DiMaggio-To all The Ships at Sea

We are all motivated by a myriad of passions – likes, dislikes, and history. The list is infinite. When I made a decision to call my Editor and tell him I wanted to photograph the inaugural U.S. Grand Prix in Austin Texas he thought I was out of my mind. From a business standpoint his concerns were valid. So exactly why did I find it necessary to invest a week of my life into that specific race? A few reasons were I never photographed Vettel, Hamilton, or Alonso and last but not least, Michael Schumacher and I knew this would be one of his last races. When he decided to return to Formula One I called a friend, Lewis Franck a great race car writer in the U.S. and we both agreed this was not a good idea for Michael to make a comeback. We were both genuinely concerned about his well-being after his retirement from Formula One, as it’s very hard to make a come back. Both Lewis and I were extremely happy that Michael’s second retirement from Formula One left him healthy and happy. Anyone who lived on the ragged edge of F1 and the inherent dangers of open-wheel racing at upwards of 200 mph for him to leave the sport healthy and happy with seven world championships – it just doesn’t get better than that. The minute I heard the word of Michael’s skiing accident my heart stopped and I immediately called Lewis. Race Car fans, let us say a prayer for Michael that he comes out of this okay.

On a lighter moment… at pit stop practice, Michael’s F1 tub very gingerly touched my shooting vest at 55mph it did get my attention (we were both on the proper side of each other’s line.)

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

Oh My God, it’s May!

© Joe DiMaggio

© Joe DiMaggio

To all the ships at sea,

If it’s May, it has to be the Indianapolis 500. This photograph was selected by Sports Illustrated as the third greatest photograph in the last 100 years of the 500. They reproduced it in the centennial issue and on their website. That’s the good news, the bad news is they never asked me. Does the word “copyright” mean anything to anyone? Who said “power to the people”? No, it’s “power to the corporation”, step on all the people. In this society, we all have to play by the same rules. Actually, I think someone wrote that in the Constitution. To my friends; go out and make some great photos. Capture history with a camera. Life is good, life is great. Health and happiness to everybody, even SI.

Formula One Archives

©Luca Bruno

©Luca Bruno

© 2012 Joe DiMaggio

© 2012 Joe DiMaggio

Hi to all the Ships at Sea,

Much to my surprise, while I was going through the CORBIS archives on the Formula One photographs on the Austin, Texas race, there was a shot of the back of my head and my ponytail photographing Scuderia Ferrari, Fernando Alonso, and of course the beautiful American flag on my back. It was an honor to be assigned to shoot the race. I take my beret off to Luca Bruno, a world-class shooter who captured this moment. He knows a great ponytail when he sees one.

All the best,

Joe D

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Formula One Austin, Texas

Three Time World Champion Sebastian Vettel © 2012 Joe DiMaggio

To All The Ships at Sea

Yes, I know I’m many blogs short – I’ve been running around a lot.

As I’m writing this blog I am watching the warm up lap of the final Formula 1  2012 Series.  Last week, I had one of the greatest weeks of my life, as I had an opportunity to get back into photographing the F1 series that  I started with many years ago. Whoa…I have  to stop… as the current world champion Sebastian Vettel,  just spun out on lap number two damaging his race car. Both Alonso and Massa, from Ferrari, got great starts and Alonso just passed Massa and Webber to take second place.  When I called my agent six months ago, I told him I wanted to do the Austin Texas F1 inaugural race.  In all due respect he told me, I was out-of-my-mind.  He said, “you’ve been away for quite a while and the chances of you getting a credential are slim to none.”  Much to everyone’s surprise F1 keeps impeccable records and they checked my past credentials and not only gave me a credential but gave me a full blown credential with ALL access!

As I shaped up at the credential center I ran into an old (long time) photographer friend from Mexico. He asked when was my last race as had not seen me in years.  I said, “1991 and he replied, “that was 21 years ago.”  Not until he said that, did I realize in the world of photography and F1 that was an eternity.  If you ever talk to a Boxer before he gets in the ring or an actor before they go on stage they will confide in you they have butterflies. When I stepped into the pits it took about 30 seconds and the butterflies were gone and I felt I was home again. A week before I left for Austin I went to the closest interstate to practice high speed pans.  I worked on both my inside and outside pans.  I looked at my photos and picked the top thirty and got a base for what shutter speed I needed.

There is no doubt I will write more on F1 before the year is up. I’d like to end this by saying every person I met in the international and national Press as well as all the Texans I met were great and did everything they could to get me up to speed.  The international photo brotherhood is alive and well. I’m cutting this short as I need to get back to watching the race finale.

Jenson Button F1 © Joe DiMaggio

Vettel ©2012 Joe DiMaggio

Alonso © 2012 Joe DiMaggio

Felipe Massa © 2012 Joe DiMaggio