Monday, September 28, 2009

Remembering Half-Rubber

Thought about Jack Leigh (1948-2004) today. He was part of the Biograph Theatre’s staff in late-1973/early-1974.

Leigh was earnest and quick-witted. Jack liked to play chess and talk about movies, and of course -- photography. In those days he was already a very good photographer.

Once, when we went out shooting pictures together, he snapped his shutter maybe twice, in the same time it took me to go through two rolls of film. The quiet style Jack would use throughout his career was already evident. He authored six books of photographs, including "Oystering," which featured a foreward by James Dickey.

Jack introduced me to Half-Rubber, a three-man baseball-like game that he said originated in his hometown, Savannah. It was played with a broom handle and half of a red rubber ball.

At the time there were several vacant lots across from the theater, so one afternoon I crossed Grace Street with Jack and assistant manager Bernie Hall to try Half-Rubber.

The key to pitching was to throw the ball with a side-arm delivery, with the flat part down. That made it curve wildly and soar, somewhat like a Frisbee. Hitting or catching it was quite another matter.

The pitcher threw the half-ball in the general direction of the batter. If the batter swung and missed, and he usually did miss, the catcher did his best to catch it, which wasn't easy, either. When the catcher did catch it, providing the batter had swung, he was out. Then the pitcher moved to the catching position, and the catcher became the batter, and so forth.

But the best reason to play -- other than the laughs stemming from how foolish we looked dealing with the crazy ball -- was the kick that came from hitting it. When we connected with that little red devil, it left the bat like a rocket. We could hit it halfway to Broad St. Oh, and hitting the ball on a bounce was OK, too.

We probably played Half-Rubber five or six times. Jack appeared briefly in "Matinee Madcap" (1974) -- he bumps into the protagonist in front of the theater, just before he steals the money and goes in to watch the movie.

The following, about his most famous photograph, is from the Jack Leigh's Gallery’s web site:
In 1993 Leigh was commissioned to create a photograph for the book cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt. The book became an international best seller and the photograph is Leigh's most famous and widely recognized image.
Click here to visit the gallery.

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