After Decades Among Yankees and Mets, a Shutter Stops Snapping
“When I met Pop at the old stadium, he had a booth in the back of my pizza station, Main 11,” Alva Robinson said. “We got to be friends — swapping pizza and pictures. I do popcorn now. I’m the popcorn lady. But I always made sure Pop had his ice water, soda.”
Pop went by other names at the stadiums where he took pictures for most of the last 55 years. Señor. Magic (Lens). Or simply, Lou. In the backstages of the city’s ballparks, which run on a barter economy of small favors and easy smiles, scores of people who didn’t know what else to call him were part of his everyday life for decades.
Many of them turned out at the Greenwich Village Funeral Home on Tuesday where his full name and the dates that staked out the 93-year span of his life were listed on a digital display: Louis Requena, Dec. 12, 1919 - June 20, 2013.
“Eleven years ago, first day I’m shooting a game for The A.P., and I’m pretty anxious, and my editor says, ‘find this older guy,’ ” said Frank Franklin, a photographer for The Associated Press. “He showed me around, made everything smooth. First inning, there was a play at the plate, runner sliding under the tag. That was the picture, and he nailed it. He was in his 80s.”
Mr. Requena was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, one of six children in a family that moved to New York 90 years ago. Except for a stint in Europe with the Army Air Forces during World War II, he spent the rest of his life in and around New York. “He was always carrying a Brownie Instamatic,” Wanda Betancourt, his niece, said.
In 1958, he had a job at a clothing store that sponsored a Latino baseball team, and after he shot a promotional picture of the team with the Yankees, he worked his way into taking pictures at the stadium.
Players came and went, their dramas caught in the blink of a shutter on film and digital cards. Behind the scenes were security guards and cooks and people like Mr. Requena, who stayed and whose memories were chiseled into place over seasons of familiarity. In 1998, four decades after Mr. Requena started shooting pictures, Eric Capstick began wandering Yankee Stadium with a video camera to capture the faces of fans to show on the scoreboard between innings.
“You see the same people working there, game after game,” Mr. Capstick said. “These are not deep connections. But over the years, they matter. There used to be a bar in the press room that was open for about 45 minutes after the game. When Lou started greeting me there, I was part of it.”
Mr. Requena’s skill at scrounging ballpark food was legend. “I fed him,” said Charles Davis, who runs a buffet in the press room at Citifield. “I was a new kid 15 years ago, a nobody in the press room, and as the old-timers retired, I stayed on. I wouldn’t let him pay — don’t touch that cash register. Put it on me.”
Food was part of the currency Mr. Requena traded. As he got older, a knee injury made it harder for him to tote heavy gear. Jeff Feller, a social worker who was always at the stadium as a member of the Bleacher Creature brigade, was enlisted to help. “I felt a nudge under the table after the first game, and he’s whispering, ‘Doggie bag,’ and slipping me a package of food,” Mr. Feller said.
Another time, he was doing a swap of memorabilia for some favor, but did not want to overpay. “He’s looking for a signed ball, and he’s going through his things, and says, ‘No, that’s Yogi. That’s DiMaggio. No. Mickey. No,’ ” Mr. Feller said.
To avoid the stress of the stairs that led to the special fieldside dugout for the photographers, Mr. Requena set up in a small box, Section 11, just off first base. It let him shoot from a slightly higher angle than the other photographers.
In time, others moved in, but Mr. Requena protected the front row for still photographers. One day, the broadcaster Ed Randall showed up with a video cameraman and they were biding time in the coveted first row.
“Suddenly, Lou’s yelling at me, ‘You working? You working?’ ” said Mr. Randall, who was among those who came to the funeral home.
Mr. Capstick, the fan-face videographer, recalled the moment in the bar when Mr. Requena began a benediction that became a ritual: “He said, ‘Good night, nice people. You too, Eric.’ ”
Source: A version of this article appears in print on June 26, 2013, on page A19 of the New York edition with the headline: After Decades Among Yankees and Mets, a Shutter Stops Snapping.