Bob Motley a Congressional Medal of Honor winner and the last living umpire from Negro Leagues Baseball.
Why do I photograph? This is the reason. A chance to meet someone who made history. An American Hero. An Icon. A loving Husband. A true role model. It was and still is an honor and privilege to have been allowed to poke my nose and camera into Bob Motley’s life.
My father served in the U. S. Army for 20 years and saw action in the Korean War and Vietnam War. My stepfather had over 300 parachute jumps in the Vietnam War. When HAO commissioned me to do this assignment I began to pack my bags as the art director Jimmy Gonzales spoke to go to Kansas City. That’s where Bob Motley lives.
Bob volunteered to serve during World War II. During fighting in Okinawa, Bob and his fellow Marines were sent out from the water onto the beach in waves. “The first and second waves got wiped out completely. I was in the third wave. We lost half of our troops. We set up the beachhead and dug our foxholes” When he thought all was clear, he put his foot up and was shot in it. “If I had put my head up, I would have been shot in the head.”
While recovering in the hospital, he got bored staying in Bed. He wandered outside, found a softball game that needed an umpire – and found his life’s passion. (see footnote #1)
The last living umpire from Negro Leagues Baseball, Bob 89, made the call for many of baseball’s all-time greats: Satchel Paige, Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Willie Mays and more.
After photographing Bob at home with Pearline, his wife of 61 years, we decided to drive over the Kansas City Royals Stadium to photograph Bob in action. But first we had to get to the stadium. Bob rolled Pearline out to their mini-van, gently loaded her into it and said, “meet you at the stadium.” I felt rather strange letting an 89 year old and 79 year old drive themselves to a photography shoot for me……but needless to say. They beat me and my crew to the stadium. By the time I arrived, Bob was dressed in his crisp black umpire outfit standing in the middle of Kansas City Royals stadium. He had rolled Pearline to Royals dugout where she kept dry from the light rain shower. A loving husband.
[Footnote 1. from article written by Andrea Gollin who provided text for the story “Leading from Battlefield to Baseball Field” published in Humana Active Outlook Magazine]