Heavyweight title fights don’t come around that often, but baseball fans got a treat last season when the San Francisco Giants’ Tim Lincecum and Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw faced off in four epic duels.
Sure, Kershaw has the belt for now, but the pitching rivalry of the era is just getting started, writes Tim Keown in ESPN The Magazine’s MLB Preview Issue on newsstands Friday. You can read the article on ESPN.com by clicking here.
With spring in the air and a highly anticipated season just around the bend, The Mag secured the two aces for the issue’s cover. Front Row caught up with Stacey Pressman, contributing writer and producer for ESPN and ESPN The Magazine. To see the cover shoot, click here.
She shares how The Mag and photographer Peter Yang brought these polar personalities to life. From what we’ve learned, on the mound or off, this West Coast dueling duo seem to respect and may even like each other (just don’t tell their fans).
How did the concept of having the two guys who will decide the NL West come about?
The genesis of the idea came from ESPN the Magazine Deputy Editor Bruce Kelley, who is from the Bay Area and who watched four excruciating losses for the Giants last year. Lincecum faced Kershaw four times (three losses and a no decision) and ended up with a 1.24 ERA. Bruce wanted to do a piece for the Baseball Preview on their rivalry. Tim Keown, senior writer at the Magazine and a former San Francisco Chronicle beat writer, was able to turn Bruce’s private pain into our cover story.
How did you get both of them to agree to do this, together in the same place at the same time? Was there any hesitation or push back from either camp?
It’s never easy to get two superstar athletes together, but both are in Arizona during Spring Training so we knew it could be a possibility. The only hesitation we faced was time. Both guys are busy and it was just really about finding a day that worked for both of them. We also wanted to do it in a neutral location, so we were able to find a studio equidistant to where the guys live and made it work.
They had met before as they were on the All-Star team together. They’re not close friends where they hang out, but they certainly have a mutual respect for one another and that was obvious on set with their friendly interaction.
What was the general atmosphere and mood on-set? Was there any tension between the two?
The mood on the set was fun. Clayton arrived with his wife Ellen and it was an easygoing atmosphere. There is no tension between these two guys at all. Tim is certainly aware that Clayton got the best of their matchups, even acknowledging that to Ellen. But none of that was ever the focal point.
We see Lincecum giving a playful noogie to Kershaw — what were some of the alternative cover concepts? Did Kershaw put Lincecum in headlock, too?
There were a variety of shots and poses spanning serious to silly. They had to give each other mean looks for a few of the poses and they were having trouble doing that, they were just laughing and cracking up, so it was all in good fun.
Any funny anecdotes you can share from the shoot?
The only one that comes to mind is when Clayton put on his all white uniform and had a big black Sharpie mark on his pants. He had been signing something earlier and got the pen all of over him. I believe the photographer was able to get that mark out.
Both guys also sat down with [fellow former Cy Young Award winner] Rick Sutcliffe for Baseball Tonight and talked about their pitching mechanics and the way they grip the ball for their various pitches. You could see Tim was really into looking at the way Clayton grips the ball. Same thing can be said of Clayton. Both seemed to enjoy listening to each other’s secrets and ways they go about their preparation. Both are clearly very different but equally as successful.