DETROIT -- I like to shoot photos, but I do not consider myself a photographer. I'm a word man by trade, but as they say, sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.
Sunday night, in the bedlam of the Giants' cramped clubhouse at Comerica Park, with no interviews possible because of the crush of dancing players and blasts of Champagne, I decided to hold up my little iPhone and start shooting randomly.
Somehow, I snapped the best sports photo I ever have taken, totally by accident but perhaps by some divine guidance from those baseball gods players are always referencing.
I managed to capture the radiant face of Ryan Vogelsong, lifting the World Series trophy high over his head, tears streaming down his face. He had not so much a look of triumph but a gaze of relief and redemption at the end of a long, arduous, uncertain journey, one fraught with detours and many potential dead ends.
The whole of the photo is a bit blurry. But at its center is that face -- total clarity amid total chaos. Look at it. It's beautiful. In that face, you see all the way to Japan, where Vogelsong pitched for three years when nobody here wanted him. In that face, you see minor league towns such as Lynchburg, Va., and Altoona, Pa.
You see the release of years of athletic struggle, of persistence against long odds, of untold moments of near surrender to a game that so often is brutal in its dispensation of frustration and defeat.
Those tears in his eyes should bring tears to your eyes. Did mine. Because let's face it, most of us are lucky if we have a little Ryan Vogelsong in us, trying to fight the good fight, trying to make an honest buck, trying to extract whatever talents and resolve we have deep within us, and finally, trying to achieve that one brief moment of ultimate triumph that makes the challenges of life all worth it.
You don't see this kind of special victory in sports very often, particularly in the glorious but cruel game of baseball. Just two weeks ago, in the very same clubhouse where the Giants celebrated their second title in three years, I stood at a locker interviewing A's outfielder Coco Crisp, tears fairly evident in his eyes, trying to explain why he didn't catch that fly ball in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
It wasn't for lack of trying. I vividly remember the replay as Crisp -- a very gifted outfielder -- tried once, tried twice, tried three times to snare the loose ball that very well could have put the A's in position to do what the Giants did Sunday.
It barely fell from his grasp.
As players so often say, that's baseball. It's a game that can reward you in so many ways, but more often than not, it rips your heart out.
So why do men play it? To have a moment -- just one -- like Ryan Vogelsong's.
Those of us who report get to share in those rare moments, fortunately. I've covered sports for 40 years, mostly in search of precious snapshots like this one. I've seen a handful, not all of them captured on camera but forever burned into memory.
Long ago, I gave up rooting for brands. Hey, it's great the Giants won their second World Series in three years, a fabulous achievement. But it's not about the uniform or the city it represents. It's about the people, and how they cultivated a collective alchemy from spring training to now and delivered us this wonderful, mind-blowing odyssey.
This has been an epic baseball season in the Bay Area, maybe one that will never be topped again. The Giants were an unlikely success story -- the A's even more so -- and both teams were fun to be around because of their wide range of personality and depth of character.
But this is the Giants' day, a day to reflect on their many heroes.
Who could not revel in a good man such as Barry Zito overcoming the widespread scorn of fans to rewrite his San Francisco legacy? How about Gregor Blanco, a fringe player who somehow stepped in and filled Melky Cabrera's empty shoes?
Then there was Marco Scutaro, a one-time bench player who at 36 became an offensive force and a spiritual leader in three short months.
How about Tim Lincecum, experiencing failure for the first time in his baseball life, searching to find an avenue of competitive salvation and finally finding the grail out in the bullpen?
There was Sergio Romo, from the hardscrabble border town of Brawley, mowing down the Detroit Tigers in the 10th inning of Game 4 and capping it with one last masterstroke fastball to Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. It was tantamount to throwing a pork chop past a wolf and getting away with it, but it was fine art.
After the game, the emotional Romo -- with those same wet, red eyes as Vogelsong's -- curtly rebuffed the media at almost every turn, perhaps gripped by so much sensory overload that he wasn't yet ready to put it all in perspective.
Mix in with those men the bona fide stars.
Matt Cain, the rock, talking calmly like the Giants statesman that he is. Pablo Sandoval, the bad-ball hitting Panda who was supposedly too overweight to do what he did to Justin Verlander, giggling like a little kid on the interview podium and afterward remarking that he didn't much care for Corvettes, his reward for being named Series MVP.
And, of course, there was that other MVP, Buster Posey, the man with the regal calm and glow so reminiscent of Joe Montana. While other players were going berserk with joy in the middle of the clubhouse, Posey stood quietly and watched by himself from a nearby room, flashing a cool and satisfied smile. As much as he already has accomplished at 25, you sense this is only the beginning for him.
But the pure essence of what we witnessed this past week, this month, this season, was right there on Vogelsong's face. He was the soul of this Giants team, its microcosm, a man who never gave up chasing his baseball dream even when things looked their most grim. So many chase, so few reach their destination.
To see his face in the aftermath was to understand how the Giants could miraculously rally from down two against Cincinnati, then do it again against St. Louis, and finally, with the finish line so close, steamroll the Tigers in four games to become champions of the baseball world.
That's the way I saw it, anyway, in roughly a thousand words. But that photo, that face, tells so much more. It tells you if you want something bad enough in baseball -- or in life -- you just never give up.