SAN DIEGO (AP) — Leonard Ignelzi, whose knack for being in the right place at the right time produced breathtaking images of Hall of Fame sports figures, devastating wildfires and other major news over 37 years as photographer for The Associated Press in San Diego, has died. He was 74.
Ignelzi died Friday in Las Vegas of cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a condition associated with frequent strokes and other neurological issues, according to his wife, Bobbi.
Known as Lenny, he was a highly versatile photojournalist whose biggest passions were sports and breaking news. Few people, if any, have attended more Padres baseball or Chargers football games, yet he found fresh angles with each assignment until retiring in 2016.
Ignelzi hid in bushes during a gunman’s assault on a McDonald’s restaurant in San Diego that killed 21 people in 1984. His images of the U.S.-Mexico border showed San Diego’s transformation from dominant corridor for illegal crossings to fortress of razor-topped walls and stadium lights.
His indelible wildfire images include one of firefighters standing awestruck on a grassy plain in San Diego in 2003 as giant plumes filled the sky and advanced toward them. Ignelzi raced downhill to transmit from his car because phone towers in the area had been destroyed.
Some of his most memorable work was in sports: Tiger Woods’ tying putt in the 2008 U.S. Open that led to his epic win, Magic Johnson celebrating with the original “Dream Team” at the 1992 Summer Olympics and careers of the Padres’ Tony Gwynn and Trevor Hoffman and the Chargers’ Dan Fouts.
Deep knowledge, a tireless work ethic and fierce determination were ingredients of his success. Sally Buzbee, executive editor of The Washington Post, said Ignelzi “had the best gut news instincts of anyone I ever worked…