2013 – Mike Cassese

Mike Cassese

Sadly the 2013 Outstanding Photography Award was presented posthumously to a man who was not only a superlative master of his craft — but a fine friend and colleague.
Awards were numerous in the brilliant career of sports photographer Mike Cassese. Deeply respected and enormously gifted he was honoured posthumously for the 2013 Sports Media Canada George Gross Award for Outstanding Photography.
Cassese died of a heart attack on December 27, 2012. Among his final assignments for Reuters was the 100th Grey Cup Championship at Rogers Centre where he came up with his usual collection of exclusive photos, including the only picture of Argonauts head coach Scott Milanovich receiving his celebratory Gatorade dunking (the photo on our cover).
Proud of his west-end Toronto roots, Cassese graduated from Bloor Collegiate and completed the creative photography course at Humber College in 1984. He then joined The Toronto Sun for 16 years and rapidly developed his credentials as a standout photographer in news and sports. Reuters then acquired this hard-working talent and he served that organization right up until the time of his death.
Cassese was a two-time National Newspaper Award honouree. His photo of Kelly Gruber’s tag of Deion Sanders in the 1992 World Series proved the Blue Jays indeed had pulled off the “non-called” triple play against the Braves at SkyDome. That photo bagged Cassese his first NNA honour, followed in 2009 by further NNA recognition for his shot of Minnesota’s Justin Morneau fouling a ball off his cheek.
The closely knit sports photography community was stunned at Mike’s passing. But it was felt most by his immediate family, sons Daniel and David, along with his sister Mary Iafrate. Anyone who was privileged to have known Mike as a colleague and away from work realized that he was a true family guy first and foremost.
Toronto Sun and now Reuters photographer Fred Thornhill, the first Sports Media Canada George Gross Award recipient for Outstanding Photography in 2000, spoke for all of us in a piece devoted to Mike that ran in The Toronto Sun.
“He worked in the industry for more than 30 years, he was my best friend for 20 and I worked with him for 15,” Thornhill said. “He was the greatest guy anyone could call a friend.
“In his profession he was the best at the game for as long as I can remember. I respected him as a professional and loved him as a friend. I remember him as having a big heart and his heart gave out because he gave it all to us.”

….. John Iaboni