Back in middle school, he took photos on a Polaroid camera and, during high school, would photograph football games while he stood on the sidelines in his marching band uniform.

At age 16, William Greenblatt was working for a St. Louis camera store when Fred Sweets walked in one day. Sweets’ father was the publisher of the St. Louis American, the city’s black owned newspaper, and Sweets himself was a photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Sweets hinted newspaper photography might be an interesting career.

Next thing Greenblatt knew, he was photographing for the American, shooting a St. Louis Cardinals game. “I fell in love with it,” Greenblatt said. “I went to the press box and ate for free, and then I was down on the field.”

He has since enjoyed a 49-year professional career – shooting sports, news, politics and more – and it’s why the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame proudly inducted Greenblatt as the first photographer, with the Class of 2021.

He has captured the history of the St. Louis Cardinals, St. Louis Football Cardinals, St. Louis Blues, St. Louis Rams, soccer’s St. Louis Steamers, Spirits of St. Louis, the University of Missouri, plus many professional golf, tennis and Olympic events.

Greenblatt’s photos have appeared in media across the world, including a Sports Illustrated cover of University of Missouri football player Michael Sam, and more recently, lawyers aiming guns at Black Lives Matters protesters.

Since 1980, Greenblatt has worked for United Press International (UPI) and has been the official photographer for the St. Louis Fire Department, the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame (where he’s an inductee, too) plus many politicians on both sides of the aisle.

“It’s just something I’ve always been doing,” said Greenblatt, a 1972 graduate of (Ladue) Horton Watkins High School who later did his undergraduate and graduate work at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. “In my mind, you’ve got to have a camera in your hand so that you can record what you’re doing.”

Turns out, he learned that the hard way.

In college, while working for the Columbia Missourian, a car salesman had disappeared. So one night, Greenblatt and a local radio reporter set out to drive the country roads north of Columbia and found the county medical examiner at a grisly scene.

However, Greenblatt had to run back to a nearby gas station and call someone at the paper. He was without a camera.

Angus McDougall, the head of the Missouri School of Journalism’s photojournalism sequence, called him into his office the next morning. The paper had missed a breaking news story.

“He said, ‘Are you planning to be a photographer?” Greenblatt recalled, and you probably know where the story went from there. “I’ve thought about that just about everyday since. That’s why I always have a camera with me.”

In St. Louis, he has covered some of the city’s most memorable sporting events but, even better, continues to be a pro’s pro on the daily grind, too.

In 1991, the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum awarded him first place for a photo of a home plate collision as the Cardinals’ Ray Lankford collided with Phillies catcher Darren Daulton.

That was before the digital age. Back then, Greenblatt took about 72 photos, and then would run up to the dark room at the ballpark. He was to transmit two over the UPI wire. Now, he takes 5,000 photos a game, transmitting 25 per game.

However, sports are only one part of Greenblatt’s portfolio.

He is the longtime official photographer of the St. Louis Fire Department. Through the years, he’s been on scene of house fires and other calls, even in the middle of the night.

Additionally, Greenblatt has worked for five Missouri governors, two Illinois governors and three St. Louis mayors, plus senators and congressmen from both parties. He also served as official photographer for Congressman Dick Gephardt. These days, he has contracts with more than 30 companies and organizations.

Greenblatt is a recipient of the Jim Otis Award from the Lombardo Chapter of the National Football Hall of Fame, where he serves as a board member. He serves on 10 boards and is the immediate past president of both the St. Louis Press Club and St. Louis Media History Foundation.

The best part? The support of his wife, Barb, and their children, Mitchell, Ethan and Lilly.

“She used to say that I could do any game I wanted to shoot,” Greenblatt said, “but she wanted Saturday nights.”