The Phils in pictures: A revealing look

An innocent-looking Dick Allen, his thick-lidded eyes peering warily from behind nerdy spectacles, more closely resembles Steve Urkel than the troubled ballplayer Allen had become by 1968.

Robin Roberts, with a herringbone coat draped over his team jacket, brings to mind a baseball Hamlet as he somberly ponders a ball on a raw 1953 day at the Polo Grounds.

A boyish Ryne Sandberg, his Phillies uniform taunting future fans of the team that so infamously would trade him, poses in front of the Wrigley Field bleachers in September 1981, unaware that he will reach the Hall of Fame playing in that Chicago ballpark.

Those three black-and-white photographs are among the nearly 250 Mark Stang has culled from far-flung, dusty archives and included in his new book, Phillies Photos: 100 Years of Philadelphia Phillies Images ($34.95).

Stang will sign books at several Philadelphia-area Barnes & Noble stores, the first appearance being from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. tomorrow in Marlton, Burlington County. On Thursday, Stang will be at stores on Broad Street from 12:30 p.m. to 2 p.m., in Rittenhouse Square from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m., and in Exton, Chester County, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Most of the photos collected by Stang, who has done similar books of other franchises, including the defunct Philadelphia Athletics, are intimate, character-revealing portraits of a century's worth of Phillies, from Elmer Flick to Pedro Feliz.

"My mission was to find photos people had never seen," Stang said recently from his home in Tampa, Fla. "If I was going to include five or six shots of Robin Roberts or Richie Ashburn, I didn't want them to be from the same old stock."

According to Stang, the majority of baseball photos through the 1960s were posed and composed by wire-service and newspaper photographers, reflecting an era when editors preferred that type to action shots. The best shooters constantly were seeking new ways to reveal their subjects' characters.

"Stylistically," Stang said, "they are so interesting. You just don't see that kind of photo anymore. With this book, we're selling memories. We're selling nostalgia. I think the fact that all of the photos are black and white lends them a special feeling that color just can't duplicate."

He found one photo of Chuck Klein's eyes, a shot the Philadelphia Bulletin published to accompany a 1929 story on the slugger's unusual, foot-in-the-bucket batting style.

"It's the perfect shot to tell that story," Stang said.

He uncovered the photos and caption information at the baseball Hall of Fame; in the Sporting News' extensive photo archives in St. Louis; at Temple University, where its Urban Collection includes the photo morgue of the old Bulletin; and from several private collections.

"I probably had 5,000 to 6,000 photos from which to choose," Stang said.

The result of his 14-month effort simultaneously exposes people, places and things that have vanished, as well as those that continue to connect the decades of Philadelphia baseball. Most vividly, perhaps, it displays the changes in uniforms and equipment.

In 1900, for example, third baseman Harry Wolverton wears a tiny striped cap, a high collar, and a stylish, double-breasted team jacket with large white buttons and an intricately sewn Phillies P on its pocket.

More than 100 years later, Feliz, the third baseman for the 2008 world champions, is just as contemporary, sunglasses perched on the brim of his hat, a thick band on his wrist, and on his right hand, a shiny, two-toned glove from which a single digit coolly protrudes.

Catcher Jimmie Wilson, a Phillie from 1923 to 1928, looks like a prisoner in a cumbersome, tight-fitting mask that must have been stifling during August doubleheaders. Outfielder John Titus, who was with the team from 1903 to 1912, grips a massive bat that could have doubled as a telephone pole.

The photos also, inadvertently, expose nearly forgotten elements of Phillies history: the youthfulness of Bob Carpenter when he bought the team in 1943, or the constant modification of the uniform's P.

In a 1943 shot of brothers Granny and Garvin Hamner, the image of a blue jay is affixed to their left sleeves. Fans, in a promotion, had chosen Blue Jays as an alternate team name. But, as Stang points out in one of the book's detail-rich captions, it never caught on. By 1947, the team was back to being called the Phillies exclusively.

A shot of slugger Cy Williams simulating a stretching catch at the Baker Bowl in 1926 might remind viewers of the city's onetime manufacturing vitality. Smoke gushes from the rooftop stacks of the two massive factories that still stand at Broad Street and Lehigh Avenue, but that have been idle for decades.

There are surprising physical characteristics, too. Grover Cleveland Alexander is dwarfed by Boston's Ernie Shore as the Game 1 pitchers pose before the start of the 1915 World Series. And Hack Wilson, listed as 5-foot-6 and 190 pounds in the Baseball Encyclopedia, resembles a fire hydrant alongside Williams in a 1927 photo.

Curiously, the shots of current and recent Phillies tend to be far less interesting and more formulaic than the older photographs.

There are exceptions: Ryan Howard pointing his bat at the camera, or a smiling Cole Hamels tossing a ball in the air as he posed. But for the most part, they can't duplicate the earlier candor.

"The vast majority of current ballplayers are photographed on 'Media Day' each spring," Stang said. "It becomes an assembly line . . . a standard bat-on-shoulder pose, a basic head shot. Since most daily sports pages no longer run posed shots, [and] with almost no demand for artistically posed shots, the camera guys just shoot less-interesting poses."

Not every photo was an easy find.

Stang searched all over for a usable shot of tempestuous pitcher Russ Meyer, a Phillie from 1949 to 1952. The only one he could find, perhaps fittingly, resembles a police-station mug shot, with Meyer scowling ominously at the camera.

And then there's Mitch Williams' photo.

The mullet-topped reliever is wearing an out-of-his-mind expression that makes his "Wild Thing" nickname seem too tame.

"I could have used a normal shot of him," Stang said. "But that one really speaks to the character he was."

Here is the rest of Stang's appearance schedule at Barnes & Noble stores:

Friday: Moorestown, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Plymouth Meeting, 4-6 p.m.; Broomall, 7-9 p.m.

Saturday: North Wales, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Willow Grove, 2-4 p.m.; Fairless Hills, 5-7 p.m.; Jenkintown, 7:30-9 p.m.

Sunday: Wilmington, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m.; Bensalem (Neshaminy Mall), 1:30-3:30 p.m.; Deptford, 4:30-6:30 p.m.; Cherry Hill, 7:30-9 p.m.

Monday: Devon, 11 a.m.- 1 p.m.


See a schedule of Mark Stang's book tour at http://go.philly.com/photobooktour


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.