Jackie Robinson, Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Gil Hodges, Duke Snider: legendary Brooklyn Dodgers whose images appear in hundreds of iconic photos that now symbolize a lost era, a simpler time. There are action shots, team photos, frozen moments of victory and defeat. And now, to add to the trove, there is what can be described as only a family photo album in the truest sense. “Through a Blue Lens” (Triumph Books) is a collection of rare images, many of which have not been published for half a century.
The man behind the camera (and, in some cases, in front of it) is Barney Stein, official Brooklyn Dodgers photographer from 1937 to 1957. A Russian Jew whose family immigrated to the United States when he was a baby, Stein was also a staff photographer for the Brooklyn Times Union and the New York Post. He lucked into the job of Dodgers photographer after a chance encounter in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park with Dearie Mulvey, wife of Dodgers vice president James Mulvey. After that fateful meeting, Stein had access to Dem Bums that other members of the media could only dream of: He snapped candid locker room shots, documented spring training, and captured photos of players with their wives and children. Stein and his wife, Ruthie, formed close friendships with many of the players and their families, and he even took pictures at Ralph Branca’s wedding.
“Though a Blue Lens” is authored by sports historian Dennis D’Agostino and by Bonnie Crosby, Stein’s daughter. The book includes recollections and anecdotes from players Snider, Don Newcombe, Carl Erskine, Branca, Clem Labine and Johnny Podres, and from legendary announcer Vin Scully. Excerpts from Stein’s previously unpublished memoirs are also included. The stories and memories add a colorful narrative, but in many cases, Stein’s photos speak for themselves.
Sarah Kricheff is the features editor of the Forward.