Photo Nerdgasm: UPDATED

I know, I know, Morse trade, WBC, Manti Te’o’s Invisible Girlfriend…I have something important to discuss here: Who are these guys? These are two shots taken at the Yankees’ old spring training facility at Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in the 1978-85 range. The negatives were never printed and never identified by the photographer, and they aren’t obvious to anybody. And I speak as an anybody whose proudest moment was going into the Baseball Hall of Fame’s Photo Archive three years ago and having the privilege to be shown their “unidentified” file – and to reel off seven or eight consecutive IDs in the first photos I saw. I was just beginning to draw a crowd when the muse left me. I think I had one tentative name guess for the remaining hundred in the pile.

Anyway, all we know is that they were Yankees, that we think they were non-roster invitees, and that we have three meh possibilities. Want to play?

Who are these guys?

Who Am I, Number One?

Who Am I, Number One?

Who Am I, Number Two?

Who Am I, Number Two?

As I said, there are a couple of possibilities. Number One looks vaguely – very vaguely – like Keith Smith, who played exactly 20 innings at short for the Yankees in ’84 and ’85. Let’s look at Number One and Smith, side by side…

I AM P. Keith Smith

I AM P. Keith Smith

Am I P. Keith Smith?

Am I P. Keith Smith?

Face shape looks pretty good. The eyebrows are close and any deviation can be attributed to a common eyebrow issue for us Keiths – trimming. The head tilt as part of the attitude toward the camera is one of those subtle things that often tell you more than facial features. But maybe you recognize him and it’s somebody else?

As to the other, I’m not nearly as confident:

I'm Brian Fisher

I’m Brian Fisher

I'm Kelly Scott

I’m Kelly Scott

Kelly Scott? Brian Fisher?

Kelly Scott? Brian Fisher?

I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if our Mysterious Yankee #2 is neither Kelly Scott – a pitcher who was in camp several times in the ’80s – nor Brian Fisher, a very highly rated reliever the Yankees had gotten from Atlanta and later peddled to Pittsburgh. There are a few bad color photos of Scott in which his hair looks very much like our guy. The similarities to Fisher are obvious – the mouth, ear shape, etc. – but doesn’t the unidentified Yankee look significantly older than Fisher? It’s not like these photos could’ve been years apart: Fisher was in the Yank camp just two years, ’85 and ’86.

In any event, if you want to play sleuth, feel free to use the comments. If you have photos or links to support your thoughts, lemme know. Thanks!

MantleDetailUPDATE: One of your kind comments reminds me that we have a few clues besides the faces of the unknown Yanks. Over #2’s right shoulder, for instance, is a very familiar figure.

The Number 7 is on the one and only Mickey Mantle, who served as a Yankee spring training instructor from the year after his retirement until his health failed in the ’90s – with a couple of exceptions. Mantle was barred from baseball in February, 1983, for having gone to work for an Atlantic City casino, and wasn’t reinstated until March, 1985. Therefore you wouldn’t see a Yankee spring training photo from 1983, 1984, or a shot from early spring training 1985 (most of the fringe guys would’ve been long gone before Mantle’s earliest possible return, on March 18th).

This dates the photo to 1982 or earlier, and 1986 or later. The negatives were supposed to have originated from the late ’70s or early ’80s.

Just as importantly, you can plainly see the memorial armband on Mantle’s left sleeve. The Yankees wore those a lot, and would’ve had them during spring training in 1980 (for the late Thurman Munson), in 1981 (for the late Elston Howard), and in 1986 (for the late Roger Maris).

The images were shot on the same day – they’re on the same negative strip. So they are likely dated to 1980-81 (a smaller chance that they date to 1986). Although then, as now, minor leaguers occasionally would be seen in big league camp even if they weren’t on the roster and they weren’t formally ‘non-roster invitees,’ their likelihood of being photographed was very small (they could and were photographed separately, in minor league camp).

Thus the field of who these two men could be really shrinks to all the guys in Spring Training for the Yankees in 1980 and 1981 who I don’t recognize on sight (and in those two seasons I went from Radio Network sportscaster and reporter, and part-time photographer, to CNN sports correspondent). And that field is:

1980:  Pitchers Jim Lewis, Brian Ryder, and Jamie Werly; catchers Scott Benedict, Pat Callahan, and Dan Plante.

1981: Pitchers Curt Kauffman, Lewis, and Ryder; catchers Callahan and Kevin Shannon.

For the record there a couple of other obscure guys in the field that I’ve eliminated because they don’t look like either of these guys: pitchers Paul Boris, Greg Cochran, Tom Filer, Roger Slagle, and Chris Welsh (that’s right: that Chris Welsh, now the Reds’ announcer and then a Yankee lefthand pitching prospect). Speaking of the Reds, neither is either of them another 1981 non-roster invitee named Don Gullett,  who was still – five seasons later – trying to spend one healthy season in a New York uniform after having signed a huge free agent contract in the winter of 1976-77.

But I’m digressing. Let’s put together a rogue’s gallery of the remaining possibilities:

Jim Lewis, 1980

Jim Lewis, 1980

Jamie Werly, 1981

Jamie Werly, 1981

Brian Ryder, 1982

Brian Ryder, 1982

Curt Kaufman, 1982

Curt Kaufman, 1982

Scott Benedict, 1981

Scott Benedict, 1981

Pat Callahan, 1979

Pat Callahan, 1979

As you see, it’s an incomplete gallery. Nothing turned up for two of those catchers – Dan Plante and Kevin Shannon.

I think most of these guys are obviously neither of our unidentified Yankees. One bears a remote resemblance – I’d suggest Scott Benedict, later a renowned high school coach in Florida, might just be Yankee #1, but the chest hair and the chin in the identified shot suggests otherwise. But do you see that shot of Brian Ryder with the then-Reds farm team, the Indianapolis Indians, from 1982. We may have a winner.

Let’s look at a couple more shots of Ryder, and put them alongside our Yankee #2:

Ryder, 1981

Ryder, 1981

Ryder, 1980

Ryder, 1980



I like the 1981 black and white especially – the profile shot – as a match, but it’s pointed out below that the complexion looks more like those two shots of Jamie Werly.

Ryder was the 26th overall pick in the 1978 draft and produced 15-victory seasons in his first two full years in the minors. But after a so-so year at AAA in 1981 the Yankees packaged him and another minor league pitcher named Fredie Toliver to the Reds, for Ken Griffey Sr (it is almost impossible to recall that we used to just call him “Ken Griffey.”) Ryder and Werly never made the majors – but the latter did put together a solid seven years in the

Jamie Werly

Jamie Werly

high minors, including a season as the top pitcher in the Southern League in 1981. In a recent photo he looks a lot like Yankee #1. I think it’s one of them, shown just a few springs ago, with Mickey Mantle over their shoulder…

If anybody has any ideas on the others, feel free to post a Comment – especially if you’ve got a shot of Dan Plante or Kevin Shannon.


Finally it struck me. “Number 1” here has been annoying me for awhile. Looked familiar, but in a disguised way. Is it possible I’m seeing a guy I knew with long, even bushy hair, and a mustache, without either?

Dennis Werth

Dennis Werth

Could I be...

Could I be…

Dennis Werth? Jayson Werth’s step-Dad?


  1. Dan Schlossberg

    Keith, if umpire AL CLARK is in any of those pix, I might want to reprint those pix in his autobiography, which I just co-authored. Title is Nothing to Hide: My Journey from the Big Leagues to the Big House.

    Dan Schlossberg

    On Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 6:13 PM, Baseball Nerd

  2. Stephen S. Power

    I think one way to start is with identifying the people behind #2. 7 has to be Mantle, but who is he with? When they were at camp–and surely the team has a record of when Mantle came to camp–would help date the pictures, which apparently took place moments apart, given the color of the sky, the height and shape of the trees beyond the wall, and the location of the subjects.

    I’m not sure #1 is Smith based on the shape of his right ear. One has more lobe.

  3. Tony Pignataro

    Could #2 be Jay Johnstone? Keith.. you are the best by the way! You need to be on Letterman more often. You guys are great together

  4. Adam Gutteridge

    KO, I can’t even venture a guess but I sure do miss 1.) Fort Lauderdale Yankee Stadium and 2.) my dad who would take me out of school and to the games there. End of an era. Those we my best childhood memories as a South Florida kid growing up in the 80s. Man those Yankee teams were bad; at least we had Donnie Baseball

  5. Mary Caruso

    From what I can tell, the first set of a possible match is not Keith Smith. When I downloaded and enlarged them to 400% I noticed on KS on the right has a cleft chin a la Kirk Douglas and the left guy does not. But this is only my view. I don’t like to disagree with an aficionado such as you.
    The second set I see the chin structure is more pronounced than the other two. He has a very prominent jaw line. The middle picture is closer to Brian Fisher because of his nose and eyebrows. Kelly Scott’s facial structure is more rounded. #2 my guess is Brian Fisher,
    Unfortunately I don’t have any baseball cards to compare them. But this was fun.

  6. Emerson Burkett

    Thanks Keith, looks like a lot of fun for folks. Being a SF Giants fan, I know little about NY Yankee players from that era. Still, thanks for keeping your blog interesting.

  7. Stephen S. Power

    #2 is certainly Werley given the blemishes on his cheek, his nasal labial folds, and his left ear’s hole (which cuts down sharply and doesn’t have all the folds in Ryder’s ear). I can’t see Werth being #1 based on the shape of his chin and eyes, even with his bottom lip tucked up in some expression of surprise; or Ryder, seeing as Ryder’s right ear is folder up and forward while #1’s right ear points up and back. That half-lidded stoner look doesn’t seem to fit anyone else either.

  8. patriciaellynpowell

    Number one is Tom Hanks before Hollywood cleaned him up. Number two is my former son-in-law. And I thought he just did track and field!

  9. katie hickox

    Dear Keith,

    Happy Birthday yesterday! I terribly, terribly miss your special comments and news reporting, and “worst people in the world”. It’s been over a year since your untimely departure. I’m one of the millions who misses your show and would love to see you back online, maybe even a weekly webvideo on a new website would be great.

    best regards,
    Katie (from San Francisco)

  10. Bob Vander Ploeg

    Keith- Could Photo #1 be a young Bobby Murcer? And photo # 2: A little-known fact, but having a cup of coffee with the Yanks was Dan Quayle.

  11. Jonna Plante

    My husband is Dan Plante who played for the Yankees organization in late 70s and early 80s. I will get his input and I am amazed as they all look similar..

  12. Jamie Werly

    Keith, thanks for the kind words. This is Jamie Werly. Neither of the photos are me. The first one…….I am almost certain it is Ray Fontenot. Left handed pitcher, wore his hat crocked just like that. It’s certainly not Dennis Werth…..who was my Spring Training roommate.

    The second one…….I think you are warm. The face is very familiar, but let’s face it, that was 30+ years ago…..I think it was either Plante or Shannon. I played with both for a short time. My recollection is that this photo is a catcher and both were catchers. There was always an abundance of catchers early in spring training (prior to games starting), which is the time when Mickey would have been around. I can say with certainty that it is neither Bryan Ryder nor Kelly Scott. There was one other guy who crossed my, but I don’t think he ever made it to Major League camp…..his name was Eddie Mickelson.

  13. Jamie Werly

    This has really got me bugged, not being able to remember. But I think #2 is Kevin Shannon. Dan Plante did not have such a baby face. Also, Shannon had a very slight build for a catcher. Plante had a much sturdier build than the player in the photo. Hope this solves your mystery. I may have some team pictures at home that could confirm it.

  14. M@rk_Fim0ff

    FWIW – having done this for a few thousand early baseball photos and having published a bunch of articles on the subject, I’ll just say that it is immediately obvious that #1 is not Smith because the ears are markedly different in shape and the angle they make with respect to the head. The same can be said for Keith’s two candidates for #2, though it is a bit less obvious. If the ears are visible, this is the most accurate way to do face comparison.

  15. Kevin Shannon, Jr.

    Very cool blog folks! Player number 2 is definitely Kevin Shannon. I am his son and proud to say he was a spring training invitee and also the winner of the Silver Glove Award in 1980 as the best defensive catcher in the minor leagues.

  16. Jake Scott

    the photo that says ” I’m Kelly Scott” is my father.. None of the other pictures are of him.

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