Every picture tells a story. The one that Cindy Webster tells, about a photo she took 12 years ago, is a sweet, and bittersweet, tale.
Webster has spent a lot of time at Citizens Bank Park. For 28 years, she had worked as the marketing director for the Phillies’ flagship radio station: first WOGL, then WPHT, now 94.1 FM WIP. The station holds dozens of promotions and events at the ballpark: hosting listeners during on-site broadcasts, entertaining clients and partners, coordinating charitable initiatives. Over the years, Webster has gotten to know many of the security guards, ushers, and concession workers.
“I love walking through the ballpark and saying hello to the employees, and I love taking photos,” she said. “I have more than 128,000 stored on my phone, and I took more than 19,000 of those at Citizens Bank Park. My dad had a darkroom in the basement when I was a kid. I can only guess how many pictures I’ve taken in my entire life.”
One Citizens Bank employee, in particular, Pat Kelly, has always made Webster’s day whenever they see each other, greeting Webster with a hug, combining sass and sweetness in just the right proportion. Kelly is from South Jersey, and volunteers at the park on giveaway days, handing out bobbleheads, T-shirts, and other gift items to fans, usually at the home plate entrance of the Diamond Club.
On Fan Appreciation Day, typically the last home game of the regular season, players, coaches, and broadcasters head to the park’s gates to thank fans. Back in 2008, when the Phillies’ longtime, beloved broadcaster, Harry Kalas, greeted fans at the Diamond Club area, Kelly asked Webster to take a photo of her with Kalas.
“He’s my favorite,” she told Webster.
Using her own digital camera, Webster took a great shot of Kelly and Kalas and promised to print and deliver it to Kelly at the beginning of the following season.
“I printed two copies and deleted the shot off my camera,” said Webster.
Soon afterward, the Phillies charged into the World Series, winning it for the first time since 1980. There was never a better time to be a fan of the team.
The following spring, when the opening day of the Phillies’ 2009 season rolled around, Webster remembered her promise to give Kelly a copy of the photo she had printed. But she couldn’t find it.
“I looked everywhere I could think to look,” she said. But no luck.
Reluctantly, she found Kelly at the Diamond Club and told her that she had lost the photo in the offseason.
“But I also told her that we wouldn’t have to worry,” said Webster. “I knew we could just recreate the shot with Harry.”
But before they got chance, Kalas died unexpectedly, on April 13, 2009. Immediately, Webster thought of Kelly and how they’d never get to retake that photo. She felt terrible.
On the Phillies’ first day back at Citizens Bank Park after Kalas’ death, Webster stood for a while on the concourse, trying to screw up the courage to approach Kelly. Finally, she found her and apologized. They both cried.
“I felt helpless,” Webster said. “I felt like I had let her down.”
Fast forward to 2019. WIP had relocated its office 20 blocks, from Old City to Center City, and Webster spent at least six months sorting, purging, and organizing all the material and memorabilia she had accumulated during her 12 years with the station.
The task overwhelmed her. Several people gave her the same piece of advice: If you haven’t bothered in years to open a box and dig through it, just toss it in the dumpster. But Webster looked through everything, just in case. She didn’t want to throw away something valuable.
By last June, she was down to one of her last boxes. It was filled with paperwork: files, invoices, nothing that would seem important anymore. And then, buried under the junk, she saw something that caught her breath: the two perfect photos of Kalas and Kelly that Webster had printed 11 years earlier.
“Sometimes, it pays to take the time to look at things before you toss them in the trash,” Webster said.
At the next Phillies game she attended, Webster excitedly headed to the Diamond Club to surprise Kelly with the photo, which she had now framed. With her was one of Kelly’s favorite people — former Phillies player and broadcaster Gary “Sarge” Matthews — and Phillies employee Lauren Testa, who does publicity for the team and would video the moment Webster reunited Kelly with the prodigal photo.
The trio found Kelly at her usual post, and she grinned happily to see them. And then Webster handed her a gift bag with blue tissue paper billowing out of the top.
“Oh!” Kelly said, her voice breaking as she peered into the bag. “Isn’t that nice!”
Kelly reached up and kissed Webster on the cheek.
This all happened a year ago, before the world heard of something called coronavirus, which no one could have predicted would shut down all of Major League Baseball in the spring of 2020 — or would lead to layoffs at Entercom, the company that owns WIP, that last week cost Webster her job.
“We don’t have baseball right now,” Webster said, “but it makes me feel a little better that Pat has her photo.”
Which Kelly now displays proudly at her home.
“I was heartbroken” to have lost it, Kelly said. “But now I’m happy.”