South Philly brothers tackle the Eagles' dirty laundry | We the People
Meet the Eagles' stain guards.
In the back of Joe and Vince Lattanzio's South Philly dry cleaning business, past the delicately beaded theater costumes, the leather pants and the rusted Maxwell House cans filled with 70 years worth of buttons, hang the most popular uniforms in the city — those of the Philadelphia Eagles.
For 18 years, the Eagles have had their uniforms cleaned and cared for at the business the Lattanzio brothers' father started in 1947, Lattanzio's Linn Cleaners, which moved from Linn Street to the 2100 block of South 15th Street in 1953.
As a native Philadelphian, Joe Lattanzio is proud to clean the Eagles uniforms, but he's also aware of the fervency of this city's fans.
"People see this and they foam at the mouth. They go nuts with, 'Can I touch it? Can I touch it?' It's only a uniform. The person ain't here!" Joe, 64, said before noting that he has a great security system and that the uniforms would be long gone — on their way to the Eagles' Sunday game against the Minnesota Vikings for the NFC championship — by the time this article is published.
"We're scared s—less of these things," Joe Lattanzio said. "I want them out of here as soon as possible!"
Like many things in South Philadelphia, the Lattanzios got the Eagles account because they knew a guy. Their baker, Lou Carangi of Carangi Baking Co., recommended them to the Eagles' then-equipment manager, John Hatfield, who was a customer of the bakery. Hatfield left the Eagles in 2012, but he still brings two loaves of bread to the staff of six at Linn Cleaners every Saturday.
At the shop, Vince Lattanzio — whose son, Vince, is a journalist with NBC10 — runs the front of the house, lovingly greeting customers he knows by name. Joe works the back of the house, doing the cleaning and tailoring.
Vince, 60, also does pickups and deliveries, including the 53 Eagles uniforms and 50 or so other staff uniforms they clean after each game.
The uniforms are hand-washed, four to six times each. The hardest stain to remove — aside from the salty tears of the Eagles' fallen enemies, of course — is grass. The only thing that will do the job is a lot of elbow grease, according to Joe.
Laying the elbow grease on thick at Linn Cleaners is Gina Albater, 37, who thinks her strong arms are a result of UFC lessons she used to take. Albater didn't pay much attention to football before she started cleaning the Eagles uniforms, but now she checks in on each game to see what color the team is wearing. White means more work at the cleaners.
Joe, who has been an Eagles fan since childhood, acknowledges that he now has a personal stake in each game.
"I scream at the TV, 'Run out of bounds! Stay on your feet!' because I don't want them falling down," he said, since falls and tackles often lead to tough stains.
Sometimes, an opposing player hits an Eagle so hard that the paint from his helmet transfers onto the player's jerseys, which are made of 88 percent nylon and 12 percent spandex.
"When they hit one another, the material expands, and dirt and paint goes into it and stays inside," Joe said. "You literally have to pick it off."
But even tougher to clean than the Eagles' uniforms are the intricate costumes the Lattanzios launder for the Walnut Street, Arden and Wilma theaters along with the Pennsylvania Ballet and Opera Philadelphia.
"You have to worry about the beading and the buttons coming off," Joe said. "But the best thing about theater is, nobody eats on the stage, so there's no food stains. It's only perspiration and makeup, and those will come out."
While the Eagles aren't munching on spaghetti on the sidelines, Albater said there is one food that the shop consistently finds in players' uniforms.
"They eat sunflower seeds like they're going out of style. I find them everywhere," she said. "I'll never eat a sunflower seed again."
"I was born and raised here. I love the city. Everybody's brotherly love. [It's] a South Philly thing."
What’s been a classic Philly moment for you?
"The sports teams winning the championships — the 76ers, the Phillies, and now it will be the Eagles in a couple weeks."
If you had a wish for Philadelphia, what would it be?
"Right now, it's a Super Bowl. There's not much else on everybody's mind."
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