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|| News Item: Posted 2007-02-19

Dick Raphael: 'He was Mr. Boston.'
One of five photographers to have photographed all 41 Super Bowls dies at 68.

By Brad Mangin,

Photo by John Iacono / Sports Illustrated

Photo by John Iacono / Sports Illustrated

Dick Raphael, left, and friend Mickey Palmer at Super Bowl XLI in Miami, Florida in February of 2007.
Boston-based sports photographer Dick Raphael, one of five photographers to have photographed all 41 Super Bowls, died at the age of 68 on Saturday, February 17, 2007 in Marblehead, Massachusetts.

Word of Raphael's passing quickly spread amongst his friends on Sunday afternoon. Tony Tomsic, one of Raphael's best friends and one of the remaining four photographers to have shot every Super Bowl (along with Mickey Palmer, John Biever and Walter Iooss) was saddened when reached at his Cleveland home on Sunday. "I was with him at the Super Bowl in Miami just two weeks ago," Tomsic said.

"I think I met Dick for the first time at old Tiger Stadium in Detroit where we were shooting a Lions game in the early 1960's. He used to go there to shoot football and we met during one of the traditional Thanksgiving Day games between the Lions and the Packers. Tiger Stadium was a great place to shoot mud pictures and we made some good ones that day," Tomsic remembered.

Raphael might be best known for his photographs of the Boston Celtics that date back to 1964 when he started shooting for the team. He was a student at Boston University at the time, and was working as the photo editor for the Boston University News when he approached the Celtics. He walked in off the street and talked to Howie McHugh, who had been the team's public relations man since 1946. McHugh ended up giving him a pass to the next home game, with the agreement that he'd take pictures as part of his unofficial tryout. Raphael brought the pictures in and one thing led to another. That's how he started freelancing for the Celtics.

Celtics owner Walter Brown hated freelance photographers, according to Raphael. "He quickly learned who I was. He'd see me around the court taking pictures, and he'd get very angry. There were times when I'd see him coming, and I knew what was going to happen. He kicked me out of the Boston Garden on more than one occasion," Raphael told the Celtic-Nation website in 2005.

Photo by Dick Raphael

Photo by Dick Raphael

Raphael's Sports Illustrated cover of Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo in 1980 is Meralee Whitman's favorite.
It was Raphael's work with the Celtics that helped him meet his companion for the last 31 years - former Boston Celtics season ticket holder Meralee Whitman. "I met Dick in March of 1976 at "The 99" restaurant on Friend Street in Boston. It was a great place like Cheers and the bartenders knew everyone by name. Dick liked to drink Rusty Nails. He was a young man of 38 and I was ten years younger," said Whitman when reached in their Marblehead home on Sunday afternoon.

"Celtic owner Walter Brown didn't think a photographer would help the team. He didn't believe in having a photographer. Dick always said to me that Red Auerbach (Celtics coach when Raphael started with the club) was his rabbi. Red's death (in 2006) was really hard on Dick," added Whitman.

"I had a crush on Dave Cowens. My season tickets cost $9 apiece - $11 for playoff games. One day I was lucky to have Cowens almost land in my lap during a game. I was happy to be introduced to the team photographer who drove a red Lincoln," Whitman said.

Sports Illustrated Director of Photography Steve Fine remembered Raphael from his office in New York City on Sunday afternoon. "Back when I was starting out here at Sports Illustrated in the 1980's he was Mr. Boston. You could count on him to deliver and his pictures were terrific. I just saw him two weeks ago at the Super Bowl in Miami. He will be missed," Fine said.

Raphael had nine Sports Illustrated covers in his career. His cover of Rams quarterback Vince Ferragamo in 1980 is Whitman's favorite.

Good friend Mickey Palmer, one of the remaining photographers to have shot every Super Bowl, talked about Raphael on Sunday. "I remember seeing him all the time when I used to shoot basketball games in Boston - he was always there. He was a good person. Our club is breaking up now - we are down to four. We had a lot of good times together. We would have dinner together at every Super Bowl," said Palmer.

Sports Illustrated staff photographer John Biever shot the first 41 Super Bowls with Raphael. "I saw him every year at the Super Bowl. He was always the life of the party when we all got together every year. I just saw him going in to the game two weeks ago in Miami with Tony Tomsic," Biever said on Sunday afternoon.

Photo by

The five Super Bowl Photographers gather in Detroit in 2006. They are the only photographers to have shot the first 41 Super Bowls. From left: Walter Iooss Jr., Tony Tomsic, Dick Raphael, Mickey Palmer and John Biever.
Raphael had a unique relationship with the Celtics when he worked for them. "He was truly embraced by everyone in the Celtics organization. It was never about sports- they were just good friends. It was the total New England tribe mentality," said long time friend Andy Hayt when reached near his home in San Diego on Sunday.

"Dick was very close to the Celtics players- they respected Dick," said Whitman.

"He and Bill Russell had a very straight up friendship. K.C. Jones and his wife used to go out with Dick and I. We were always in search of the perfect ribs for K.C. He and Dick had a very nice brotherhood relationship. Don Nelson, Jo Jo White and Tommy Heinsohn are other Celtics who were close with Dick," Whitman added.

"The Celtics are the bedrock of Dick's career. Larry Bird used to call Dick in his Boston office. I was there one day when he called," said Tomsic.

Tomsic remembered that Raphael was very tight with the old Celtics. One night Tomsic was in Buffalo, New York covering the old Buffalo Braves of the NBA. While in a bar Tomsic approached Celtic player Tommy Heinsohn and told him he knew Dick. "After I told Heinsohn I was Dick's friend he bought me drinks all night!" said Tomsic.

Photo by Dick Raphael

Photo by Dick Raphael
Raphael shot every New England Patriots home game since their inception till the snowplow game in 1982. On that day a prisoner plowed a clearing in the snow-covered and frozen Astro Turf at Schafer Stadium in Foxboro, Mass. so Patriots kicker John Smith could kick a game-winning 33-yard field goal to defeat the Dolphins 3-0. "I would not let him go to the game because he had a cold," Whitman said.

San Francisco 49ers team photographer Michael Zagaris heard the news on Sunday when he was reached by Tomsic on his cell phone in Hollywood. "Tony told me that Dick was up there having a drink with Will McDonough (Raphael's longtime friend who was a sports reporter and columnist for The Boston Globe for 41 years who died in 2003)," said Zagaris.

"I've known Dick since the mid 70's. What really got me about him was he was so working class and down to earth. It's too bad that for the last 10 years someone wasn't going over to Dick's house to tape record all his old stories. A real institution is gone. We are now down to four guys who have shot every Super Bowl. Dick and I sat down in the hotel coffee shop on Monday, the day after the Super Bowl in Miami just two weeks ago. We talked about a lot of things. He was plain speaking and I loved that in an era of political correctness," said Zagaris.

"Dick was one of the biggest softies you ever knew. Dick was a loyal and nice friend. He was one of the guys who did all of the Super Bowls," Hayt said.

"Some of the best times I ever had covering football were going out to dinner with Tomsic and Raphael the night before the Super Bowl. The only others to join us would be Vernon and John Biever. Very little of the conversation had to do with photography. Dick had a great sense of humor. He would pick up the phone and call me when he had a great joke," Hayt added.

Photo by Dick Raphael

Photo by Dick Raphael
"We used to laugh about trying to find the perfect piece of key lime pie. It was an obsession with us. There was a place in Tampa we found that had some good pie," Hayt concluded.

"He had a lot of miles on him when I picked him up in that bar. One thing that was so wonderful about Dick was that he turned a hobby into a successful career. He was a damn lucky guy who had a long career. I don't think you will find too many guys who could shoot baseball, basketball, hockey and football and do all four sports so well. A perfect Sunday afternoon for him lately was one where he could watch a football game on TV followed by a basketball game for dessert. He had the NFL Sunday ticket package on DIRECTV and he made a science out of picture in picture," Whitman said about her companion for the last 31 years.

When asked by Celtic-Nation if he could offer one piece of advice on life to others, Raphael responded by saying, "Be honest with people. Always tell the truth."

"I am really angry at him for cutting out early. I had plans for us," said Whitman playfully.

A service will be held on Wednesday, February 21, 2007 at 10am at Stanetsky-Hymanson Memorial Chapel ( The Chapel is located at 10 Vinnin Square in Salem, Mass. Their phone number is 781-581-2300.

Meralee Whitman recommends that any donations be made to an NBA charity in Dick's name.

Related Links:
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