The Ruth photo came into Phillips's possession in 1974 when he acquired the entire archive of Burke & Dean, a photo agency established by Francis Burke. There were 20,000 plates in the collection, some of them dating back to 1871, but by 1974 the firm had passed to new owners who wanted to clear their premises of the whole unwieldy lot.
"Someone told me they had a safe full of old plates, but when I got there, it turned out to be a whole room," Phillips says. "I got physically ill when I started looking at them. The baseball action photos were breathtaking. I bought them on the spot."
Several books and TV specials have been created from Phillips's collection, but he says this photo has been printed only once before, in a book titled That Old Ballgame, published in 1975.