BOOK REVIEW: Baseball Fantography

by Bill Chuck on April 19, 2012

I don’t like looking at pictures of babies. “You’ve got to see the baby!” I don’t.

Parents and grandparents try to show these pictures to me in order for me to say how cute and adorable the child is. As far as I’m concerned they all look pretty much the same except for the group that are extraordinarily ugly and look like Winston Churchill. As a result, I avoid the awkwardness whenever possible.

I don’t like looking at people’s vacation photos. “Wait till you see where I went!” Trust me, I can wait.

I don’t care where they have been and the fact that they can afford to go on vacation only either makes me bored, envious or embittered. If I have been to the locale they are showing me, I already know what it looks like. If I haven’t been there, Google shows much better pictures.

I’ll tell what I do like: I like looking of pictures of things that are no longer there. I love looking at city landmarks that were shortsightedly torn down to put up a new Gap and pictures of people who are long gone in their settings are often quite moving.

This is why I really like Andy Strasberg‘s new book Baseball Fantography. This book is a collection of snapshots of players, ballparks, and baseball related images (great ballpark advertising). The project originated when Strasberg discovered an old 1960s snapshot of himself as a teenager with his idol, Roger Maris, at Yankee Stadium. Realizing that he couldn’t be the only one with these hidden photographic gems, he began collecting baseball photos taken by fans.

Strasberg, who worked in the San Diego Padres front office for more than 20 years and co-wrote “Baseball’s Greatest Hit,” about the song “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and was also a consultant on the HBO film “61*,” clearly is a man in love with the game. You can see it throughout the book.

The 250 or so pictures in this book are not taken by professionals posed or baseball card-like. These are pictures taken by people like you and me, some flawed, some simply perfect (the pictures and the people). “The variety is overwhelming,” Strasberg said. “If a picture is out of focus, but it’s personal and poignant, it works.” Credit must go to the publisher, Abrams Image, who used beautiful stock to enhance the experience of leafing through this collection. And I have gone through the book more than once and enjoyed the vicarious thrill that the photographers must have experienced as they took pictures of Clemente, Mantle, Yaz and so many others.

I have to admit that the essays, sidebars, and quotes are not particularly engaging and as far as I’m concerned they take up space that should have been devoted to more pictures. The captions are worth reading however as they describe the moment succinctly and meaningfully.

One important suggestion, when you buy the book (and I suggest that you do that) and buy it through my Amazon link (and I suggest that you do that), get the book itself, not the Kindle version. Besides the fact you can see some great photos online at Fantography.com, this is a book you want to touch, feel, and own its warmth.

Don’t judge the book by its contrived title, “BASEBALL FANTOGRAPHY: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans” is a book to own.

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Review roundup, April 20
April 20, 2012 at 2:10 pm

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