About once or twice a year, I’ll reach into my collection and pull out the “When It Was a Game” video. It is the classic HBO documentary (narrated by my old friend Peter Kessler) featuring home movies of baseball’s beautiful past. You can see so much detail in these vintage old films, shot in color no less. It brings a distant era of the game back to life.
Now there’s a book version of the documentary: Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans. Written by Andy Strasberg, the book features vintage photos of players and other baseball images shot by regular baseball fans.
There are pictures of an intense Roberto Clemente; Babe Ruth leaving a baseball with his daughter; a young Howard Cosell during batting practice at Yankee Stadium; and even Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews toweling off in a shower. That one was submitted by Mrs. Matthews.
Strasberg, a former executive with the San Diego Padres, grew up in New York idolizing Roger Maris. He contributes a photo (above) of with him of his hero in 1966. He has his arm around Maris as if they were best friends.
Indeed, later in life Strasberg did become friends with Maris. He remains so close to the late slugger’s family that he is the Godfather to one of his grandchildren.
What makes these fan pictures so special compared to those taken by professional photographers?
Professional photographers are paid to “focus” on what happens on the field during the game, and I felt that they were missing a big part of the baseball experience for fans.
These are personal and poignant photos from, by and for the fans. It is the photographic memory of what was/is important to the fan as seen through the lens of their camera.
How did you get the pictures?
I first got the word out through family and friends and then through the media (electronic and print) around the country. I explained that I was not looking for photos NOT taken by professionals and none of game action.
I received pictures from decades ago and the variety of captured moments amazed me!
Were you really best friends with Roger Maris and what did that picture mean to you?
I was Roger Maris’ number one fan growing up in the 1960s. Once I started working in baseball (1975) for the Padres marketing department, our player/fan relationship matured into a friendship which fortunately for me continues to this day with his family.
The photos I have of Maris and me are incredibly important. In each one you can tell how excited I am to be with him. But perhaps the most insightful photo is the one of me when I was 12 and I went into a photo booth (4 photos for 25₵) with a magazine that had a picture of Maris swinging a bat to see what I’d look like if I was ever lucky enough to have my photo taken with him.
Besides the Maris picture, what are your other favorite pictures in the book?
In no order some of my favorite photos are: the Roberto Clemente photo, Dizzy Dean having a catch on Doubleday Field, The Duke Snider Lanes sign, the Albert Schoensleben grave site, Lombardi fishing, Babe Ruth leaving Yankee Stadium, Eddie Mathews stepping out of a shower, Max West with his foot on the car bumper and the fan holding the batting average sign of Gwynn and Clark to name just a few.
Did you get enough pictures to do another book?
Yes, and I get more photos every day. There are treasured keepsake photos out there that I can’t wait to see. They may be from the 1930’s, 70’s or a photo taken this August.
I am hoping that the fans respond to the Baseball Fantography book in a positive way so that I can publish additional books with never been seen unpublished and significant photos for the next 20 years!
No one has been able to shine the light on the fans consistently and provide them a forum to express what about baseball is important. Baseball Fantography does that in both text and photos
For the last few years I have had over 20 Baseball Fantography exhibits around the country – Cooperstown, Pasadena, San Diego, Tucson, and currently at the Yogi Berra Museum in New Jersey.
I would like to find an appropriate venue in the Midwest to host a Baseball Fantography display.
The dedicated web site of Baseball Fantography is http://www.fantography.com/