One of the most unique baseball books to be published in recent years is being released just in time for the start of a new season. It's called Baseball Fantography and it's billed as "a celebration in snapshots and stories from the fans".
You may have read our story a couple of years ago about author Andy Strasberg's quest to collect photographs taken by fans. It started when he found a snapshot of himself as a teenager posting with Roger Maris at Yankee Stadium in 1966.
Eventually, he started a website and asked fans to send in similar photos they had taken. He received mountains of them and the book features more than 200 never-before-published images by amateur baseball photographers along with the first-person memories behind them. They date back decades; many with the familiar white glossy border.
In addition to the treasure trove of snapshots taken over the last 80 years, there are trivia-packed sidebars and short essays from those in and around the game including a veteran Topps baseball photographer, award-winning sports writers and Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith.
The photos inside aren't the professionally posed or ordinary action shots we're used to seeing. These one-of-a-kind shots are candid, poignant and personal. They're a stolen moment in time and show some players in an entirely new light. Each is a treasure, never seen before.
There's commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis walking down Main Street in Cooperstown during the first Hall of Fame inductions in the 1930s. How about Jackie Robinson rounding third and heading for home after a 1949 spring training home run outside the Orange Bowl in Miami. Tony Conigliaro posing with one foot atop his car while a minor leaguer in 1963. The Philadelphia A's on their team bus as snapped by a bold young fan who dared to step aboard.
Clemente is here. Hank Greenberg in a business suit. Stengel. Koufax. Yaz. Gwynn. Gehrig.
The book spotlights other parts of baseball culture including ballparks, hometown parades, broadcasters, mascots and even other fans.
The photos and stories in Baseball Fantography connect all generations of players and their fans to create a personal and collective scrapbook of the baseball experience. It's nostalgia, but it's also a revealing look at the special fan-player relationship.
Eighteen different writers contributed to the book and Bob Costas wrote the forward for Baseball Fantography, which is now being sold via Amazon.com.