30 baseball books in 30 days of April, ’12: Day 6 — Take a picture, it’ll last a lot longer than you think

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(c) Fantography.net
Does anyone know this Angels player, or this young fan? Neither does book author Andy Strasberg, but it was included in “Baseball Fantography” nevertheless. Angels communications director Eric Kay says it’s catcher Buck Rogers, who years later ended up as the Angels manager.

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The book: “Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans”

The author: Andy Strasberg

The vital stats: Abrams Image, 192 pages, $19.95

Find it: At Powell’s (linked here) or Barnes & Noble (linked here). More about Fantography at Strasberg’s website (linked here).

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The pitch: It started with a simple snap.

Strasberg, who grew up in the Bronx, came across this photo that had been taken in 1966 of him with his all-time favorite Yankees player, Roger Maris, at Yankee Stadium.

(And please, he says, give the proper photo credit to his friend, Arnie Cardillo, now that this print is in circulation through Google searches).

Surely, Strasberg figured there had to be more where that came from. From him, and the population at large.

Yup, he saw the big picture.

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Strasberg, who worked in the San Diego Padres’ front office in the marketing department from 1975-’96 and now operates a consulting firm, got the wheels in motion to set up a project based on this find called fantography.net, which allows fans to upload their own baseball memory photos.

The book, a natural byproduct of the process, was able to corral some 324 photos, with stories or extended captions, sectioned off into chapters that cover things such as spring training, mascots, graves, hotels, dugouts, broadcasters, non-uniform personnel, weather, Cooperstown, and, our favorite, Camera Day — the promotion at ballparks that leads to many of the candid shots from yesteryear.

Chapter contributors include famed baseball author Marty Appel, former big-league pitcher Dave Baldwin, Hall of Famer Ozzie Smith, former Hall of Fame director Dale Petroskey, and Jonathan Fraser Light, a graduate of the UCLA School of Law who wrote two editions of the award-winning book, “The Cultural Encyclopedia of Baseball.”

Strasberg, who in 2008 co-authored “Baseball’s Greatest Hit: The Story of Take Me Out to the Ball Game,” contributes to his own chapters, and personal photographs, whenever possible.

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An excerpt: While the requirement for photos to get into the book is that they have to be submitted are by amateurs, one of the interesting chapters is from Doug McWilliams, an official Topps baseball card photographer for 23 years, who writes on page 170 about his experiences shooting for the company and beyond (complete with photos that Strasberg took of San Diego Padres players who were photographed for their Topps cards, and compares the quality and similarities of the poses):

“My ‘fantography’ journey began in 1950 when i was 12, after the local baseball cards of the Pacific Coast League’s Oakland Oaks stopped being issued. My neighborhood friend Dick Dobbins and I decided we should go to the ballpark with our cameras and make our own ‘picture cards’ of the PCL players. We’d go to the first game of each series, shoot our photographs of the players, and then take them to the Low Cost Drugs in Berkeley, where they would develop and print them for us. Eventually, we’d return to the ballpark and get the photos autographed …

“On the days I didn’t work for Topps, I worked for myself and for the players personally. I did their weddings, their kids’ bar mitzvahs, family group shots, as well as images of the players in their uniforms as they changed from team to team. During spring training, life as a photographer could be hectic. I had to take the same five posed images of everyone in camp: Players, managers and coaches. That generally meant about 60 people to shoot. A few year, some teams had up to a hundred people that I had to photograph in a single day. It was also my responsibility to identify all the players that I photographed, and I did a pretty good job, but it wasn’t easy since everything happened so fast.”

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(c) Fantography
Another submission from the book, by Lew Lipset, of the Brooklyn Dodgers’ Don Drysdale signing autographs in the late 1950s at Ebbets Field.

Another excerpt: Page 72, a chapter called “Moonlighting” written by Dean Whitney, a music producer and publisher who wrote a novel called “Pinch Hitter,” recalls how Don Drysdale appeared at the opening of Duke Snider’s bowling alley in Escondido in Oct. 1960:

“To this day, I don’t know if one of his shoes stuck to the floor or he actually tripped over his own feet … but the gigantic pitcher went down like a falling tree and landed on his face. And to think that none of us thought to holler ‘Timber!’ as he took the header … all of us kids were shocked and just sat there with our mouths agape. I could see the headline in one of the L.A. papers the next day — DRYSDALE’S CAREER OVER AT 23 DUE TO A BOWLING ACCIDENT. But happy for the Dodgers and their fans, Big D got up, dusted himself off and with his face a little red, said, ‘OK, let’s try that again.’ His next attempt was successful.”

All because of one photo submitted by Jack and Susie Nopal of the outside of the Duke Snider Lanes.

How it goes down in the scorebook: Picture perfect.

In the forward, Bob Costas nailed it when he said this is a photo version of the old HBO series, “When It Was A Game,” which culled fans’ old home movies into a documentary of sorts.

More than just a quick read and scanning of photos, this is as if you’ve stumbled upon someone’s scrapbook and can now hear the stories that go with it — jogging your own memory to get your mom to start looking up your own baseball treasures you hope are still locked in somewhere.

The hope here is that more volumes come pouring out as there’s a reawakening of people to start rediscovering their own treasures before they vanish.

Also: Today’s weekly sports media column includes more on Strasberg and the Fantography project (linked here).

There’s more: Ron Kaplan’s Q-and-A with Strasberg in March (linked here); an interview with CardboardGods.com (linked here); a 2010 review of a Fantography display in the San Diego downtown public library, from the San Diego Union Tribune (linked here);

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(c) Fantography.net
One of the amateur photographer submissions to Andy Strasberg’s Fantography project was taken by Jan Friedman of the Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson rounding third base after a spring training homer in 1949, slaping hands with third base coach Milt Stock – and there’s the Miami Orange Bowl towering in the background. Today’s new Miami Marlins’ ballpark sits on the old Orange Bowl site. Strasberg usually refrains from soliciting game-action shots by fans, but in this case, it preserved a piece of baseball history that many might not have known about.

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