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June 7, 2012

Local man’s snapshots featured in book

Baseball fan has captured generations with his camera

BY MICHELLE MILLER

STAFF WRITER

Cooperstown resident Homer Osterhoudt, 94, calls himself a baseball fan. And lucky for him, he was raised near the “home of baseball” and got many opportunities to see the legends of the game.

Nearly every summer, when the athletes visited for the annual induction ceremony, the longtime mail carrier was waiting on Main Street with his camera.

Osterhoudt said he does not consider himself a professional photographer by any means, just someone who was excited to get a snapshot of the stars of the diamond that roamed the town.

“It was not always like it is now. During the earlier years you could really get close and interact with them,” he said.

Osterhoudt said he only missed three Hall of Fame ceremonies since its beginning in 1939. That was only because he was serving in the Army Air Core as an airplane pilot. Osterhoudt said he has been to just about every Hall of Fame Game as well, and was one of three people selected to throw the ceremonial pitch in what was suppose to be the very last in 2008. However, the 70-year tradition came to an end earlier than expected because of rain.

“In between showers I was able to throw out the first ball,” Osterhoudt said. “I got the ball signed by Ferguson Jenkins.”

The day was special not only because of the wonderful opportunity, but because it marked his 62nd wedding anniversary to his wife, Marion, Osterhoudt said.

The Hall of Fame Game was replaced with the Father’s Day Classic, which features former major leaguers instead of two current teams.

“I would sometimes take a photo of someone one year, and then get it developed to have it signed the following year,” Osterhoudt said.

Over the years, Osterhoudt said he has collected the autographs of baseball greats such as Cy Young, Joe DiMaggio, Bob Feller and Dizzy Dean, to name a few. What he didn’t know at the time, was he was capturing unforgettable images that would eventually be shared in a book. Ten of his photos are immortalized in “Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories From the Fans,” (Abrams Image, April 1, 2012), the first in a series of books that focuses on the cherished memories of the amateur baseball photographer. It is a collection of never-before-seen snapshots and first-person anecdotes from fans from across the country and across generations, published together.

Osterhoudt is not the only one with local connections who contributed to the book. Others include village librarian David Kent, Cooperstown Mayor Jeff Katz, Director of Research at Baseball Hall of Fame Tim Wiles, Hall of Fame Director of Education and Museum Programs Jeff Arnett and past Hall of Fame President Dale Petrosky.

“Fantography” was conceived and curated by Andy 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.” He was also a consultant on the HBO film “61*.”

Several years ago, Strasberg came across a 1966 photo of himself with a childhood idol, Roger Maris. The photo shows him and the home run king posing in Yankee Stadium when Strasberg was a teenager. “How many of these Roger and Me moments were buried in fans’ scrapbooks and shoeboxes?” he writes in the book about how he came up with the idea.

Strasberg set up a website and got the word out through his baseball contacts. No game-action pictures or work from professional photographers was allowed.

From a snapshot of a young, Roberto Clemente to a smiling and grayed Carl Yastrzemski well-past retirement, the photos catch iconic players in times of quiet reflection, pre-game contemplation or off-field revelry.

The images don’t just capturing the players, but also feature stadiums, scoreboards and advertising signage. It’s all about the fans and the stories their pictures tell.

Becky Davidson-Nielsen, owner of Augur’s Corner Bookstore on Main Street, said she plans to have copies of “Fantography” soon.

“I am trying to figure out how to get copies,” she said. The 192 pages hardcover retail for $19.95.

Osterhoudt said he does not have a favorite baseball team, but tries to keep up with the Yankees and Mets because they play in New York. He said one of the highlights of his life was being able to caddie for a Yankee.

According to Osterhoudt, he was interviewed last year by the Major League Baseball Network before the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

“They made a DVD,” he said. “The first day we met at the Hall and went through all my pictures. The second day they video taped me walking on Main Street and heading to Doubleday Field. They would zoom in on a photo then show me talking about it. I would try to recall the moment when I took the photo and give some background.”

Osterhoudt’s connection to baseball started even before the first induction ceremony. In fact, he said he was one of the laborers helping the masons build the walls at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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