The book: “Cuba Loves Baseball: A Photographic Journey”
The author: Words and photos by Ira Block, with additional words from forwards from Bob Costas and Sigfredo Barros
How to find it: Skyhorse Publishing, 144 pages, $27.99, released April 3
The links: At Amazon.com, at the publishers website.
A review in 90-feet or less: Picture a baseball life today on an island off Florida that we already know so much about its rich baseball history but perhaps so little else visually.
There’s a place in Matanzas called Estadio Palmar de Junco, which started hosting games in 1874. A photo of it is on page 20, and later on page 122.
How do kids on the street make a baseball? With a rock, paper and tape. And a piece of cardboard for home plate. Photos of that are on pages 80 and 98.
The men (and women) in their 60s, 70s and 80s who still play. Their soulful portraits span pages 110-117.
It’s apparent that many look content in the context of baseball in Cuba based on these extremely sensitive and often breathtaking shots provided by Block, who spent three years on this project in 2013 after he had already been there to shoot assignments in the late 1990s for National Geographic.
“The Cuban people live and breathe baseball,” Block writes in his author’s notes. “I wanted to document the game on all levels: from grassroots to the professional leagues, from players to fans, from cities to rural areas. … My assistant and I would drive into a town or village and ask ‘Where are they playing pelota?’ From that point, it was easy and the magic unfolded in front of me.”
There are many surprises we won’t spoil here, but if you’re wondering if there’s any references to the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig, who made a goodwill visit to Havana a couple of years ago, the answer is yes.
The colors are rich, the framing is exquisite, and the words here don’t do it justice.
Experience it yourself framed in an oversized book that artistically allows the white space to allow your mind to wander.
How it does down in the scorebook: Paseo fuera cuadrangular
Previous photo-centirc (or baseball art) books that we have reviewed for this series in the past worthy of finding and enjoying still:
* From 2017: “Fantasy Life: Baseball and the American Dream,” photographs by Tabitha Soren, text by Dave Eggers
* From 2015: “The League of Outsider Baseball: An Illustrated History of Baseball’s Forgotten Heroes,” by Gary Cieradkowski
* From 2015: “A History of Baseball in 100 Objects: A Tour through the Bats, Balls, Uniforms, Awards, Documents and Other Artifacts that Tell the Story of the National Pastime,” by Josh Leventhal
* From 2013: “Portraits From the Park: Comiskey Park Photographs, 1973-1990″ by Thomas W. Harney
* From 2013: “Instant Baseball: The Baseball Instagrams of Brad Mangin.”
* From 2012: “Baseball Fantography: A Celebration in Snapshots and Stories from the Fans” by Andy Strasberg
* From 2011: “Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles”
And worthy of shelf space:
* From 2011: “The Big Show: Charles M. Conlon’s Golden Age Baseball Photographs,” and “Baseball’s Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon,” by Neal McCabe and Constance McCabe.