When Don Hamerman walks his dog on a baseball field near his Stamford, Conn. home—where most people spot torn cowhide—the freelance photographer sees something more charming. “The simplest thing to say is that they look pretty,” Hamerman says of the used baseballs he started collecting and photographing seven years ago. “They’re intriguing, interesting. They speak of memory, all the stuff you can say about baseball. Childhood, all that.”
Hamerman would find the objects of his new series—My Found Baseballs—along the edges of the field, under leaves and behind bushes. “A winter morning might turn up one covered in ice crystals,” he says. One ball looks like a satellite view of a green earth, with the moss shaped like the land masses of the western hemisphere, in reverse.
In 1938, Hall of Famers Johnny Mize, Dizzy Dean and other members of the St. Louis Cardinals “Gashouse Gang” barnstormed through the baseball field that Hamerman frequents, now known as Barrett Park. Did one of these balls fly off the bat of Mize, who in 1947 hit 51 home runs for the New York Giants? “I wish I could do some carbon dating or something,” says Hamerman.
We’re glad he didn’t. Because that mystery—who once loved that seamless baseball?—is part of the appeal.
Sean Gregory is a staff writer at TIME. You can follow him on Twitter @SeanMGregory