In the world of sports art, Dick Perez is a household name. In fact, he is a Hall of Famer. His artwork is coveted by even the most advanced of collectors. In 1972, Perez was named the Philadelphia Phillies official artist and produced yearbooks, posters, prints, postcards, and countless other items that all possessed his unique artwork.
Specializing in baseball, Perez has painted every member of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and still paints the official portrait of each year's newly inducted members. He was named the official sports artist for the National Baseball Hall of Fame for over 20 years.
His postcards and Memorable Moments cards are readily available throughout our hobby and still remain one of the most desired choices for fans to secure the autographs of their favorite players.
In the 1980s and ‘90s, he was named the official artist of the Donruss Card Company, painting the enormously popular and successful Diamond King series. He currently creates paintings for art cards published by the Topps Company.
The first time I heard of the Perez-Steele Galleries was in 1981, when the Perez-Steele postcard set was being marketed. With all Hall of Famers being illustrated, I couldn’t wait to see the Mickey Mantle issue. When it finally was released in Series 5, card No. 145, I wasn’t let down. Perez did an exemplary job in capturing Mickey’s likeness. As it would turn out, there would be 10,000 individually numbered cards of each player issued. (Photo 1)
Then in 1983 with Mickey Mantle under contract with Donruss, a Mantle Diamond King puzzle was released in wax packs of the company’s baseball cards. An unfolded promo sheet of the puzzle was also produced. (Photo2)
In addition to the puzzle, Donruss issued two “Hall of Fame Heroes” cards, which featured illustrations of Mickey. They were identified as Nos. 7 and 43 of the set. Both cards were baseball card size. (Photos 3, 4)
In 1984, Donruss released a set of postcard-sized cards with drawings from Dick Perez. The Donruss Grand Champion cards never quite caught on with collectors. The Mantle card is worth around 50 cents. (Photo 5)
In the following year, Perez began a 10-year project called Great Moments. The card set was modeled after the classic 1911 Turkey Red Cabinet cards. Two Mickey Mantle cards were released in that set. The first featured Mickey in a right-handed batting stance with a dugout and stands in the background. (Photo 6)
The second “Mantle” card featured the three great New York Hall of Fame outfielders from the 1950s, Willie Mays, Mickey and Duke Snider. The cards were released in series from 1985 to 1995. Production on this limited-edition set was cut from 10,000 to 5,000. This set proved to be very popular with collectors and featured Dick Perez at his best. (Photo 7)
In 1985, Donruss produced a series of eight different cards on the backside of SuperBubble Family Pack chewing gum boxes. The eight players set was called “Sluggers of the Hall of Fame,” and included Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Ted Williams, Johnny Mize, Stan Musial, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson. The cards were painted portraits done by Dick Perez. Two variations of the box exist with red and blue side panels. Neither variation is worth any more than the other. The Mantle is card No. 6 and both variations are shown. The original art is also shown that features six of the eight players. (Photos 8, 9, 10)
In 1989, Perez-Steele Galleries issued a “Celebration” card set that was supposed to feature all 44 living Hall of Famers at the time. With the passing of Lefty Gomez, Judy Johnson, and Bill Terry, the autographed set was complete at 41 cards. The Mantle card featured two illustrations of Mickey. The first showed a close-up bust shot of Mickey in his pinstriped Yankee uniform, while below, an action shot of Mickey batting left-handed was illustrated. (Photo 11)
From 1990 to 1992, the fourth and final Hall of Fame postcard set was issued called Master Works. The set featured 10 different Hall of Fame players including Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Ted Williams, and Carl Yastrzemski. Each player appeared on five different designs from the past. The designs were in the format of the 1911 gold bordered T205, 1908 Rose, 1888 Goodwin, 1909 Ramly, and a special Perez-Steele design. The cards were limited to 10,000. (Photo 12)
In 1991, Dick Perez's longtime partner Frank Steele, passed away. Perez began creating paintings for many of Topps projects including the Allen and Ginter set, as well as the Turkey Red set. Pictured are seven of the Turkey Red Topps cards from 2007. (Photos 13, 14).
In 2006 and 2007, he also painted two Mickey Mantle large format (6" x 8") Turkey Red cards called “Cabinet Cards” or “Box Toppers.” (Photo 15)
A red-bordered Turkey Red baseball card-sized card was also produced. It showed Mickey in the same right-handed batting pose as the beforementioned cabinet card. (Photo 16)
Topps uses Perez's Mantle artwork for promotional purposes on its flyers, boxes, and blankets. (Photos 17, 17a,17b)
There were two different Turkey Red B-18 Mickey Mantle blankets produced by Topps. The two are similar in design, but the backgrounds are different on each. One blanket has a white background, while the other features a blue background. (Photos 18, 19)
Periodically, the artist would sell some of his original art either on his website at www.dickperez.com or through major auction houses. Shown are several Mantle original art pieces done by the artist. (Photos 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25)
The Immortals: An Art Collection of Baseball's Best
In 2010, Perez released an unprecedented 12" x 12", 560-page, full-color illustrated coffee table book that highlights the game's greatest legends. The book features several different paintings of Mantle, all of which are worthy of framing. Perez hit a grand slam with this issue and it comes in both hard bound and soft bound. (Photo 26)
To promote the book, a special 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" promotional card that featured Mickey in a left-handed batting stance was produced in 2010. The reverse side featured ordering instructions and prices. (Photo 27)
Within the last two years, Perez has made his artwork available to the common man. Perez has gone full tilt on issuing state-of-the-art, high-quality reproductions for under $40. Shown are those individual art prints of Mickey Mantle with title and size.
- Mickey Mantle, 17" x 22" (Photo 28)
- Number Seven, 20" x 26" (Photo 29)
- Celebrate, 22" x 15" (Photo 30)
- Mantle, 22" x 17" (Photo 31)
- The Triboro Trio, Willie, Mickey & The Duke: 26" x 18" (Photo 32)
- The Mick, 20" x 26" (Photo 33)
Early in Perez's career, he dabbled in black-and-white drawings that were done in pen and ink, pencil, and charcoal. Some of those Mantle prints are available for purchase on his web page. (Photos 34, 35, 36)
The artist is also well known for his watercolor paintings, fine art, and commissioned artwork. He is internationally recognized as one of baseball's best artists and, as noted above, has the distinction of being the official artist of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., where many of his paintings still hang. (Photos 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42)
Dick Perez is 80 years old and can be reached at www.dickperez.com.
Kelly R. Eisenhauer of Lehighton, Pa., has been a fan and collector of Mickey Mantle memorabilia for more than 50 years. He owns and operates a Mantle website at www.hofmemories.comand Mickey Mantle Cards and Other Memorabilia on Facebook. He can be reached at email@example.com