Dick Perez, inaugural inductee to the SCD Collectors Hall of Fame in the category of sports artist, has become a difficult man to find.
I had an acquaintance with the richly talented Perez dating back to the early 1990s. Perez was a fixture at the Baseball Hall of Fame’s annual induction ceremonies and covering those events for SCD has been my beat for more than 30 years.
I scheduled an interview with Perez back then and he arrived a bit late, apologizing that he had been delayed by a spirited tennis match he was playing with Ted Williams. It may have been the best excuse for tardiness I ever heard.
The interview went well and I shared with him that I was a devoted collector of his Hall of Fame postcard set, which began in 1980, ended in 2001 and eventually included 207 postcards. The set featured every Hall of Fame inductee to date and was updated each year.
The postcards electrified the hobby in the 1980s and 90s. They were limited and numbered to 10,000, featuring rich watercolors and high-quality artwork. They quickly became the artifact of choice for Hall of Fame autograph collectors.
I would see Perez and chat with him through the years in Cooperstown, but it’s been a while since the now 81-year-old artist attended a Cooperstown induction. Meanwhile, I picked up a few additional Perez art treasures, including a framed lithograph of “Schoolboys at Play,” a charmingly nostalgic rendering of a 19th century kids’ pick-up game set in rural Americana.
When Perez was selected for the SCD Hall of Fame I jumped at the chance to look him up and chat with him again. It turned out that was easier said than done as I embarked on an odyssey of following leads that turned into dead ends.
Dickperez.com was my starting point, and it’s a great place for collectors to check out his vast and impressive body of work. It’s all there with purchase options included, but there’s no phone number and sending multiple messages in the “contact us” section came to naught.
Undaunted, I worked other sources, seeking a way to find the elusive artist. I knew he lived and worked near Philadelphia and had a long-standing relationship with the Phillies, having been their official artist, illustrator and designer with multiple pieces on display at Citizens Bank Park.
To my dismay, no one at the Phillies seemed to know how to connect with Perez, so I turned next to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Perez had been designated the official artist of the Hall of Fame for a while, and his work adorns the museum’s walls in many places. Curiously, the communications director at the Hall of Fame had no contact info for Perez.
The clock was ticking and my deadline loomed. I surrendered and decided to simply point our readers to the deep well of creative work Perez has brought into the collectors’ marketplace over the last several decades.
In addition to the iconic Hall of Fame postcard set, several unified sets of baseball artwork exist for the discriminating collector to consider. A few years after launching the postcards, Perez produced the “Great Moments” set, featuring Hall of Fame players in the throwback style of 1911 Turkey Red cards.
Perez burst onto the baseball card scene with the highly-regarded “Diamond Kings” set, an annual inclusion in Donruss-Leaf packs from 1982-1996. Diamond Kings highlighted one star player from each MLB team and was a hit with collectors.
It can be argued that Perez and the Diamond Kings were the most significant forces that led to the proliferation of artwork which we see in today’s baseball cards.
More recently Perez partnered with Topps in 2007 to produce the artwork for their vintage-style Turkey Red and Allen & Gintner issues.
For anyone seeking an artistic feast of baseball’s great players, a magnificent opus titled “The Immortals” is available at dickperez.com. The website describes it as “An elaborate visual documentation of our National Pastime through the lives of the members of the Baseball Hall of Fame.” The book contains more than 1,400 works of art, weighs over nine pounds and is priced at $149.95.
Dick Perez, born in Puerto Rico and raised in Harlem, N.Y. in the days when Willie Mays played stickball in the streets there, has become the Picasso of sports art. He is a worthy inductee to the SCD Collectors Hall of Fame.
And if anyone knows where he is, please tell him of the honor.