This is kind of a corrected copy to my original entry, which I swung and missed on by saying that this incredible Dick Perez book was $300, when the retail price is actually $200. If I have many more senior moments like this they are going to cart me away and I don't blame them. I only hope that when they put me in the home I end up with a nice, comfy couch with a decent view of the grounds. Geeez.
I think it was about 12-13 years ago that I did a Brooks Robinson painting that was used in an actual Fleer Baseball card set, and I would have given anything if my father could have lived long enough to have seen that day. He had died a couple of years before that and just missed it, and so the thought comes back to me now and again. I am pretty sure it would have been enough to send him to Walmart to buy unopened boxes of the stuff in search of that insert card, and he wouldn’t have been shy about telling anybody who would listen why he was doing it.
What prompted its resurfacing at this moment was the notion that Frank Steele, who died in June of 2000 before the famed Perez-Steele franchise folded up its tent in 2001, would have simply been ecstatic over Dick Perez’s new book, The Immortals: An Art Collection of Baseball’s Best. I certainly don’t speak for Perez, but I’ll just bet the same thought has occurred to him a time or two for sure.
The loquacious Irishman – is that redundant? – was such a cheerleader for the Perez artistic talent in general and the Hall of Fame Art Postcards in particular that you have to think this would have been a glorious moment for him.
Earlier, I mentioned that the Dick Perez’s incredible body of work – most notably through both the Perez-Steele franchise and the even more widely distributed Diamond Kings in the Donruss baseball card issues – profoundly impacted two distinct hobby elements.
I speak, of course, of the inclusion of artwork with mainstream baseball card issues, which has accelerated to a furious pace in recent years, and the idea of creating an art series of cards where collectors pursuing signatures would become a specific genre in the collecting world all by itself. You had to be in the hobby in the 1980s to realize what the Perez-Steele HOF Series did in terms of bringing upscale collectors into the fold as they pursued signatures for this unique issue that paid homage to the great 19th-century Allen & Ginter sets.
For Perez, it’s the historical aspect of the game that is perhaps his greatest point of interest outside of the myriad artistic considerations. While the book is primarily an art book and his life’s work is clearly center stage, there’s also the prodigious thread of story telling by noted historian William C. Kashatus, who provides biographical sketches for each of the Hall of Fame players – plus lifetime statistics – as well as umpires, executives and pioneers, along with historical accounts that tell the story of baseball through more than a half dozen different eras. Toss in a preface from Hall of Famer Tom Seaver and there’s plenty to read, once you get past the hours and hours of simply taking in the artwork.
And speaking of artwork, I wanted to point out that while Perez has quite understandably felt a compulsion to keep the style consistent through virtually all of the HOF Art Postcard Series, I have long admired his ability to try probably seven or eight other styles in the various satellite Perez-Steele enterprises like the Great Moments, Master Works and Celebration offerings, the vast array of work he’s done for his local favorite Philadelphia Phillies over the years, and, of course, the Diamond Kings. Then he upped the ante even more over the last couple of years, employing a couple of new styles for the near 400 new works produced just for the book.
Producing as much original art on a single subject – even one that lends itself so exquisitely to artistic interpretation as baseball – as Perez has over more than 30 years demands an agility and willingness to experiment beyond your comfort zone that might be too intimidating for a lot of artists.
It’s impossible that any viewer would embrace all of the different styles with equal fervor, but the totality of what they all accomplish in this massive, elegant volume is something to behold.
My advice is that even if you haven’t got a coffee table worthy of – and sturdy enough for – such a masterpiece, the book is a must-have for serious Dick Perez fans and collectors.
I haven’t got a clue whether the Major League Baseball Opus is worthy of its $3,000 price tag or even if any book can be at that level, but I am pretty sure what Dick Perez has put together is a steal at $200. And I’ll betcha the two enhanced editions – one with an original pencil drawing of your favorite Hall of Famer added (limited to an edition of 150 at $600 per) and another with an original watercolor painting ($1,500 and limited to only 15 copies) – will be popular choices as well.
If you’re like me and you wish the Perez-Steele franchise could somehow get a second life, paging through this marvelous book is a nice way to complement that laudable fantasy.