About a week after Major League Baseball announced it was raising the upscale bar in the coffee-table publishing realm with a 75-lb. behemoth that retails for all of $3,000, another name stepped up to the metaphorical plate to offer a spectacular opus of his own … and at a price tag not nearly as daunting as MLB’s.
Dick Perez, arguably the most widely recognized baseball artist in the land and also one of the most prolific, has self-published an extraordinary volume of a mere 560 pages that elegantly captures about 1,400 of his iconic baseball paintings, about 400 of which were completed expressly for this undertaking and have never been seen by the public.
If I’m to keep up with modern literary parlance, I suppose I must point out that the book weighs 10 pounds. I was never familiar with the idea of discussing weighty tomes in a literal sense – of course it’s silly, but I like to be as trendy as the next guy.
Being trendy has never been the Dick Perez way, and this stunning, leather-bound 12-by-12-inch masterpiece The Immortals: An Art Collection of Baseball’s Best, continues the pioneering work that Perez, Frank and Peggy Steele undertook more than 30 years ago when the famed Perez-Steele Hall of Fame Art Postcard Series was launched. This book is a tribute to that daring venture from three decades ago that simultaneously did as much for two distinct hobby elements as perhaps any other event, but it’s also a good deal more than that.
“When I got to see the book for the first time, to see it bound in the soft leather, it was quite a thrill,” Perez said in a phone interview last week. “I was floored myself, and it took me an hour just to page through it. The images turned out well.”
Clearly, given to understatement is he. The images, a retrospective on a lifetime’s work but also a spectacular showing of hundreds of new pieces, include all the original works from the Hall of Fame Postcard Series, the Great Moments and other Perez-Steele offerings, plus all of the 400-plus Diamond Kings that he produced for Donruss between 1982 and 1996.
As a note for HOF Postcard Series fans, the original artwork is published here, sans any type, in part because that presentation is precisely in keeping with the overall goal of creating an art book of genuine distinction, but also to avoid the ongoing problem Perez faces from the miscreants who would counterfeit his work into ersatz versions of the famed series that ran from 1980-2001.
“I kept painting them over the years,” Perez noted, and he has had to deal with bogus creations of HOF Art Postcards that have been offered online for the Hall of Famers elected since the series was shut down. “I’d like to see the series restarted, but this book had to be beyond that,” he added.
It was that shutdown in 2001 that started Perez thinking about his legacy, and perhaps planted the seed that has blossomed with this amazing book. He also notes that he had pondered even before that – perhaps 20 years or more ago – with his friend, the great author and baseball historian John Thorn, about doing a “Portraits of the Hall of Fame” book.
This ended up being a good deal more than that, so much so that I’ll have to continue this entry on the morrow, including personal observations about the epic creation. Here’s a hint if one is needed: I was floored by it.