Baseball America

Book Review: The Immortals

How talented is baseball artist Dick Perez?

He painted the surly, antagonististic Ty Cobb with a smile on his face. The portrait is so real you believe Cobb lived his life like a glass half full

“After all,” says Perez, “baseball is fun, even for the curmudgeons.”

That’s the beauty, literally, of a Dick Perez painting. He takes the routine and turns it into a vivid portrait. It’s not so much the player you’re focusing on as much as the background with lush green grass or fans with hats and suits in the stands. Now for the first time, all of Perez’ artwork is featured in one place, contained in a massive 10- pound book fittingly entitled “The Immortals.”

The book contains Perez’ renderings of all 292 members of the Hall of Fame, including 402 unpublished works and 338 never seen before. Each artwork is accompanied by biographical sketches and career statistics  The 560-page book, which is leather-bound, is divided by each of the eras of baseball—Origins, Deadball, Golden Age, War and Postwar, Expansion, and Modern— the text is written by historian William C. Kashatus.

The book sells for $199.00 and is available through at www.dickperezimmortals.com.

“I wanted to show the viewer the evolution of the game,” said Perez. “There are a lot of Hall of Famer’s people aren’t aware of.”

Perez gives equal time to Rube Foster and Rube Waddel. He captures the detail of the uniforms of the Negro Leagues and the wooden stadiums of the Deal Ball area in meticulous fashion. Like the players appearing out of the cornfield in “Eight Men Out,” you expect Perez’ portraits to leap off the pages. That’s how life-like they are.

Perez began his career as a graphic artist which led him to meet Jim Murray, the former general manager of the Philadelphia Eagles, and Bill Giles, an executive, who would later become part-owner of the Phillies. Soon thereafter, Perez started his baseball “career” by contributing artwork to yearbook covers.

His real niche took place at the baseball card company Donruss in the early 80s. Perez, with his partner Frank Steele, created “Diamond King” cards featuring Perez’s art. At the same time, Perez was creating Hall of Fame postcards. There were 15 series of the Hall of Fame postcards that lasted from 1980 to 2001, the year before Steele passed away.

“It became harder and harder to get consent from the (Hall of Fame) players and the price per card to produce increased,” said Perez of why the series was discontinued.

Once the postcard series ended, the thought process of “The Immortals” began.

“The impulse for the book came out of a desire to have all the artwork in one vessel,” noted Perez. “I wanted to make it more about postcards. I believe the book is more valuable to the viewer than just an image of a Hall of Famer.

“There’s the signage, the way the fans dressed, the stadiums, the evolution of the equipment. It’s unique in that sense.”

Only two Hall of Famer’s have purchased the book. Bruce Sutter bought four and Andre Dawson bought one. But that’s okay with Perez.

“I paint for the fans,” he said.

Majors | #2011 #Book Guide

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