By Dan Good | Contributing Editor
All those Diamond Kings and Turkey Reds later, and Dick Perez has finally attended his first National.
“I’ve been to other card shows and signings, but never the National before,” the iconic artist said Friday, during an autograph signing at the Legendary Auctions booth.
Perez signed autographs and shared stories, with his work displayed around him. One book showed a Roberto Clemente painting that was inserted – in jigsaw puzzle form – in packs of 1987 Donruss.
A nearby canvas showcased Perez’s representation of the classic Charles M. Conlon photo of Ty Cobb sliding into third base. Where the black-and-white source photo features blank sky and no grass, Perez’s painting shows blue, splotchy sky and vibrant grass in foul territory.
“My work involves some artistic liberties, making slight alterations from the source material,” Perez said. “For this work, it was important to stay as true to the original as possible, while also giving the painting my own touch.”
Perez finds it difficult to name his favorite baseball painting – he’s completed thousands. But the 1995 Donruss Diamond Kings cards stand out to him, simply because they’re so far removed from his usual, traditional portraits. The cards are edgy and electric, showing players such as Ken Griffey, Jr. and Tony Gwynn against dynamic backgrounds.
“Those paintings were different than anything I had done for cards, and I wasn’t sure how Donruss would react,” Perez said. “But they let me paint for them again in 1996.”
Perez’s 2007 Topps Turkey Red cards are another personal favorite, simply because Topps “let me do whatever I wanted,” he said.
A steady stream of fans lined up to meet Perez Friday, including Chris Hands, a New York Yankees fan from Freehold, N.J.
“I almost bought a Dick Perez autograph on eBay recently, but I decided not to,” Hands said. “His paintings are so lifelike.”
As he’s done for four decades, Perez continues to document baseball through hues and shades. His next work is a piece that the Phillies are going to give to retiring Braves third baseman Chipper Jones.
He’s painted all of baseball’s Hall of Famers, and Diamond Kings cards of legends and has-beens – Britt Burns? Ed Whitson? – and captured the game’s Immortals, and for the volume and quality of his work, Perez has now become one, too.