In what came as wonderful and welcome news to card collectors of a certain vintage, filmmaker Marq Evans announced Monday his plans for a full-length feature film on legendary baseball artist Dick Perez, along with a Kickstarter campaign to fund the effort.
Helping break the story was SABR member and junk wax savant Ryan Fagan of the Sporting News.
Since that time, Marq and Dick have appeared on several livestreams and podcasts, offering collectors some fun behind-the-scenes stories about the Donruss Diamond Kings, Dick’s other artistic ventures, and of course the film itself. Here is a nice sampling.
Marq has also released several short clips from “The Diamond King” as part of his promotional efforts of the film and its Kickstarter campaign. All are worth a watch or listen. For example, here is a clip of Dick sharing his memories as a young collector in the 1950s.
Marq was kind enough to provide SABR Baseball Cards with some previously unseen images from the 22-card baseball card set accompanying the film. The majority of the set features Hall of Famers personally selected as “Diamond Immortals” by Dick, but there are also five players not yet enshrined in Cooperstown. Their cards bear the “Diamond Destiny” moniker.
UPDATE: The set has now been upped to 25 cards!
Dick has also designed backs for the cards, as seen in these mockups.
A total of 499 sets will be produced, individually serial numbered and available only through the film’s Kickstarter page. Here is the complete checklist.
2023 Dick Perez “Diamond Immortals” checklist
- Jim O’Rourke
- Christy Mathewson
- Ty Cobb
- Grover Cleveland Alexander
- Babe Ruth
- Hank Greenberg
- Josh Gibson
- Satchel Paige
- Ted Williams
- Jackie Robinson
- Larry Doby
- Mickey Mantle
- Willie Mays
- Hank Aaron
- Roberto Clemente
- Mike Schmidt
- Derek Jeter
- Ichiro (Diamond Destiny)
- Mike Trout (Diamond Destiny)
- Aaron Judge (Diamond Destiny)
- Shohei Ohtani (Diamond Destiny)
- Julio Rodríguez (Diamond Destiny)
- Nolan Ryan (bonus card)
- Steve Carlton (bonus card)
- Tom Seaver (bonus card)
Additionally, Marq and Dick were both generous with their time in providing me the opportunity to interview them about “The Diamond King,” the new baseball card set, and whatever else popped into my head.
SABR Baseball Cards: Let’s begin with your earliest memories as a card collector. We’ll start with Dick.
Dick Perez: Baseball cards were another grand feature of Spring: warmer weather, schooldays coming to an end, the birth of another baseball season, and the reappearance of baseball cards. I was hooked on baseball and the imagery that brought my heroes to life.
Marq Evans: Baseball was my life as a kid, and from age 7 to about 13 I was all about collecting cards. Every dollar I earned from chores, every birthday or Christmas present, it went towards cards. When Ken Griffey Jr. came on the scene in 1989 he instantly became my favorite player and the main focus of my collection. I collected hundreds of his cards and pretty much every weekend was spent at the local card shop to see what the new stock was.
SABR Baseball Cards: Dick, you grew up in an era where baseball cards and art were inseparable. What impression did the artwork of the early 1950s baseball cards make on you?
Dick Perez: I became interested in baseball cards in 1952. Although at the time I thought they were photographic, they had a special look. The 1953 issue of the cards was even better. They looked more artistic. I still believed they were photographic, but in 1954 the imaging of baseball cards changed. It was later in life that I learned that the ’52 and ’53 cards were produced by artists. It seems that the goal was to make those hand painted cards look like photos. That is something I strive not to do when I create my baseball images. I want the viewer to know for sure that a hand was responsible for the work.
SABR Baseball Cards: Visually, did you have any favorites from the 1953 set?
Dick Perez: My favorites from that ’53 set were Jackie Robinson, Luke Easter, Mickey Mantle, Satchel Paige, Al Schoendienst, Joe Collins, Monte Irvin, Vinegar Bend Mizell and Ted Wilks in that order.
SABR Baseball Cards: Exceptional choices from top to bottom! How about you, Marq? I know you started collecting a little bit later than Dick. Was there a set in particular you liked best?
Marq Evans: I just loved cards and don’t remember having a favorite set as a kid. The hunt for Griffey brought me to just about every set there was. I do recall having a distinct emotional connection to the Donruss Diamond King cards and they became a set I looked forward to every year. It’s funny though, I don’t think back then I ever thought about the artist that was painting these cards. I just thought they were cool. It wasn’t until decades later that became curious about the artist behind these great images.
SABR Baseball Cards: I suppose that’s a great opportunity for me to ask. How did the idea for this film come about?
Marq Evans: When I read about Dick’s journey, coming to New York at age 6 and learning English and about America through the game of baseball, and his inspiring life story, I thought there was the potential to make a film about baseball through his life and work.
SABR Baseball Cards: And how did that go?
Marq Evans: I sent Dick a blind email just introducing myself and seeing if he was interested in discussing the concept. To my delight he said he’d be happy to talk. We really hit it off right away and he has been a great participant and collaborator in this whole process. He’s an insanely talented artist, of course, but an even better person.
SABR Baseball Cards: Dick, you’ve created your first brand new baseball set in way too long as part of the fundraising for the film. The inclusion of both Orator O’Rourke and J-Rod tells me you were fairly intentional in your player checklist. What was your approach to selecting 22 players from all of baseball history?
Dick Perez: Many of the players chosen for the set are players I knew personally, painted often, played tennis with, or worked together with on some project. There is an even longer list, which still could appear later on. It is possible we may make the card set grow some.
SABR Baseball Cards: Marq, are there other things collectors should know about these cards?
Marq Evans: I love how the set spans the whole history of baseball from the origins until today. I’ll just add that the printer that is printing this set did the last several years of Diamond Kings, so we’re getting some of the old team back together. Finally, our Kickstarter has more than just the baseball card set. For example, we have a limited edition Aaron Judge print numbered to 99 and Dick’s original artwork of Shohei Ohtani!
SABR Baseball Cards: This may sound like an odd question, but many collectors care about such details. Will the card set’s serial numbering be reflected on the packaging only, or will each card be individually numbered?
Marq Evans: Each card. For example, the 50th set ordered through our Kickstarter campaign will have all 22 of its cards individually numbered 50/499.
SABR Baseball Cards: Now you have me hoping the 21st set ends up with a Clemente collector and set 99 goes to a Judge fan! Just one last question. Dick this one will take you back 40 years if that’s okay. The 1983 Donruss Hall of Fame Heroes set represented the first time cards of Negro Leaguers Josh Gibson and Cool Papa Bell could ever be pulled from packs, at least in this country. What inspired you to include them in the set?
Dick Perez: I guess it was to emphasize the point that there were players from the Negro Leagues who were just as great as any Hall of Fame member. They are now part of the heritage that institution honors.
SABR Baseball Cards: Thank you, gentleman. Best of luck with the film. I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that there’s an Oscar in your future!