An Ode to Diamond Kings, Part 1 April 10 2015

We at Spikes High are psyched for the upcoming summer and the warmer weather for one obvious reason: BASEBALL!
Now that the 2015 MLB season has kicked off, we’re celebrating in the only way we know how: nerdy sports ephemera. More specifically old baseball cards. And even more specifically, sports card brand, Donruss' Diamond Kings. 
The Diamond Kings series is perhaps the greatest combination of sports and art ever in the history of the universe. Beginning in Donruss' 1982 set the series was included in every year’s collection until 1996. Diamond Kings featured the league’s best players (well, maybe not always) and presented them in glorious illustrations by artist Dick Perez. Painting a bunch of baseball players’ ugly mugs definitely isn't the most exciting thing for an artist, or his audience. Mr. Perez kept things interesting with lots and lots of colorful, and sometimes funky, backgrounds. No two Diamond Kings ever looked the same, which meant it took a fair amount of creativity on the artist’s part. In other words, Dick Perez is innovator, a badass, and an American hero.

Enough talk, let’s look at some Diamond Kings.

The inaugural set of Diamond Kings in 1982 started out pretty simple, with white card borders and mostly just some stripes behind the portrait. Here we see Hall of Famer Rod Carew reppin’ the ‘82 set.

Fast forward to a 1986 Diamond King next, with Andre Dawson in his Expos days. Notice that the background graphics are still fairly simple.

We go with a four card set for 1987, where you can see things are starting to get a little more funky. That Rick Rhoden card is a thing of beauty.

Ivan Calderon in 1988, looking very skeptical about appearing on his Diamond Kings card.

It simply just doesn’t get any better than a Chris Sabo Diamond King.

“Duuude, do you see these lines and little boxes all over the green monster too, or did I smoke waay too much green monster before batting practice?”

Things were getting really interesting by the 1990 collection, as you can see by this wide array of colorful background designs.

Bo knows Diamond Kings!

Craig Biggio, depicted even in fine art with a big wad of chaw in his mouth.

No borders and metallic gold foil for the 1992 set for a very refined look. The most elegant John Kruk has ever looked.

That does it for this look at some of the finest baseball cards you’ll ever see. But don’t worry, we’ll be back with even more, so stay tuned for part 2 of the Spikes High ode to Diamond Kings.
Teaser: Goose Gossage’s mustache is a thing of true beauty. 

By Zach Schlemmer
Instagram/Twitter: @fatshawnkemp