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

Get your learn on: The First Baseball Card March 23 2015

From the March 20th New York Times. By Michael Pollak

In 1869, Peck & Snyder printed trade cards with a photo of the undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings, the pioneering professional team

Q. While waiting endlessly for Opening Day, I got to wondering: What was the first baseball card?

A. While the date of the absolutely oldest card is uncertain, what is believed by many collectors to be the first true mass-produced baseball card was created in 1869 by the Peck & Snyder Sporting Goods Company of 124-128 Nassau Street in Manhattan. The company was founded in 1866 by Andrew Peck and Irving Snyder, who sought to capitalize on a growing interest in sports by an America that was exhausted from the Civil War.

“Although their emotions were still raw from the war, Americans found the rapidly spreading popularity of baseball was a common ground on which to gather,” Jerry Houseman wrote in an article about the company on the website Sports Collectors Daily. Men who only a year earlier had tried to kill each other on the battlefield were now teammates on the ball field. “Peck & Snyder seized the moment and combined sports and pictures into one,” the article says. “Baseball fans no doubt loved it.”

Baseball and photography were both in their infancy; newspapers were not printing advertising photographs yet, and Peck & Snyder, like many other mid-Victorian businesses, advertised themselves by mass-producing trade cards to give out. In 1869, the company printed trade cards, in bright red lettering, with a team photo of the undefeated Cincinnati Red Stockings, the pioneering professional team. There were several varieties of the card; in the most sought-after, the players’ names were printed beneath the photo. They posed in their uniforms and bootlike shoes, and held bats, but there were no gloves yet.

Depending, as always with collectibles, on their condition, the few surviving 1869 Red Stockings cards can be worth a small fortune.

In 2009, a card found in an odd lot by an antiques dealer in Fresno, Calif., Bernice Gallego, sold for more than $75,000. Ms. Gallego, who had never seen a baseball game, initially offered the card for $10 on eBay, but withdrew it after bidders showed unusual interest.

The Peck & Snyder company prospered, branched out to other sports, especially bicycling, and was later sold to the Chicago sports equipment maker A. G. Spalding, the former player and team executive.