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Baseball Card History Reimagined: Pop Artists Transform Classics

Willie Mays by Andrew Thiele
Willie Mays by Andrew Thiele

The Topps Company and its fast-growing on-demand platform TOPPS NOW™ today announced one of the most unique, transformative and eclectic offerings in company history: “Project 2020,” a first of its kind effort that combines some of the most iconic cross-generational cards in the company’s nearly 70 year history with baseball, re-imagined by some of the world’s most influential, creative and eclectic artists, cartooners and pop culture influencers.

Some of the notable artists on the list include celebrity jewelry designer Ben Yang…aka Ben Baller; Chicago based designed Just Don, who has worked with Kanye West and Nike on major projects; Mexican American tattoo and graffiti artist Mark Machado, known as Mister Cartoon; Australian Tyson Beck, whose recent resign of the NBA logo in the image of Kobe Bryant became an international cause célèbre; New York native and design artist Sophia Chang and L.A. Based streetwear artist Joshua Vides.

The first two cards, issuing today, include Ben Baller’s Ichiro (2001) and Jacob Rochester’s Sandy Koufax (1955).

Each of the 20 artists will reinterpret 20 cards, representing baseball’s greatest stars from the 1950s to the present day. The cards will only be available for a 48-hour period from the time each is introduced.

“When we think of the collectible world and where it has evolved today, sports and pop culture continue to collide,” said Jeff Heckman, Global Director of Ecommerce. “We could not think of a better way to expose trading cards to a new audience than working to reinvent some of the classic baseball cards and personalities of the game of baseball through the eyes and hands of many of the world’s greatest pop culture figures of today. ‘Project 2020’ will be a must have for core and casual baseball fans, and will more importantly showcase the names and stories of the artists and the players on the cards to a global audience whose interests lie well beyond the sport. It is a transformative move we are very excited about.”

“Roberto Clemente and his story have always been inspirational to me,” said Mister Cartoon, whose hometown high school mascot was the Pirates, adding to his longtime connection to the Pittsburgh slugger and made working on the Clemente card extra special. “I want to take each of these classic cards and supercharge them!”

The cards in the Project 2020 offering include: 1952 Willie Mays; 1952 Jackie Robinson; 1955 Sandy Koufax; 1959 Bob Gibson; 1980 Rickey Henderson; 1989 Ken Griffey Jr; 1969 Nolan Ryan; 1984 Don Mattingly; 2001 Ichiro; 1992 Bowman Mariano Rivera; 1982 Topps Traded Cal Ripken; 1983 Tony Gwynn; 1975 George Brett; 2011 Updates Mike Trout; 1987 Mark McGwire; 1990 Frank Thomas; 1985 Dwight Gooden; 1955 Roberto Clemente and 1954 Ted Williams.

The artists participating in the set include:

Ben Baller- jewelry designer with a huge celebrity following that includes Kanye West, Drake, Snoop Dogg and others

Tyson Beck– Australia based, recently redesigned the NBA logo to look like Kobe Bryant, with a petition to change the logo with over 3 million signatures.

Sophia ChangQueens native whose lifestyle illustrations and basketball cards have landed her collaborations with Nike, Adidas and Puma.

Efdot- NYC based, paints murals with the ubiquitous “Blob” character as the star of his pieces

Ermsy- Cartoon style UK artist living in Paris, whose popular works include reimagined classics like Garfield and Betty Boop.

Fucci- Toronto-based artist who paints vibrant post-pop art and ligne-claire style illustrations with a minimalist approach.

Groteskito- Creative director for Nike basketball

Blake Jamieson- N.Y. based painter who has done portraits for over 350 professional athletes including numerous prominent NFL players.

JK5- based in Brooklyn, native of North White Plains, N.Y., who weaves layers of poetry, spirituality, symbolism, color and line across various media.

Just Don- Chicago based, worked with Kanye West on a number of collaborations, including projects for Nike and Mitchell and Ness, as well as other NBA apparel.

King Saladeen- Philadelphia based NBA artist who has done murals at the Philadelphia Airport and various NYC locations.

Mister Cartoon– L.A. based :West Coast style” tattoo artist who has done illustrative work for Kobe Bryant and Snoop Dogg, and tattoo work on CC Sabathia’s back. Currently working on a mural at L.A. landmark Casa Vega.

NaturelCreative Director for many apparel projects from Crooks , painted one of the most famous Kobe Bryant murals in Los Angeles.

Old Man Alan- Sacramento-based, tastemaker who advised a number of brands

Jacob Rochester- L.A. based native of Connecticut whose Allen Iverson hair progression art has garnered some attention

Keith Shore- Philadelphia based; the lead creative for Mikkelar Beer

Gregory Siff – lives in L.A., worked with MLB on a number of projects including Stance

Matt Taylor- Brighton, U.K., artist who specializes in movie poster designs and has collaborated on projects with Marvel, Amazon Studios, LucasFilm and more, as well as ESPN for the US Open tennis tournament.

Andrew Thiele- based in NYC, drew “Whole Squad Ready” art for 2018 World Series; has worked for ESPN on MLB and NBA graphics.

Joshua Vides- Black and White style, based in LA, famous collaborator with Converse in 2019, also produced “locker room art” for MLB at the 2018 All-Star Game.

About Jerry Milani

Jerry Milani is a freelance writer and public relations executive living in Bloomfield, N.J. He has worked in P.R. for more than 25 years in college and conference sports media relations, two agencies and for the International Fight League, a team-based mixed martial arts league, and now is the PR manager for Wizard World, which runs pop culture and celebrity conventions across North America. Milani is also the play-by-play announcer for Caldwell University football and basketball broadcasts. He is a proud graduate of Fordham University and when not attending a Yankees, Rams or Cougars game can be reached at Jerry (at) JerryMilani (dot) com.

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