Micah Johnson | MLB at Rickwood Behind the Design

Johnson Talks Capturing Legendary Players

Date: Jun 8, 2024
Author: Flobo Boyce
Topics: Card Culture, Flobo Boyce, Micah Johnson, Negro Leagues, Rickwood
Length: 784 Words
Reading Time: ~4 Minutes

Micah Johnson is a man of many talents.

Even though Johnson racked up a couple of strong years in the majors, it was his second chapter in the world of art that brought him the most peace. And while he has been doing work with the paintbrush for years, a whole new audience is starting to appreciate Johnson’s work.

Indeed, being tapped with the task of bringing authentic history to life while providing your own spin may be daunting to some, but Johnson was up to the challenge. Like how Booker T. Washington said, “Excellence is to do a common thing in an uncommon way,” Johnson wanted to bring that to a set of trading cards being released by Topps in honor of the Negro Leagues, the 2024 MLB at Rickwood Negro Leagues Collection.

“I just went into work mode,” said Johnson on a recent Black Baseball Mixtape podcast appearance. “There’s a few opportunities in this life where you got to capitalize on… and I saw this as one of those opportunities. And so, for the next three weeks, I worked around the clock.”

The set, which features Negro Leagues legends Josh Gibson, Larry Doby, Monte Irvin, Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, and Willie Mays, is going to be on full display later this month at Rickwood Field in Birmingham, Alabama. There, on 6/20 on FOX, Major League Baseball is having a tribute to the Negro Leagues with a special regular season game between the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals. In the weeks leading to the event, special oversized 24 ft tall versions of the cards are traveling to different cities and ballparks, bringing a whole new definition to “enlarged to show detail.” The original artwork was completed by Johnson with charcoal on canvas, with each card having design “easter eggs”  for fans and historians alike.

 “One of the first things we thought of as far as who should we connect with on this is Micah Johnson,” says Michael Linkens, Director of Product & Creative at the Topps Company. “As a former MLB player turned artist, he’s been on my radar for a while back to the Project2020 and Project70 days. I’ve been looking at him as somebody who does really cool work that is affecting culture. So this was just a slam dunk opportunity to connect with him and to collaborate.”

However, if you ask Micah, he’d tell you the project has been a labor of love from the start.

“In a lot of ways, it was the perfect project,” Johnson said. “It taught me a lot. I did a lot of research going into it on each player because I really [wanted] to understand the magnitude of this project I was working on. And I went through a lot of iterations leading into this before I actually completed one. Just destroying canvases trying to get it right,” he chuckled.

A selection of Micah Johnson’s MLB at Rickwood Negro Leagues cards

The Rickwood Game has the potential to be a watershed event for not only Major League Baseball but introducing new fans to the contributions of the Negro Leagues to the sport. As there has been an effort to highlight stars of the time in recent years, it is just as important that we share a little insight into who these Negro League stars are on and off the field. Johnson himself discovered a connection to one player in particular.

“I thought Monte Irvin was a very interesting story,” Johnson said. “He was the guy who was picked to break the color barrier, but with injuries and all these other things that came into play. Jackie Robinson has a day for him; he has this whole thing around him, and deservedly so. And I always thought to myself, how does Monte feel? Not to that magnitude, but to have a career like mine where it kind of fell short because of injuries and different things, that resonated.”

The MLB at Rickwood Field, a special regular season game on FOX that features the San Francisco Giants squaring off against the St. Louis Cardinals, is slated for June 20th. The tip of the caps to the Negro Leagues will be evident as baseball heroes past and present will descend on Birmingham for a summer night of celebration. And with Johnson’s artwork on display, he too will be an integral part of that historic night.


More Rickwood & Negro Leagues Content


Related

Goldin Lands Another Netflix Hit
Jun 21, 2024
The National #6 | Breaking into The Hobby
Jun 20, 2024
History of Kicks Celebrating the Negro Leagues, Pt. 2
Jun 19, 2024
History of Kicks Celebrating the Negro Leagues, Pt. 1
Jun 19, 2024
Back to Top