Sunday, July 22, 2012
Into the Sunset, Pt. 1: Rod Carew
Well, it's time to officially kick off a brand new theme on the blog.
If you missed my "preview post" from last week, I'll be taking a look at the final cards of some of my favorite players, determining which card company gave him the best "send-off".
As fellow blogger "hiflew" mentioned in the comments of that post, this collection is far less costly than trying to acquire the rookie cards of a lot of my all-time favorites, like Mr. Carew.
While I'll probably still be working out a few kinks in my first few posts on this topic, I think it's an interesting concept and one I've been interested in ever since I was a kid.
Although most of my other theme posts come during the day, I've decided to make this one my first-ever evening/night series. I figure it's more than appropriate, given the title.
There's still a lot of "final cards" out there that I'd love to have for my collection. Perhaps I've got a new little "project" on my hands there.
For now, I'll work with what I have. And I have managed to acquire all of Rod Carew's final cards. (All the ones I know of, anyways.)
Another mini-concept I'll be bringing to these posts is showing my personal favorite card from his career, his "peak year" of cardboard, if you will.
While Carew had some great cards during the course of his career, I'd say his "peak" came in the '75 Topps set.
The pose, the color combination, and the hallowed "All-Star" marking in the bottom-right portion of this card just scream "1970's".
Not to mention that he was card #600 in the '75 Topps set.
The meaning behind the "00" number designation should tell you how good Carew was that year.
Before I start the first official "final card countdown", I should note one thing.
Subset and insert cards will not count towards my "ranking" of a player's final cards. However, if I happen to have any, I will note them as a sort of side portion to these posts.
Carew's final baseball cards came in 1986, after an '85 season where he hit .280, which was well below his standards. (It was also the only time in his 19-year career where he didn't make the All-Star team.)
These two are both subsets from Fleer's 1986 offering.
The whole "sticker craze" was pretty much over by the time Fleer came into existence. I've never seen any of Fleer's "Star Sticker" cards get much publicity.
In my "preview post", I speculated that Ed Kranepool might have the only final card that pictures a player in an "on-deck" pose. One post in, and I'm already proven wrong, given the shot that graces the front of Carew's '86 sticker card.
Carew picked up his 3,000th career hit off of Frank Viola on August 5, 1985. (He'd finish with 3,053 career knocks.)
On that very same afternoon, longtime ace Tom Seaver picked up his 300th career win.
It was quite a day for milestones.
Going into this post, I thought I only had the three "main" final cards of Carew.
Topps, Fleer, and Donruss.
It turns out that one had snuck by me. That "one" was Carew's 1986 Sportflics issue, which ranks #4 out of the four "final cards" of his in my collection.
3-D cards weren't exactly at their peak in the '80s. They're not all that great to look at in-person, not to mention they scan horribly.
Still, it's a "final card", and I'll always appreciate it for that.
Coming in at #3 is Carew's regular '86 Fleer issue.
I've always thought that Fleer had some underrated issues in the '80s. 1986 might just be my favorite Fleer set of all. A nice, clean design, accompanied with a rare blue border.
Fleer really drew out the "blue" theme with this one. Blue side wall, blue background, and I guess you could consider the '80s Angels uniforms to be a shade of blue.
Other than that, there's not a whole lot to be excited about here.
Topps can lay claim to having all my favorite pre-'81 "final cards" (they were the only ones around to make 'em), but it won't come away with the best "sunset" card in Carew's case.
Excuse me if this is a bit infantile, but the first thing that popped into my head after I scanned this card was, "It looks like someone just told him he had something coming out of his nose."
Although it might not be a traditional one, this card still gets points in my book for being an "action shot".
I know at least one other blogger who will probably say this is his favorite "final card" of Carew, since he recently rated 1986 Topps as his favorite set.
Personally, I wouldn't rank it that high on my favorite Topps set. However, I will say that it is definitely my favorite Topps set of the '80s, although I don't think it gave Carew the best send-off.
That honor goes to...
As odd as it might sound, the "underdog" comes away with the first "victory" in this series.
While it might not be the greatest design in Donruss' history, I feel that it gave Rod Carew the best cardboard finale.
As you might be able to tell from the scan, I've had this card for a while, so it's been "loved" over the years. Which is the case with a lot of the cards that go back to my pre-teen days.
I can see why it's like that, though. What's not to like? After seeing more and more of them on the blogs, I've become a huge advocate for batting cage shots. (A bit of a flashback to his '74 Topps issue.)
Plus, this one captures Carew utilizing his unique batting stance, the one that guided his way to becoming a .328 career hitter.
Not to mention a Hall of Famer.
As this series goes on, you'll probably see quite a few cards that could also fit into my "short term stops" collection. I'm all for those, as I love seeing well-known players in unfamiliar uniforms.
However, I get just as much of a kick out of the final cards of a guy who only donned one or two uniforms throughout his career, and didn't tack on a few "lost years" in the twilight of his time as a ballplayer.
While Carew is wearing a Twins cap on his HOF plaque, I can easily picture him in an Angels uniform as well. His #29 is retired by both teams, and he'll always be a big part of both organizations.
More importantly, he'll be remembered by all of baseball as one of the best to ever play the game.