Thursday, November 1, 2012

Into the Sunset: More vintage favorites

Although this is just the ninth installment of my "Into the Sunset" theme, it has already come a long ways.

It's good to know that I'm not the only collector who values "final cards" so much. Coming to that realization was refreshing, to say the least.

In my "grand unveiling" of this theme a few months back, I showcased some of my favorite pre-1981 "sunset" issues.

Early on, I figured I'd add more of those pre-'81 finales onto my regular posts within the theme. I did it with one of the earlier installments.

However, I've decided to tweak that a bit.

Adding a Maury Wills card to a Rickey Henderson-centric post just takes a bit of the glory away from "Rickey" and his cardboard send-offs. (And if there's one person who wouldn't like that, it'd be "Rickey".)

More than that, I felt it gave off a feeling like the Wills seemed slightly unimportant, a mere "tack on" to the big picture.

That's far from the truth.

If any cards deserve to get their own time in the limelight, it's my "vintage favorites".

So, from now on, I'll be doing a post like this every so often. A slight "break in the action" to show a few more of my pre-Fleer and Donruss "sunset" issues.

One card I'm surprised didn't make it into my "preview" post was this Dick Allen.

I don't know that I could rank my favorite baseball players with any sort of finality. Still, I'd have to believe that Dick Allen is a definite "top five" member, among the likes of Clemente, "The Bird", and "Vlad".

Although he made a few different stops in between, Allen's first and last cards both picture him as a Phillie. This one captures him in the midst of his fairly untriumphant return to Philly during the later stages of his career.

While his '76 Topps "sunset" issue is fantastic (all Dick Allen cards are), I'll always feel that my collection of him never truly be complete.

That's because he never had a card issued as an Oakland Athletic, the team for which he finished his distinguished career.

I can't help but think how utterly epic a card of Allen as an "A" would've been, especially with the now-famous "Wampum" name he wore on the back of his jersey that year.

It'd one unbelievable piece of cardboard, that's for sure.

This card represents a definite plus in the world of "sunset" cards.

Given that Richie Ashburn retired in 1962, the back of his final issue contains his entire career stats. It's those types of "little pleasures" that keep me going as a collector.

It's probably no surprise that Ashburn retired after one year in New York. Although he hit .306, the lackluster Mets went 40-120 in 1962, their expansion season.

Ashburn's 1963 Topps card is one of those "gems" that I never thought I'd own. Final cards of Hall of Famers are often out of my price range.

Yet, by some form of magic, I managed to pluck a semi-worn copy of it from the two-dollar bin at a card show last year.

It's definitely one of the bright spots of my "sunset" collection.

If that makes any sense.

Like Dick Allen, I've always felt that Jimmy Wynn's final card was a bit lacking.

"The Toy Cannon" has always been among my all-time favorites, another attribute he shares with Mr. Allen.

On top of that, both Wynn's and Allen's careers ended in 1977.


Until now, I never realized they shared so many similarities.

However, unlike Allen, Topps included Wynn in their 1977 checklist.

Although it's no doubt a fantastic piece, the fact that he didn't finish his career with the Braves proves slightly problematic when it comes to his final card.

In fact, "The Toy Cannon" split his 1977 season with two teams, the Yankees and Brewers. His "sunset" season was pretty forgettable. His high point in '77 was holding back Reggie Jackson during his famous dugout scuffle with manager Billy Martin.

Although I do own a card of him as a Yankee, I would've loved to have seen an actual Topps issue from the era.

Still, I can't be that disappointed with Wynn's final card.

How could I not love those awesome garbage-bag '70s warmup jerseys?

This is a rare piece.

The card itself is fairly common. I'm sure you could find it pretty easily.

Nope, it's the history behind it that makes this such a coveted piece of cardboard.

For one thing, I'm sure Afros were a dying breed by the end of the '70s. The fact that Jose Cardenal's survived into the "new wave" 1980's is a fantastic sight.

Like the Ashburn, the back of this "sunset" issue lists Cardenal's entire career stats on the back. He split his final season with the Mets and Royals in 1980.

Most of all, though, this is the rare instance of a "modern era" player who only had one true "sunset" card. (To me, anything from 1981 and up is the "modern era" of collecting.)

Although Fleer and Donruss were in the market, neither of them included Cardenal in their checklists. Given how large their earlier checklists were, I can't come up with a good reason why he wasn't included.

But I digress.

As a result, Topps was the only card company to give Mr. Cardenal a true cardboard send-off.

For that, I'll always be grateful.

Next to the famous '73 Roberto Clemente, this is most likely my favorite "sunset" card.

It's also a good example of my "rules", as far as these go.

Although Koufax was included on a "league leaders" card in '67 Topps, I don't truly consider that to be eligible for "sunset" considerations, since he had to share the spotlight with three other guys. (I have no clue why Topps didn't grant Koufax a solo card in 1967. But, again, I digress.)

Because of that, Koufax's 1966 Topps issue takes the honor of being his true cardboard finale, as far as I'm concerned.

There's also a pretty nice story behind my copy.

For much of the last couple decades, my dad has made an annual trip down to the glorious city of Memphis, Tennessee.

As if landmarks such as Sun Studio and Beale Street aren't enough, the town of Memphis is also home to a card shop.

Every time my dad would make the trip, he'd come back with a slew of old '90s packs for me to rip open.

Some of my earliest memories include tearing open pack after pack of those awesome 1994 Ted Williams cards that he'd bought me.

During one of his annual treks, he called and told me that he'd picked up a special surprise for my collection from the shop.

In terms of what that "surprise" could've been, there were a few names I had in mind.

"Koufax" wasn't one of them.

Surely anything of his commanded a king's ransom.

You can imagine how shocked I was when my dad presented his big "find" to me. A real, actual card of Sandy Koufax!

I couldn't believe it.

As you might imagine, this is one of the cornerstones of my entire collection.

Without a doubt.

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