Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Into the Sunset": Previewing a new theme

As I've previously mentioned on this blog, the "zero-year cards" in my collection are running thin.

They're among my favorite overall themes of my collection, but there's just not that many of them out there. (Not many of the guys I collect, anyways.)

I've still got a few more "zero-year" posts on the horizon, but the well has been drying up as of late. As a result, I've been poring over possible future theme ideas for the blog. (The "zero-year" theme won't be completely retired, though. I'll still blog about any new ones I happen to come across in the future.)

Since my other three main themes (four, if you count "Mondays with Hoyt") all focus on just one card per post for the most part, I wanted one that put the spotlight on a few different pieces of my collection in each post.

I also wanted to keep the theme to the cards themselves. I had a few decent ideas that dealt with some aspects of baseball history, but I feared I might focus more on stats and facts more than the actual cards.

After going through a few of my binders, I hit upon a possible topic that fits all the prerequisites I had in mind for my new theme. It's one that I've had a lot of fun with over the years, and one I hope others will enjoy.

Ever since I started collecting as a kid, I've heard one term more than any other when dealing with the hobby.

"Rookie card".

I'm not sure how big rookie cards were to kids that grew up collecting in the '60s and '70s. They had to have a good deal of importance then, but I'd bet it's nothing compared to the popularity of rookies in the so-called "Beckett era".

I've often wondered just how important rookie cards are. A lot of them feature guys who never made an impact in the big leagues. That is, if they made it at all.

Don't get me wrong, though. A rookie card of anyone I collect is a huge plus. One of the ones I've wanted for a while is Milt Pappas's 1958 Topps rookie.

However, I've always found a player's final card to have just as much intrigue as a rookie card.

In this new theme, titled "Into the Sunset", I'll take a look at some final cards from a few of the guys I collect and try to determine which card company gave him the best send-off.

Obviously, most pre-1981 players only had one final card, thanks to that era's Topps monopoly.

That's what this post will be about. Some of my favorite final cards from the pre-'81 era.

While I may not have a Milt Pappas rookie card, I feel just as lucky to own his final card from 1974 Topps. It's one of the better vintage action shots I've seen, with the beautiful backdrop of the famous Wrigley Field brick wall. (As well as the opposing team's bullpen.)

It's safe to say that Topps gave Mr. Pappas a proper send-off.

To my knowledge, this is the first time I've shown a Steve Blass card on this blog.

That's a shame, as he's one of the more interesting players in my collection. Not to mention that he's got a heck of a final card as well, which also comes from '74 Topps.

The story of Steve Blass is a mysterious one. He went a combined 34-16 during the 1971 and '72 seasons for the Pirates, even earning a complete game victory in Game 7 of the '71 World Series for the Buccos.

After 1972, Blass inexplicably lost his command. He'd go 3-9 with a 9.85 ERA in 1973, issuing 84 walks in 88 2/3 innings that year. No one could figure it out, and Blass would never regain his control.

His career came to a sudden close after pitching in one game for the Pirates in 1974.

Nevertheless, Topps did a nice job in sending Blass "into the sunset".

For some reason, I don't have a whole lot of '79 Topps in my collection.

I'm extremely thankful that this is one of the few I have, though. Hunter would pitch in 19 games for the Yankees in '79, but Topps left him out of their 1980 checklist.

As a result, this is Hunter's final card.

To me, what is depicted on this card is one of the purest "baseball scenes" I've ever witnessed. The clear blue sky, the freshly painted baselines, and green grass as far as the eye can see.

In the midst of all this stands "Catfish" Hunter, a (then) future Hall of Famer.

It's certainly a sight to see.

Ed Kranepool just missed the Fleer and Donruss bandwagon, as his final card came a year before those two companies broke into the hobby.

Although David Wright will likely pass him up in the near future, Kranepool is still the Mets' all-time hits leader.

And I have to bring up this card any time I mention Kranepool on this blog. I just have to.

I've always been partial to these "on-deck" shots. As far as I know, Kranepool is the only player to have one on his final card.

All the cards I've shown so far in this post are great. Any I'll blog about once this theme takes off will be the same. Pretty much any final card has a special place in my collection.

But no matter what "final cards" I post, one will always stand above all.

Nothing could ever match it...

Without a doubt, this is my favorite final card.

Always has been, always will.

While it carries a somber tone, I feel that it's a more than appropriate send-off (and tribute) to one of baseball's all-time greats, and my personal favorite player to ever step foot on a ballfield.

As one of the first cards I can remember having in my collection as a kid, it has some extra-special meaning to me. While I don't know that I could ever determine such a thing for certain, it might just be my favorite card.

It's definitely in the top five, at least.

My hope is that this will be a theme that people enjoy. I feel it's a nice change of pace for the whole "rookie card" craze that the hobby has been stuck in for the past few decades.

I don't have every single "final card" of every guy I collect, but I'll try to work with what I have. If you have any ideas for a player you'd like to see in this theme, please let me know and I'll see what I can do.

Some players had great send-offs. I'm sure the opposite is true with a few other guys as well.

I'll be trying to determine who made the best trip "into the sunset", so keep an eye out for my brand new theme in the coming weeks.

Although I highly doubt any of them could beat Roberto Clemente.


CaptKirk42 said...

Nice theme. Of course now days with all these retro sets it will be harder to tell from the more recently retired players what their "final card" is. for example this being Chipper Jones' final year before retirement his "last card" should be a 2013 something or other. I'm sure though they will continue to put him on cards even in the 2014 sets and beyond.

Getting back to the Rookie Card thing. I think they have always had a special place in the hobby to collectors it is just that since sometime around the 1980s and the beginnings of the Junk Years the card manufacturers found a way to exploit the rookie card concept. It used to be easier to tell exactly which card was a player's "rookie" card because usually they were already a veteran that hadn't had a card yet or one of the true first year players who were vying for the "rookie of the year" Now with these 100s and 1,000s of "Prospect" cards and sets who knows what a rookie card is anymore?

It used to be a rookie card was the very first time a player appeared on a trading card solo (or on one of those multi-player rookie stars cards). Now with these prospect cards do you go by the Bowman "1st year card" when the player is shown in a college uniform with no mention of which major league team has (0r will) draft him? Or do you go with the first Topps card he appears on two years later as a Rookie for the Mets? Technically the Prospect card would be his rookie card but would the collector world see it that way?

hiflew said...

I think this is a fantastic idea and I considered doing a spin on this myself. But I think it fits much better with your overall theme.

You are right the "rookie card" craze hit a little before I started in the hobby in 1986. You have no idea how hot the 84 Donruss Mattingly, 85 Topps Eric Davis (in my area at least), and 86 Donruss Canseco were when I first got started. I fell into that pit and am still in it somewhat with my rookie cup collection.

I think this could be a really good collection and definitely a lot cheaper than trying to get rookie cards of everyone. I haven't checked lately, but I imagine the 54 Hank Aaron is still a tad higher the 76 Aaron.

Chuck's Used Cards said...

I love the idea of your "into the sunset" theme. I relish seeing the last card of any hard working, long-serving player. I think the last card is perhaps more memorable than rookie cards.

Also, if you compare Clemente's 1973 card with his 1972 In Action, you will see the sequence of his at bat.

If I may take license , I'd like to borrow the "sunset" theme to showcase some of soccer's great on their final card.

Mark Kaz said...

I'm totally lovin' this theme! One of my favorite "sunset" cards is 1990 Topps Traded of Keith Hernandez. What a strange team for him to end his career on, at least in my mind. Anyhow, awesome idea!

Zayden said...

Definitely looking forward to this. I was kind of wondering about players final cards a short time ago. Props on the Kranepool and Clemente. Roberto was the first baseball player I was ever interested in as a child.

gcrl said...

Looking forward to these posts. The clemente is definitely the best final tribute (as I refer to them on my site) but I am partial to the 1988 score Steve garvey card as well, for obvious reasons.

Mike said...

Youve been interested in these as far back as i can remember so Im glad youre doing it as a series!...use the Dick Allen!!

beefman said...

Fantastic idea, Nick.

I'd rather have the 'Into The Sunset' card of every player than their Rookie Cards. As long as there's complete year-by-year stats on the back! Plus, the final cards of players are 'worth' next to nothing according to those Beckett people. My favorite one in my collection would probably have to be the 2004 Upper Deck Rickey Henderson, or even the Fred McGriff from the same set. Great cards for Dodger fans such as myself, Nightowl, GCRL and what seems like 2 out of every 3 bloggers!