I was poking around through some of the blog archives the other day and discovered that I never did complete these "Into the Sunset" posts - so better late than never, I figured I'd polish it off this evening with the last and final squad, the AL East Team.
A refresher for those who (understandably) may not recall the scope of these posts: I'm picking a roster of the most notable farewells from each division in baseball, with each team (like the All-Star Game) represented at least once. In what arguably might be a case of "saving the best for last," the AL East might be the most storied collection of teams in baseball, with three of the five franchises having been in the game for well north of a century.
Not surprisingly, they've amassed quite a sunset roster along the way.
1984 Donruss #576 Jim Palmer
Jim Palmer (Years Active: 1965-1984) -- 1984 Orioles, 5 games, 0-3, 9.17 ERA (sunset season)
As this post will eventually show, the history of the AL East has been packed with one-team legends, staring off with career Oriole Jim Palmer.
Palmer's tale is a cautionary but common one - an obvious HOFer whose final season was absolutely dreadful - and best I can tell, he didn't get any true sunset cards in 1985, so his '84 (including this excellent Donruss one) go down as his cardboard finales.
2014 Topps #321 Mariano Rivera
Mariano Rivera (1995-2013) -- 2013 Yankees, 64 games, 6-2, 2.11 ERA (44 saves)
There's no question that Mo is the best closer in baseball history - and, both on the field and on his cards, he went out with a burst of glory.
2016 Topps Heritage #94 Mark Buehrle
Mark Buehrle (2000-2015) -- 2015 Blue Jays, 32 games, 15-8, 3.81 ERA
It's fair to say that Mark Buehrle has gone down as perhaps the most underrated pitcher of my baseball-watching lifetime.
While he seems painfully weak next to the two other HOF pitchers on this roster - the Blue Jays haven't had a ton of notable ballplayers finish up with them - Buehrle's notable career wound up with three strong years in Toronto (even though he looks wrong in anything other than a White Sox uniform).
1979 Topps #310 Thurman Munson
Thurman Munson (1969-1979) -- 1979 Yankees, 97 games, .288 AVG, 3 HR, 39 RBI
The Yankees, for all their glories, have also had a few too-soon sunsets spread throughout their star-studded history.
Thurman Munson died in a plane crash on August 2, 1979, cutting what appeared to be a surefire HOF career far short of its natural end - and leaving collectors no way of knowing his '79 Topps card would be the last one he'd ever get.
2007 UD Masterpieces #8 Lou Gehrig
Lou Gehrig (1923-1939) -- 1939 Yankees, 8 games, .143 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Lou Gehrig stands as the other major Yankee great whose career (and life) came to an end far too soon.
Gehrig didn't play much in what would turn out to be his final season in 1939 - his long-standing consecutive-games streak was abruptly broken earlier that season - but it brought us what would turn out to be one of baseball's most enduring images with his tearful farewell on July 4 in front of thousands of Yankee faithful.
2020 Topps #388 Dustin Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia (2006-2019) -- 2019 Red Sox, 6 games, .100 AVG, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Being a one-team guy in any era is a massive accomplishment, but to do it in today's game is even more of a feat.
Dustin Pedroia's one of the few legendary one-team dudes of the last couple decades I can think of off the top of my head, and although he played a total of just 9 games in his final two seasons, he's long been (and always will) be a favorite here in Dime Boxedonia.
2001 Fleer Ripken Highlights #38 Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr. (1981-2001) -- 2001 Orioles, 128 games, .239 AVG, 14 HR, 68 RBI
With all due respect to Derek Jeter, Ripken is the rightful shortstop on this star-studded squad - and I'd have to imagine the only sunset nominee to also earn an All-Star Game MVP in his final season.
2000 Upper Deck #240 Wade Boggs
Wade Boggs (1982-1999) -- 1999 Devil Rays, 90 games, .301 AVG, 2 HR, 29 RBI
Looking back, it's hard to fault the Devil Rays for taking huge names like Boggs, Canseco, and McGriff in the expansion draft in an effort to put butts in the seats.
In hindsight, of course, it wasn't the best choice - they had a hard time building anything near a decent farm system and wouldn't be a winner for a decade. It did reward collectors like myself the odd sight of seeing a star like Wade Boggs end his career with the Devil Rays, a combination I still don't quite believe no matter how many cards point to the contrary.
Boggs did notch his 3,000th hit in Tampa (a home run!), but other than that, it was a fairly dubious ride into the sunset.
2001 UD Legends of New York #183 Joe DiMaggio
Joe DiMaggio (1936-1942, 1946-1951) -- 1951 Yankees, 116 games, .263 AVG, 12 HR, 71 RBI
Joe DiMaggio will probably always be a household name in America, so it's hard to believe he only played 13 seasons of big-league ball (losing a few prime years to WWII, of course).
Until now, I didn't know DiMaggio was an All-Star in each and every one of those 13 seasons(!), including his modest '51 finale that saw him replaced by a young whippersnapper named Mickey Mantle.
1969 Topps #500 Mickey Mantle
Mickey Mantle (1951-1968) -- 1968 Yankees, 144 games, .237 AVG, 18 HR, 54 RBI
Speaking of which, of course the Mick himself earned an easy spot on this roster - if for no other reason that it gives me a reason to show off one of the more monumental sunset cards in my collection.
Legends may look older and show different positions on their cardboard farewells (1st Base?!), but for my money, few things match the sheer power of a true sunset card like this Mantle, flush with a flurry of career stats on the back.
1984 Fleer #412 Carl Yastrzemski
Carl Yastrzemski (1961-1983) -- 1983 Red Sox, 119 games, .266 AVG, 10 HR, 56 RBI
It's hard to say for certain who the most iconic one-team guy in history is, but the stats show that no player appeared in more games with a single team than Yaz - his 3,308 games with Red Sox over 23 seasons is the record by a good margin.
While Yaz did appear on a few multi-player sunset cards with Topps and Donruss in '84, Fleer granted him the only true solo sunset card that year, and it's long held a special place in my collection because of that.
2017 Topps Archives #243 David Ortiz
David Ortiz (1997-2016) -- 2016 Red Sox, 151 games, .315 AVG, 38 HR, 127 RBI
With the exception of Sandy Koufax, David Ortiz probably had the greatest sunset season in baseball history, and I'm proud to say I remember it well.
It's hard to imagine a guy receiving a good amount of MVP votes and leading the league in RBI during his last year when a lot of other legends hit around .100 with a few RBI during their farewells. But that's exactly what David Ortiz did, putting an extravagant bow on an equally extravagant career.
And, after more than a year in the making, I'm proud to say that puts a long-awaited bow on these sunset posts around here - hope you enjoyed 'em!