i haven't done a focused post on final tributes lately, although yesterday i posted the final tributes i have created for a couple of players who were part of the 1978 topps dodger team set but were left out the 1980 set. i have wanted to take a look at some of the first final tribute cards created that were actually created to be final tributes. does that make sense? i remember seeing these cards in 1984 and being excited to have cards with full career stats for the future hall of famers instead of having to settle for a card like hank aaron's last issue which said he only had 745 home runs.
1983 actually saw the careers of four hall of famers come to an end. three of the four called it quits at the end of the season, while the fourth intended to extend his career, but was released during spring training in 1984. all four players were given cards in the three main 1984 baseball card sets - cards that were their 'final tributes' - and each manufacturer honored their careers in slightly different wsys.
the four players are, of course, johnny bench, carl yastrzemski, gaylord perry, and fergie jenkins. i am going to focus solely on the first three, since they were known to have retired after the 1983 season. jenkins' cards in 1984 were produced as if he were still active, so there's nothing different about them.
ok, here's how topps addressed the departure of bench, perry, and yaz from the game.
it's short and to the point, but not the kind of full stat back that i like. it's almost as if topps figured that collectors didn't want cards of people who weren't playing anymore so they acknowledged the retirements as succinctly as they could and then went on to give us cards of mike brown and kelly paris. no offense, but i wish topps had given each player their own card, as fleer did.
i actually like fleer's approach the best - they gave each player their own card, but still addressed their retirements with their superstar special subsets. here's johnny bench, with an espn sighting
gaylord perry wants you...
but we also get to see that the 80's were not kind to perry in terms of record or era. perry was 21 wins shy of 300 after the 1979 season, but he had 3141 strikeouts and a lifetime era of 2.93. i don't begrudge him for playing as long as he could and picking up win number 300 along the way - i'm just glad that i can see all of his stats together on the back of one card to notice that he had a tough four seasons there at the end.
yaz is pretty happy on his 1984 fleer card
for the superstar special cards, fleer put bench and yaz on a card together and identified them as 'retiring superstars' with a photo that i believe was taken at the 1983 all-star game in chicago
gaylord perry was on his own in the superstar special subset, and fleer noted that he was 'going out in style'
it turned out that perry had to wait a couple of years before he was inducted into the hall of fame, eventually joining bench and yaz at the 1991 ceremony.
donruss didn't miss out on the retirement party. not by a long shot. they did something that i thought was sneaky and confused the bejeebers out of me as a 13-year old set collector. they included the cards of the retiring superstars as inserts with the title of 'living legends'. they were issued as cards 'a' and 'b'. 'b' comes first
while the card with perry on it is more about the fact that perry once pitched on the same staff as rollie fingers, who appears with him on the card
anyway, i was happy to get the career closure from the three card companies back in 1984 for these guys, and i suppose the fact that they each approached the 'final tributes' differently should be appreciated.