12 July 2012

final tributes done differently

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.
they got a 'highlight' card at the top of the set, with inset sized photos and their 1983 stats combined with a single line career stats on the back.
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
and his complete career stats, year by year.
gaylord perry wants you...
...to know that he's retiring with over 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts
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
and why not?  he had played in more baseball games than anyone else in history (since passed by pete rose), had over 3000 hits, and hit his 450th career home run in 1983.  here are his entire career stats
that's a beautiful card back if you ask me.

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
the back addresses the send-offs each was given by the hometown crowds during the 1983 season
and correctly predicts that they will be enshrined together in the hall of fame (both were inducted in 1989).

gaylord perry was on his own in the superstar special subset, and fleer noted that he was 'going out in style'
the back highlights some of his accomplishments, but is less bullish on his hall of fame chances
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
the yaz/bench card is all about their retirements and certain hall of fame enshrinement
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
this card perplexed me for a number of reasons.  note that donruss used a photo of perry from his time with the mariners instead of the royals with whom he finished up his career.  also, fingers missed the entire 1983 season due to injury.  the back does reveal that perry (and fingers) will one day wind up in cooperstown, and assumes that perry is done pitching since they quote his final career win total among other stats
they also seem to suggest that fingers was done.  as i mentioned, he missed the entire 1983 season due to injury, but he returned to the brewers in 1984 and 1985.  as for the hall of fame, fingers was inducted the year after perry, having retired after the 1985 season with 341 saves.  if only fergie jenkins had retired right after the 1983 season, he could have been featured on the card with perry and things would have made more sense, especially since jenkins was in perry's hall of fame class.

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.

1 comment:

Nick said...

Those are all really nice cards, a proper send-off on the part of card companies.

I especially like the Fleer Yaz card you showed, I'll have to pick one up for myself one of these days.