31 December 2013

some notable final tributes

here now, at the end of the year, it seems to be a good time to post some final tributes.  most of the final tributes that i collect are of certain infielders, dodgers, hall of famers or other notable players.  however, i also collect the cards that carry the 'final tribute' designation (or similar notations) which were especially prevalent in upper deck releases of the late 1990's.  in many cases, these were the only such cards made for some retiring greats.

take this 1996 upper deck collector's choice kirk gibson card, for example.
it's the only card he received after announcing his retirement during the 1995 season.  the udcc tribute designation is not as elaborate as it is on the flagship releases, but it serves its purpose.  as you can see from the back of his '96 final tribute, gibson reached a couple of nice milestones - 1500 hits and 250 home runs - before he retired.
and there's that word - 'improbable'.

another former dodger who hung them up during the 1995 season was dave stewart.  like gibby, his 1996 upper deck collector's choice card is his lone final tribute
stew returned to the a's after a couple of seasons (and a world championship) in toronto.
things didn't go as planned in his return, and he retired after 16 starts.

another pitcher who returned to the scene of his greatest successes after spending some time with the blue jays was phil niekro.  here's his 1988 score card that captured his return to the braves for one final start
i much prefer this to the lame 'one-day' contracts that people sign these days (most recently roy halladay) so that they can retire as a member of their initial or most familiar franchise.  niekro did it right, although he got lit up in that one last start.  the back has his entire big league starts, as any self-respecting final tribute should.
niekro did get a card in the 1988 topps set (a record breaker with his brother joe in which he is still shown as an indian) which was the same way that topps said goodbye to the likes of al kaline, brooks robinson, lou brock, and the trio of gaylord perry, johnny bench, and carl yastrzemski.  i prefer the way score did things.  classic also put out a three card subset of niekro in their 1988 set - one with him as an indian, one as a blue jay, and one as a brave.  i don't have any of those, but nick does.

back to upper deck - here's a 1995 goose gossage card.  it lacks the final tribute designation, but gossage pitched his last pitch in 1994.
gossage had joined the mariners after he was released by the a's just before the '94 season started.  he was pitching well when the players went on strike in august.
gossage also had cards in the 1995 fleer, pacific, and score sets, plus the upper deck collector's choice set, as well as the fairly unnecessary 1995 upper deck collector's choice special edition set
this set gives us all of gossage's career stats
gossage became a free agent after the 1994 strike-shortened season ended.  i'm not sure if he tried to latch on with a team after the strike ended in 1995 or if he decided to call it quits on his own.

mickey tettleton did call it quits on his own - in july of 1997.  usually, a midseason retirement doesn't bode well for that player getting cards the following year.  thanks to upper deck, there are two mickey tettleton final tributes, complete with the final tribute designations.  here's his 1998 upper deck card
tettleton had only 4 hits in 1997 - all for extra bases - when he retired.  here's the back
and here's the collector's choice version
again with the complete career stats on the back
i can't believe neither card mentioned froot loops.

like tettleton, lee smith announced his retirement in july of 1997.  and, like tettleton, smith received final tributes from upper deck in their flagship and collector's choice sets in 1998.
here's what a career spent amassing 478 saves (then a record) looks like
i'm not sure why the border of smith's cc card has gray borders when tettleton's is white
whatever the reason, the back has the full career stats, too, with a note about smith becoming the first pitcher to appear in 1000 games.
even though smith announced his retirement in july and didn't pitch in the major leagues after that, he did attempt a comeback in 1998 with both the royals and later the astros.  that would have been embarrassing for upper deck if smith had returned after his career had already been celebrated with these final tributes.  or maybe not.

that exact thing happened to them with dennis martinez.  here is martinez's 1998 upper deck card with the final tribute designation
martinez was released by the mariners in may of 1997 and didn't pick up with another team.  he 'retired' with 241 career wins, just two shy of juan marichal's record for latin pitchers.
martinez also had a final tribute in the 1998 collector's choice set, but i haven't bothered to pick that one up because, unfortunately for marichal, dennis martinez signed with the braves for the 1998 season and once again had a final tribute in the 1999 upper deck set.
he wound up winning 4 games in his return to the national league, taking marichal's place atop the leader board.
martinez also had cards in the 1999 sets from pacific, fleer si, and pacific crown collection, but not collector's choice.  maybe upper deck wasn't completely convinced of martinez's retirement this time.


Fuji said...

I had no idea that Gossage and Martinez finished their careers in Seattle. Love that Dave Stewart card... kudo to UD for putting "tribute" on these cards.

Have an enjoyable and safe New Year's Eve and here's to a wonderful 2014.

Nick said...

I love Upper Deck's "Final Tribute" logo from the '90s. That's something I wish Topps would do these days.

That's funny that Denny Martinez had two "Final Tributes". I didn't even know he was a Brave until recently.

defgav said...

Very cool. I never knew "Final Tribute" was an "official" designation.. figured it was just a term collectors came up with. I need to get me some of these!