01 August 2014

a few final tributes for a few different reasons

final tribute friday is in full swing today.  the final tributes in my collection can be broken down into four categories:

1. hall of famers
2. personal favorites
3. cards marked as a final tribute
4. significant players

this post has cards from each of those categories

curt schilling would be a significant player, although he probably finds his way into the hall of fame at some point.  his 2008 upper deck card is a pretty good final tribute
it's the only schilling card in my final tribute collection, even though there were bowman, topps, topps heritage, and other cards issued for him the year after he pitched in his last game.  here's the back with his full career stats.
things started out roughly for schilling, but he turned it around and became one of the best pitchers in the national league.  i was at the dodgers' opening day game in 1997 where schilling shut them down for 8 innings, allowing only 2 hits while striking out 11 - it was an impressive performance.  schilling's last big league appearance came in game 2 of the 2007 world series in which he beat the rockies to give the bosox a 2-0 lead in the fall classic.  schilling finished his career with three world series rings, 3116 strikeouts, and a bloody sock.  his strikeout to walk ratio is the best in the modern era, and the best ever for a pitcher who pitched for more than 10 seasons.

jack morris qualifies as a personal favorite, but i would consider him a significant player (the winningest pitcher of the 1980's) as well.  hopefully, he becomes a hall of famer at some point, too.  after leading the league with 21 wins in 1992 for the blue jays, morris struggled in 1993 and wound up 7-12 with a 6.19 era for toronto.  he spent 1994 with the indians, but was released just a couple of days before the players went on strike.  morris had passed 250 wins, but was a bit shy of 2500 strikeouts for his career, and whether motivated by milestones or not, he still wanted to pitch.  so, morris signed with the reds in december of 1994 and waited out the strike.  he retired shortly after spring training began, however, making the few 1995 cards issued of him final tributes.  here's his 1995 fleer ultra card
his 1995 upper deck special edition card
and his 1995 upper deck collector's choice card
that one is the best of the bunch, as it shows morris' complete career stats.  you'll notice that morris had shaved his mustache to pitch for the reds, but he made just one spring training start for them before calling it quits.

the only reason i have a 1996 upper deck collector's choice john kruk card in my collection is because it has the 'tribute' designation on the front.
 here are kruk's complete career stats
kruk retired with a .300 batting average, and he did so in the middle of the season.  i recall his final game because of the unusual highlight shown on espn:  after singling in the first inning on july 30, 1995, kruk asked for the baseball.  he was serving as the team's dh that day, and the hit broke an 0 for 15 skid that saw his average drop from .336 to .304 on the season.  when his spot came up in the order again, kruk wasn't even in the clubhouse - frank thomas pinch hit for him, and kruk's retirement had begun.  there are a lot of players who don't know going in to it that a certain at bat will be their last, but kruk knew.  i actually thought of that when i was playing amateur ball and decided to call it quits in the summer of 2000.  i knew that i was likely never going to play baseball again, and i was able to savor the last couple of at bats.  unfortunately, my warning track power was on display that last time up - f7.

kirby puckett didn't know that he had already experienced his final big league at bat when this card, a 1996 upper deck collector's choice card was issued in november of 1995
 but these are indeed his final career stats
puckett, of course, falls into the hall of famer category in my final tribute collection.  his final big league at bat came near the end of the 1995 season.  he was beaned in the face by cleveland's dennis martinez in the first inning of the game on september 28, 1995 and did not return to the lineup in any of the last few games in the season.  in spring training 1996, puckett was diagnosed with glaucoma and his career was over.  i showed some other puckett final tributes previously, but this one was left out of those posts for some reason.

like kruk's final tribute above, the only reason that this 1998 upper deck darren daulton
and this 1998 upper deck collector's choice tony pena
are in the collection is because of the final tribute designation given to each card.  here are the backs
both were catchers, but while daulton struggled with injuries, pena was able to stay healthy and play in a ton of games.  still, daulton was able to go out with a bang as he and the marlins won the world series in 1997.

the last card in the post is of a personal favorite - roy halladay.  this is his 2014 topps opening day card
which comes with his complete career stats on the back
i first heard of roy halladay when he lost a no-hitter in his second career start thanks to a home run hit by bobby higginson with two outs in the ninth inning.  i remember at the time hoping that he would get another chance and get the no-hitter (he did, twice).  i also remember starting to follow his career since i had a soft spot for the blue jays.  later, my halladay fandom was sealed when he saved my fantasy baseball season in 2001 with a final weekend shutout (my league gave points for complete games and shutouts).  unfortunately, halladay was forced to retire after last season due to shoulder problems.

halladay is one of a few 2014 final tributes in my collection, along with mariano rivera and lance berkman.  you know i'll be looking for derek jeter and paul konerko cards next year...


JediJeff said...

I remember the story Kruk told about his retirement. He didn't just want to fade away, but he also didn't want to go out with a horrible career ending. He told the Sox manager (Lemont I think) of his plan: I'll get a hit, then pinch run for me and that's my career. He wanted his last at bat to be a hit.

All thing considered, that's a smart way to say goodbye.

Nick said...

I'd never seen that 1995 UD Special Edition Morris before this post. I always thought his '95 Collector's Choice issue was his only one as a Red. Looks like I have another zero-year card to track down.