come 1989, i was specifically looking for don sutton final tributes (a big thanks to score and a 'you were so close, why didn't you do it correctly' to topps). as cool as i thought these cards were, i had not recalled seeing cards specifically identified as final tributes until mike schmidt retired (i don't count the 1988 score reggie jackson subset - that was more of a career retrospective, and yes i think that there is a difference between the two). in fact, fleer included their mike schmidt final tribute in their 1989 update set.
schmidt famously called it quits in midseason after deciding that he was unable to play at the high level he expected of himself. i recall that it was an emotional press conference for schmidt as he announced his retirement. the following year, donruss included schmidt in their checklist
here's the back
now, you know that i was a ron cey fan, and the penguin always got my all-star vote(s), but schmidt eventually replaced pete rose (who had replaced cey) as the league's all-star representative at third base, and deservedly so. schmidt was so highly thought of that he was voted in as the league's starting third baseman for the 1989 all-star game, which was played 6 weeks following his retirement (he did not play in the game).
i was even a sort of schmidt fan (except for 1983 when his phillies finally beat the dodgers in the nlcs) because my very first glove was a rawlings michael jack schmidt model. speaking of rawlings, schmidt won the gold glove award for national league third basemen 10 times. back to the cards. topps, as it is wont to do, fell short. they had a card of schmidt in their 1990 set
but it was a 'turn back the clock' card rather than a tribute, and failed to even mention his retirement
schmidt was a 3-time nl mvp who led the league in home runs 8 times. he was also the 1980 world series mvp, and his 548 career home runs rank 15th all-time today, and were good enough for 7th all-time when he retired. i suppose that's why he warranted special attention from the card companies, three of which really delivered solid cards for my mini-collection.
that coincided with schmidt's enshrinement in the hall of fame.
this was the same set that featured belated final tributes for george brett, nolan ryan, and robin yount. i appreciated the effort, but much prefer the real time final tributes that upper deck provided in the following years.