Sometimes when players know their careers are winding down and can retire on their own terms, many times they are given one last moment to shine. This tradition goes way back a century, if not earlier. In September 1916, Christy “Big Six” Mathewson faced off against Mordecai “Three Fingered” Brown in a farewell duel between these two pitchers who were so important to their teams for more than a decade.
This year, of course, we had Mark Buehrle want to pitch two innings on the final day of the season so he could reach 200 innings (he did not make it) or even a Tim Hudson/Barry Zito pitching matchup in September to honor two of the thee A’s “Big Three” from the Moneyball days. Tim Hudson and Jeremy Affeldt were both brought into AT&T field for one last final ovation from their fans since both had announced their retirement.
Aramis Ramirez has stated 2015 is it for him and while he sat out the final day of the regular season, he’ll have at least another day in the sun for the Pirates in the post-season.
But all of this, even going back to Stan Musial‘s final game in 1963, always brings up the idea of seeing baseball cards representing some of these and other farewell moments. Cards are one way we all mark the passage of time in sports and telling stories has always been one of our hobby’s great strengths.
When Derek Jeter got that game sinning hit in his final game at Yankee Stadium last season, who would not have wanted one last card to honor that moment? A few years ago we mentioned how Kerry Wood came into his final game at Wrigley Field, struck out the last batter and walked off into the sunset.
Those last at-bats at home sometimes induce spine-tingling moments when a popular player gets a standing ovation and takes his helmet off, raising it to the crowd. I’d see that as a great card in the making.
Personally seeing those events are so much fun and collectors would surely appreciate such cards. I’m sure acquiring the right photos is sometimes a challenge and we can’t always have subsets like this every year as not enough players may announce their intentions in advance, but since we have become a more adult based hobby, it makes sense and also reaches the traditional core audience.
Topps produced Fond Farewells in 2014, and while that insert honored the retirements of retired greats and outgoing players like Jeter and Paul Konerko, I’d like to see a set that actually captures a moment from their final game on the next season’s cards, complete with career stats on the back.
So where to put the cards of outgoing players who are well-known to die-hard fans? To me, the Topps 1st series release and Topps Heritage are the ideal places and more than sufficient for these purposes. Perhaps a subset in Topps 1 and an insert set in Topps Heritage as Heritage is nostalgia based anyway, are the best answers to this.
And then, once our short and sweet tour of 2015 would conclude early in 2016, the focus would then entirely be on the current season going forward. That way, Topps can bring us closer to the game but also help us preserve the memories of the recent past.