The 1953 Topps Satchel Paige baseball card is a lesson in endings.

First (last?), you have Paige’s run through the cardboard world.

After spending most of his baseball career in the Negro Leagues, beginning way back in 1927 and continuing deep into the 1940s, Paige made his American League debut with the Cleveland Indians in 1948.

Now, there has been plenty of speculation about Paige’s age over the years, but Baseball Reference puts him at just over 42 years old when he suited up for the Tribe the first time that July.

Over the next two years, Paige pitched at an All-Star level, albeit in limited innings in a swingman role. During that time, he also appeared in his first two mainline baseball card sets — 1948 Leaf and 1949 Bowman.

Then, released by the Indians in February of 1960, Paige sat on the shelf until July of 1951 when he signed with the St. Louis Browns.

A partial season of work snagged him a roster spot for 1952 … but not another baseball card.

After a 12-10, 3.07 ERA showing in 1952, though, Topps included Paige in their big, bold, and beautiful 1953 set, unleashing a painted image that has become iconic in the hobby and beyond:

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After a so-so season for a bad team in 1953, the Browns released Paige, and he was done in the majors.

And on baseball cards.

Except for a few details, that is.

For one thing, Paige hung around the periphery for several years, pitching in the minors off and on into the 1960s.

And then, in 1965, he pitched one game for the Kansas City A’s, enough to get Paige a slot in the 1967 Topps Venezuelan set.

That ‘65 swan song was something of a publicity stunt considering that Paige was nearing 60. Still and all, it happened.

But for another thing, the Browns didn’t really release Paige in the winter of 1954.

They couldn’t have, because … they didn’t exist. After that ugly 1953 season (53-100), the Browns headed east to become the Baltimore Orioles.

And so, Paige’s 1953 Topps card not only spelled the end for his own cardboard run, but it was also one of the last appearances for his sidekick on that final (sort of) pasteboard of his — Louie the Elf, the Browns’ mascot.

Today, the last mainstream Satchel Paige baseball card fetches around $4000 in PSA 7 condition, $5000 in PSA 8, and $25,000 or more in PSA 9.

Steep prices, to be sure, but then, we’re talking about a true baseball icon here, and one that was the last of its kind … twice!

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