On September 24, 1974, Al Kaline collected the 3000th hit of his storied career … and promptly announced his retirement.

Just over a week later, on October 2, Kaline went hitless in the final game of his career and then walked away like he said he would, allowing only that, “I may miss Spring Training.”

That sure-thing exit from the game, and his Tigers’ 72-90, sixth-place finish that kept them out of the playoffs for the second season in a row meant there was plenty of lead time.

Lead time for the Tigers to prepare for life without their legendary Mr. Tiger who had played in the Motor City for 22 seasons.

And, more importantly and unfortunately for collectors, lead time for Topps to plan their 1975 set.

See…

In those days, Topps just didn’t issue cards of players they knew would not be on a major league roster, which meant there would be no career-capper for Al Kaline.

It all would have worked out just as Topps planned if it hadn’t been for that pesky 3000th base knock …

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Yeah, Topps included a run of “‘74 Highlights” cards in their ‘75 set, and you couldn’t very well leave out just the 12th guy to reach 3K.

Nope.

And, though this was definitely not a career-capper, it did at least give us a flavor for Kaline’s overall accomplishments and importance to the game and the Tigers:

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Today, you can usually find this card for under $10 in nice raw condition, or you can shell out $50 for a PSA 8 copy. Move up to a 9 or 10, and you’re into three- and four-digit territory, respectively.

No matter what the price, though, it’s as close to a career-capper as you can find for the man who never played a day in the minor leagues, and who never had to wonder about his Hall of Fame chances.

Elected to Cooperstown with 88.3% of the vote on his first ballot in 1980, Kaline wore that HOFer tag for the last 40 years of his life, even if collectors never really got a proper cardboard goodbye.

1975 Topps Mini Baseball - Pick A Card - Cards 361-660

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1975 Topps Baseball - Pick A Card - Cards 1-180

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1975 Topps #223 Robin Yount ROOKIE SGC 2.5

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1975 topps George Brett Rookie Card SGC Graded 6 - KC Royals

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1975 Topps Baseball - Pick A Card - Cards 346-530

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