If you think finishing your career as the all-time stolen base record and with 3000+ hits should warrant some sort of Lifetime Achievement Award, well, then we think alike.
And we think like Topps (old Topps, at lesat), too, but only halfly.
Of course, we have three choices for dudes who fit that profile and might have qualified for such an award at one time or another in the long history of our great game and hobby (stats from Baseball-Reference.com):
- Ty Cobb, who retired with 4191 hits (or 4189…ugh) and 897 stolen bases in 1928
- Lou Brock, who retired with 3023 hits and 938 stolen bases in 1979
- Rickey Henderson, who retired with 3055 hits and 1406 stolen bases in 2003
All three had at least 3000 hits and held the all-time stolen base mark when they hung up their spikes.
And all three eventually got their Lifetime Achievement Award (LAA) in the form of a Hall of Fame plaque.
But you and me, we’re card collectors. Shouldn’t there be some sort of cardboard LAA to commemorate these feats?
Like a Topps career-capper card?
Yeah, there should, except …
There were no Topps cards in 1928, so Cobb is out. And, he wasn’t really the all-time stolen base leader, either — just the “modern” version, thanks to the basepath exploits of (the first) Billy Hamilton back in the 1800s.
That leaves Brock and Henderson …
Now, for most of Topps’ history, they just would not print a card of a guy if they knew he wasn’t going to be on a big-league roster the season of issue, no matter who he was.
So, with Rickey on the sidelines in 2004, there was no final Topps Henderson card showing his entire Major League resume.
Luckily for us, though, Upper Deck gave us a career-capper showing Rickey with the Dodgers.
Similarly, when Brock retired after the 1979 season, Upper Deck came to the rescue!
There was no Upper Deck in 1979.
No Fleer, either. Or Donruss or Score or Studio or … anything.
There was just Topps.
And that meant there was no hope of pulling a true, in-the-moment, fresh-from-live-packs career-capper for the man who blazed National League basepaths for 19 summers.
But there was something … a glimmer of hope … a half-measure to hold us over until 1985, when Cooperstown would come calling.
Because, on August 13, 1979, about six weeks before he took the field for the last time, Brock recorded his 3000th MLB hit.
Thirty days later, on September 12th, Carl Yastrzemski followed suit.
And, while Topps wouldn’t issue a full-on card of a retired player, they were happy to pad their sets with celebrations of the previous year’s Highlights and Record Breakers, especially if they could group the achievers together.
And, thus, the last Topps set of the (first) Monopoly Era began with a combo card (#1) of 1979’s two 3000-hit men, with Brock appropriately slotted in the leadoff spot:
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Yaz would face a similar cardboard fate four years later when Topps thumbed their noses at him, except for the little matter of using his image alongside other retiring superstars, Johnny Bench and Gaylord Perry, to help add fire to the beginning (#6) of their 1984 base set.
But back to 1980 …
Today, the 1980 Topps Brock/Yaz combo generally sells for about a buck in nice raw condition, while copies in PSA 8 fetch around $25. That price moves up to $40 or so for PSA 9s and $100 or more for a perfect 10 (if you can find it).
All in all, it’s a great card featuring two iconic players.
But, as a career-capper? As a cardboard Lifetime Achievement Award?
In that regard, and unlike the man himself, this last Lou Brock card gets us only halfway home.
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