If you’ve been around these parts long, you might know that we’re sort of fascinated with “career-cappers” — those baseball cards issued the year after a player’s last season, showcasing his entire career resume.

Part of the allure is the scarcity of the things.

See …

Through most of the Topps “monopoly” years from 1956 through 1981, and on into the 1990s, the big dog of card companies just didn’t issue career cappers if they could help it. Their unstated (as far as I know) rule of thumb seemed to be, if a dude doesn’t look like he’ll be on a big league roster in a given year, well, he won’t be on Topps roster, either.

So, when a player announced his retirement at the end of a season, that pretty much precluded him from appearing in wax packs the next year.

No Sandy Koufax Topps card in 1967 (not a base card, anyway).

No Willie Mays Topps card in 1974.

No Mike Schmidt card in 1990 … except a “Turn Back the Clock” thing.

Now, there were exceptions, like in 1984, when Topps issued a three-headed tribute to Johnny Bench, Carl Yastrzemski, and Gaylord Perry, but that’s not really a career-capper.

And the new card companies came through for us (collectors) on occasion, as Fleer did with Willie McCovey in 1981 and as Donruss did with an All-Time Great Schmidt card in 1990.

For the most part, though, career-cappers only happened by accident or a conspiration of the baseball gods.

Like when Mickey Mantle went through the winter of 1968 letting everyone believe he would play in 1969 but then finding his body was a no-go during Spring Training and announcing his retirement then.

Maybe Topps could have changed their plans to issue Mantle on card #500, but there wouldn’t have been much of a time buffer, if any. And then they’d also have to fill in the hole, and with what? Yet another Lou Piniella rookie card?

Nah … so Mantle got a rare career-capper.

There were other career-cappers before and after the Mick, of course, but his was probably the most high-profile of them all.

Nearly twenty years later, though, another high-profile diamond denizen was winding down his career, one that may not have been quite as storied as Mantle’s, but one that found some unexpected national spotlight late in the game.

In 1985, Terry Forster was 33 years old and toiling out of the bullpen for the lowly Atlanta Braves. Just a couple years earlier, he had been a valuable member of a winning Braves club after helping the Los Angeles Dodgers to a run of success, including the 1981 World Series title, for half a decade.

Find Terry Forster cards on eBay (affiliate link)

Find Terry Forster cards on Amazon (affiliate link)

But even with those ‘85 Braves, who would finish at 66-96, Forster did pretty well, crafting a 2.28 ERA in 59-1/3 innings of middle relief.

Pretty unglamorous stuff, but Forster had been a big enough name in the past that he started taking some heat when his belly stretched his pajama-bottom uniform pants to new heights … er, girths.

And it wasn’t just the Atlanta faithful who noticed, either.

Nope, that summer, David Letterman called out the lefty from the pulpit of his Late Night show, labeling the reliever with the now infamous label of “fat tub of goo.”

It became quite a shtick and eventually led Forster to Letterman’s set, chomping on a sandwich as he took the stage, trying to be a good sport about the thing.

It was a new sort of celebrity for Forster’s type, sort of like an offensive lineman becoming The Bachelor or something.

But whatever party Letterman unleashed in Forster’s honor had died down by the next spring, and the Braves released him on April 1.

Fittingly, Hollywood(ish) came calling a couple weeks later when the California Angels signed Forster to a free agent deal. He made it into just one game for the Halos that summer, and they released him in November.

Find Terry Forster cards on eBay (affiliate link)

Find Terry Forster cards on Amazon (affiliate link)

So why, then, did both Topps and Fleer issue Forster cards in 1987?

Was it the irresistible marriage of Letterman’s Tub with the Hollywood scene, a return to the city (or nearby) where Forster had found great success?

Or was it just the fact that, like Mantle, Forster didn’t announce his retirement after that nothing of a 1986?

After all, he was just 34 when the Angels let him go.

Whatever the case, cardboard Forster went where few had gone before, and collectors were pulling his career-cappers from two brands of wax packs even while the man himself was attempting to hang on after signing a minor league deal with the Minnesota Twins.

Forster never did make it back to the Majors, but at least we have cold, hard, cardboard evidence of his full suite of accomplishments.

Two chunks of evidence, in fact.


Hobby Wow!

Truth is, Forster was a key part of some good Dodgers teams, including the 1981 squad that won a World Series. You get a flavor for that club in this eBay lot:

That’s an official Chub Feeney National League ball signed by Steve Howe, Terry Forster, Derrel Thomas, and Steve Garvey.

It’s a small but interesting grouping, and the ball is definitely worth a closer look.

Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).

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