Bo Jackson was once on a path toward becoming the face of baseball, and in 1995, he pretty much fulfilled that destiny, thanks to Topps.

See …

Back in the mid-1980s, Jackson hit the major leagues with more exciting, explosive talent, more “potential” than just about any player in a generation or more. He was, after all, the man who knew everything, to paraphrase the Nike campaign.

And then reality set in, first in the form of Bo’s struggles with big league pitching. After a couple years of diligent work, though, Jackson looked like he was going to shrug off that limitation, as a 32-home-run, 105-RBI campaign in 1989.

Then came “The Hit” in a 1991 playoff game with the Los Angeles Raiders during the NFL portion of Bo’s legend-making program, and everything changed.

Released by the Kansas City Royals in March, Bo signed with the Chicago White Sox in April and actually made it back to the bigs for 23 games before rehabbing his shattered hip for all of 1992.

His gridiron career done, Bo focused on the diamond, and all the work paid off when he smacked 16 homers with 45 ribbies in 1993.

That offseason, Jackson signed a free agent deal with the California Angels, for whom he hit .279, 13 HR, 43 RBI before … THE STRIKE.

And that’s where we find Bo on his 1995 Topps card

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It’s sort of a fuzzy look into a game that was gone for more than half a season, one that cannibalized its own playoffs, sacrificed its World Series in the name of labor negotiations.

It looks like baseball, sure, but it’s tinged with a certain sadness, one born of remembering what once was, and what might have been.

It’s a feeling that permeates the entire set — nostalgia, sadness, hope for the future, but hope tempered with a new jadedness that we hadn’t ever really felt before.

And no card personified all that better than the last Bo Jackson card.

Because, even though Bo looks powerful, focused, ready to play forever, the truth is, he never came back with the rest of the boys of summer when MLB dusted off the game late in the spring of 1995.

Instead of trying to catch on with yet another team after his contract with the Halos expired, Bo walked away at age 32.

And all through that summer, when new heroes emerged, and when old ones ramped back up, we had a lasting reminder of the man who would have been the face of the game.

Right there in our Topps wax packs.

It felt like we hardly even knew him.

But at least we got a career-capper, something you can’t say for

(You might also like our complete rundown of Bo Jackson rookie cards.)

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