Jim Palmer pitched his last game in the Major Leagues on May 12, 1984.

In that contest against the Oakland A’s at Memorial Stadium, Palmer came on in relief of Sammy Stewart … and Dennis Martinez … and Tom Underwood.

As that rotation’s worth of hurlers indicates, things weren’t going well for the Baltimore Orioles that night, and Cakes entered the game in the eighth inning with the O’s already trailing by a score of 8-1.

Palmer did his part to contribute to the cause over the next two innings, surrendering four runs (all earned) on five hits, including a home run to Davey Lopes

Five days later, the Orioles unceremoniously released their future Hall of Famer, the man who won 20 games for them eight times, copping three Cy Young Awards and helping Baltimore to six World Series and two titles along the way.

And, even though Palmer didn’t officially retire, the deafening silence of other teams NOT rushing to sign the living legend that summer told the rest of the world what we needed to know — he was done in MLB.

The card companies were listening, too, as none of them issued a Palmer card in 1985.

Any hopes collectors had of a career-capper card of the legendary underwear model were dashed.

That hope was revived — and sort of roundly ridiculed — in 1991, when Palmer dusted off his right arm and headed back to Orioles camp to stage a comeback. A few warmup pitches, a ripped-up hamstring, and a well-placed getaway car, though, smashed his plans for a triumphant return right in the Jockeys.

There would be no more Ws, no more Ks, no more magnificent locks sparkling from the mound in the Maryland sun.

And no career-capper, because Jim Palmer finally officially retired from baseball.

Except …

The hobby never sleeps, and the card companies never stop squeezing the market for any opportunity to make some pennies on a cardboard nuance here or a wrapper variance there.

That’s very evident today, what with all the funky parallels and the bazillion peripherals that essentially repackage the same players and information over and over and over with ever-escalating stakes.

But even in the 1980s, in between Palmer’s last game and Palmer’s last Spring Training heave, card companies were playing the angles, trying to slice another hunk of consumer pie where they could.

And so if you look through the list of Palmer cards, you’ll find several that were issued after his first (non-)retirement and even after his official hang-’em-up in 1991.

Most of those were pretty niche, like Kmart’s “Superstar of the Decades” in 1987 and the various TCMA-ish “Orioles Greats” types of sets.

But if you roll through the years all the way to the turn of the new century, you’ll find the 2000 Fleer Greats of the Game issue.

Released in March of that year, this set is pretty much what it sounds like — 107 cards devoted to standout players from across baseball’s (post-war) history, plus some special inserts — gotta have the chase, don’t cha know?

And right there on card #84, slotted between George Kell and Maury Wills, was none other than James Alvin Palmer:

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And when you turned the card over? Yeah, it was the full monte:

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So, even though Jim Palmer’s own comeback failed hard in 1991, his career-capper’s comeback made it to the big time, right there in the glare of Y2K.

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