One marker of the beginning of the modern hobby era was when Topps began issuing cards all at once in 1974, rather than in series as they had been doing since 1952.
At about the same time Topps was focusing on completeness, though, the game itself was starting to lose its hold on the same.
To wit …
On April 16, 1975, former San Francisco Giants ace Juan Marichal took the mound for his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers, against the Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium.
He wouldn’t make it out of the third inning after giving up four runs on two walks and six hits, including a home run to fellow future Hall of Famer Tony Perez in the third.
Marichal also would never make it back to a Major League mound — he was done after 16 seasons, 243 victories … and 244 complete games.
That was the end of the line for Gibson, who finished with 251 wins … and 255 complete games.
And so, in the course of one season, baseball witnessed the last two men to record at least 200 victories and to also complete more games than they won.
The closest to the mark since then was Gaylord Perry, who retired in 1983 with 314 wins and 303 CG.
Had he not hung on until he was 73, perhaps K-Lord could have joined the CG>W club.
But he didn’t.
Fellow Hall of Famer and 1983 retiree Fergie Jenkins finished at 284 wins and 267 complete games.
Hall of Famers Steve Carlton, Bert Blyleven, Nolan Ryan, and Jim Palmer all notched more than 200 wins and more than 200 complete games, but none came within even 20 of finishing more times than they won.
It’s hard to imagine, in today’s game of closers and openers and specialization in general, that we’ll ever see another hurler complete 200 games, let alone finish more times than he wins.
After all, when was the last time you saw a complete-game loss?
But this is baseball, and things change, and things cycle back around, too.
Just a few years ago, home run hitters were pariahs, but we all dig them again now thanks to the advent of launch angle, or something.
And Topps even brought back baseball-cards-by-series awhile ago.
So, you know, never say never.
(Though CG>W sure feels like a never.)
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