Friday, January 31, 2020

Breathtaking Sunsets

With the recent election of Derek Jeter to the Hall of Fame, I've been seeing a lot of his 2015 Topps card lately. It's regarded as one of his best cards, and even us Red Sox fans can't deny it's greatness as one of the modern "iconic" cards. What makes this card special is that it is his "sunset" card - a card produced after his career ended, showing his career stats in all their complete glory.

I started thinking about where it ranked among other Hall of Fame player's sunset cards. Fortunately, a TCDB member created a list of the last Topps base card of every Hall of Famer. That made it easy to look and see what other gems there were. What surprised me however was how few players have true sunset cards! Many of them had their last one produced the same year that they last played, making the stats one year short of complete.

I decided to comb through these cards and find out which were best of the true sunsets, and have listed my 10 favorites here (in chronological order):

Mickey Mantle - 1969 Topps

1969 Topps #500 Mickey Mantle

Maybe I'm giving it too much credit because it's vintage, because the standard posed photo really doesn't make a card great too often. After "The Mick" retired in 1968, Topps gave him this one last card. Fittingly, it almost looks like his focus isn't towards an oncoming pitch, but beyond into his post-baseball career.

Roberto Clemente- 1973 Topps

1973 Topps #50 Roberto Clemente

An iconic card, what makes this sad is that we all know this was never intended to be a sunset card. A perfectly round 3000 hits stand out on the back of this final post-tragedy card.

Gary Carter - 1993 Topps

1993 Topps #205 Gary Carter

If I were to rank these as personal favorites, I'd have to give the #1 nod to the great action shown on Carter's final card. If McGriff ever gets his due via the Veteran's Committee, then this card becomes even better!

George Brett - 1994 Topps

1994 Topps #180 George Brett

Even though this shot shifts the focus more to the stadium than the player, it's a fitting card for a legend who spent his entire career with a single team. Half of his legend was witnessed here.

Tony Gwynn - 2002 Topps

2002 Topps #99 Tony Gwynn

On the other hand, when you're known for your sweet swing, a good sunset card will invoke memories of hit after hit after hit.

Jeff Bagwell - 2006 Topps

2006 Topps #573 Jeff Bagwell

When you have the kind of career that Bagwell had, you earn the respect of your fellow teammates. Bagwell was always a team player, so this candid shot with his peers makes this a nice sunset card.

Greg Maddux - 2009 Topps

2009 Topps #287 Greg Maddux

Greg Maddux as a Dodger is still a weird sight to me. Regardless of the uniform, this is a fantastic shot of one of the greatest pitchers ever.

Randy Johnson - 2010 Topps

2010 Topps #220 Randy Johnson

Speaking of great pitchers in strange uniforms... Although I'm not the biggest fan of the from-the-back shot, I can't help at look at this amazing display of athleticism and be reminded that he was older at the time (45) than I am now.

Mariano Rivera - 2014 Topps

2014 Topps #42 Mariano Rivera

Nobody gets that coming-into-the-game moment quite like the closer, huh? You can practically hear "Enter Sandman" blaring from the loudspeakers. Also, I'm glad this save is coming against the Rays and not the Red Sox.

Derek Jeter - 2015 Topps

2015 Topps #1 Derek Jeter

Anyone watching this game just knew he would do something big. There was that charge in the air that let you know this was a big moment. Jeter delivered, and ended this game a winner, just like he spent most of his career. A fitting sunset card if there ever was one.


  1. Those are all great cards to end a career with. My personal favorite might be the Clemente.

  2. It would be hard to pick a favorite here but Clemente may get my vote. I haven't seen the Johnson card before. Impressive!!

  3. I started my Sunset Card collection a few years ago and have almost all of the Hof'ers from the 50's on. Starting in the 80's quite a few Hof'ers have a true Sunset Card by different manufactures. I wish more people thought Sunset Cards were as important as their Rookie Cards.

  4. Whoever put this list together is most certainly an avid reader of Nick's (Dime Boxes) blog!

  5. Solid list. From this list... Jeter would get my vote. By the the Konerko from that set is another awesome sunset card. 2015 Topps was such an awesome set.

  6. The card companies weren't generally interested in producing cards for players they knew had retired.

    The 1969 Mantle card exists probably only because Mick retired in the spring of 1969, after the card was already set up for printing.

    Of course, the 1973 Clemente card was unexpected.

    The first "intentional" sunset card I can remember is the 1990 Mike Schmidt card (by Fleer or Donruss, I forget which).

    Although not a HOFer, the 1967 Joe Nuxhall card is a sunset card, as he also retired before the season, and the card was already printed.

  7. I love that George Brett card so much.