After the 1956 season, the Brooklyn Dodgers did the unthinkable — they traded legend Jackie Robinson to the crosstown rival New York Giants, in exchange for Dick Littlefield (and $30,000).

Problem was … Jackie had already decided to retire from baseball to become a coffee executive with Chock full o’Nuts.

It was a devastating turn of events for all involved, but maybe most of all for fans, who were stunned to find out that, suddenly, the pioneering Robinson was gone from the game.

And, since Jackie’s retirement and the ill-fated trade went down in December of 1956, the disruption shook the fledgling hobby, too — Topps had plenty of time to plan for a Robinson-less 1957 set.

So they did, rendering his classic 1956 Topps as Jackie’s last card:

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Except, that’s not quite right.

Because, back in those days, not only did Topps avoid issuing career-cappers or any cards of players not on a roster for the upcoming season, they were also in their second year of including team cards in their sets.

And, when the 1957s came out, there was a Brooklyn Dodgers card (#324), just as expected:

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As always, though, the cards issued in a particular year showed players from the previous season, which meant kids who pulled this one were actually looking at the 1956 Brooklyn Dodgers

The back of the card didn’t exactly state that outright, but it did show the composition of the team on the card front:

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See there in the list of names for “CENTER ROW:”? Third from the end of that list?

Yeah, it’s Robinson. Jackie Robinson, since he was the only player with that last name on the Dodgers in 1956 or 1957.

If we do the mapping, then, that means Jackie Robinson’s last appearance on a baseball card as an active player was right there:

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Not majestic. Not exciting. Maybe not even identifiable.

But the truth, nonetheless, and a hunk of hobby history — a final glimpse of an all-time great, an American icon, in the uniform he helped make so famous.

Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers.

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Want to know about the first Jackie Robinson card? We have the story over on YouTube:

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