To hear Topps tell it — at the time, at least — Harmon Killebrew finished his career with the Minnesota Twins.

And that seems about right to longtime Killer fans who want to remember him that way, or to younger generations who still marvel at the big power numbers the man put up over a couple decades in the big leagues.

After all, Killebrew was a Twin through and through, an original member of the Minnesota franchise who came along for the ride as a budding young slugger when the Washington Senators moved northwest for the 1961 season.

Killebrew stayed put all through the 60s, and well into the 70s, helping the Twinkies to an American League pennant in 1965 and the first two AL West division titles in 1969 and 1970.

Along the way, the right-handed masher became one of purest power sources the game has ever seen, while also sliding into a middle-aged look that would help grant him a distinct elder statesman feel while still his mid-30s.

By the time he made his final Topps appearance, Killebrew was nearly white-headed:

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It’s become an iconic card, a fitting wrap-up to a Hall of Fame career.

But …

If you turn that last Topps card of Killer’s over, you’ll find something missing … like 14 home runs:

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Now, 559 home runs are a ton, and they carried even more weight back in 1975. But, as every old-school stat head knows, Killebrew finished with 573 dingers. So … what happened to the final 14?

Well, they fell victim to Topps’ tacit refusal to issue cards of players who weren’t slated to be on a major league roster in the upcoming season, legend or not.

See, despite his status in the game and with his team, the Twins released Killebrew in January 1975.

It didn’t take long for another team to come calling, and old Harmon spent 1975 with the division-rival Kansas City Royals, logging 106 appearances (mostly at DH) and smacking his final (yes!) 14 home runs.

That performance helped KC to a 91-71 finish, landing them in second place in the old AL West (behind the Oakland A’s).

But it wasn’t enough to keep Killer on the roster for another go-round (thanks, .199 batting average!), and the Royals released him in November.

Done and done, and collectors would never be subjected to the sight of Killebrew in powder blue.

Except …

That year, 1975, Sports Stars Publishing Company (SSPC) decided they were going to produce a set of Major League Baseball cards, licensing be darned. So they went to work, gathered their photos, sketched out a simple design that would eventually gain the moniker “The Pure Card,” and proceeded.

There were plenty of dandies in that 630-card issue dated 1975 and released in 1976, but few cards were more jarring than #168:

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Egad! There was no more denying Killebrew’s Show-Me swan song.

But, hey, at least this card gave Matt Williams a look to shoot for 30 years or so down the the road.

And the other silver lining? (No, not Killer’s hair!)

Yeah, it was the card back:

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Sure, it was presented in the form of the dreaded word problem, but SSPC managed to do what Topps wouldn’t — they gave collectors a Killebrew career-capper, complete with his full tally of 573 home runs.

Today, the last Killebrew card sells for a buck or so in nice raw condition on eBay (affiliate link), with better graded copies drawing more action: $10 for PSA 8s, $20 for PSA 9s, up to $40 or so for perfect 10s.

Of course, part of the price of ownership for this pasteboard is coming to grips with the bitter truth about where Killebrew finished his storied run.

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