In June of 1986, one of the most celebrated pitching runs in MLB history came to an end when the Philadelphia Phillies released lefthander Steve Carlton.

It was a fizzle of an ending to a Philly career that produced 241 wins, more than 3000 strikeouts, four National League Cy Young Awards, five NL East titles (plus a half-division title in 1981), two NL pennants, and one World Series championship.

Whew!

At 41, though, Lefty wasn’t just long in the tooth — he had lost most of his effectiveness, posting a 6.18 ERA in 16 starts with the Phils in that ill-fated 1986 campaign.

But the shine doesn’t wear off a future Hall of Famer that fast, particularly one who really wants to keep going, so the San Francisco Giants came calling on July 4, signing Carlton as a free agent.

And so began an uncomfortable dance through cities and teams that never could have touched the ace in his prime — San Fran, Chicago (White Sox), Cleveland, Minnesota — and the baseball cards to go with them.

That cardboard transition began with the 1987 Topps box-side card showing a Giants-airbrushed and frowning Lefty in one of the saddest hobby displays you’re likely to ever see.

But before it all went to hell, or right when it was all starting to go to hell, at least, Carlton made one last cardboard splash as a Phillie, courtesy of Meadow Gold Dairies.

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Find 1986 Meadow Gold cards on eBay (affiliate link)

Find 1986 Meadow Gold cards on Amazon (affiliate link)

That summer, the Hawaiin moo movers released the Meadow Gold Milk series, consisting of eleven cards issued on the sides of their paper cartons.

The complete unnumbered checklist encompassed some of the biggest names in the game: Wade Boggs, George Brett, Dwight Gooden, Willie McGee, Dale Murphy, Cal Ripken (Jr.), Pete Rose, Ryne Sandberg, Mike Schmidt, Fernando Valenzuela.

And, of course, Steve Carlton.

Each card could be cut from the side of the carton if you had a steady hand, and each featured a hand-drawn image of the player, along with a team designation — in text, but not in logo.

And, so we see the marriage we’d seen so many time, on last time: Steve Carlton, Philadelphia Phillies.

It was almost enough to make us forget what came next.

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1986 Meadow Gold Steve Carlton - One Last Chance to Get Your Phil

Hobby Wow!

A bit more palatable that that 1987 Topps Traded card is Lefty’s actual Giants jersey from 1986, as in this eBay listing:

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Pretty nifty, huh? And no airbrush required!

Check out the full listing on eBay right here (affiliate link).

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