Barry Larkin was going to retire at the end of the 2004 season.

He and the Reds had a retirement day all planned and everything. October 2, 2004, was going to be the big celebration.

But then, in July, when the weather was hot and the juices were flowing, the 40-year-old decided he wasn’t sure.

Maybe he *did* want to play another year, after all.

So, you know, retirement cancelled … or at least postponed.

After a winter at home with the family, though, and with Spring Training bearing down on him — and when the Reds apparently let him know they were moving on — Larkin really did retire.

In February 2005.

The timing of it all was pretty amazing — and maybe a bit, um, coincidental — from a baseball card standpoint.

To begin with, Donruss issued their 2005 base set in November 2004, about a month after Larkin didn’t retire.

And then, a full year later, Donruss released a set of “Greats” that included Mr. You-Know-Who among the 150-card checklist:

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Now, rival Fleer had gone kaput early in the year — 2005, that is (and later to be continued, sorta, by Upper Deck).

So, seizing on the moment, Donruss played lovey-dovey and marketed their Greats as a tribute to their fallen rival’s Greats of the Game.

Cool, whatever.

It got us a Barry Larkin career-capper within the calendar year after he retired. It counts, and it blows most Donruss cards out of the water in terms of the sheer amount of statistics presented:

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But the whole enterprise turned out to be a bit like Marc Antony praising Brutus if there had been, like, a gladiator river shark waiting to spring from the Tiber and swallow Mr. Orator whole while he waxed.

Because, in between Larkin’s February announcement and his Donruss finale in November, something else happened — namely, MLB revamped their cardboard licensing, and guess who was left holding a bag full of Fleer genuflection.

Yeah, it was Big D.

So, with no license heading into the new year, Donruss played in exactly as many MLB games in 2006 as Barry Larkin did, and Larkin produced exactly as many baseball cards in 2006 as Donruss did.

And, as it turned out, they shared a career-capper after the writing had already marred the wall for both of them.

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