The end of a baseball season brings all sorts of emotions …

Sorrow, because another incarnation of the Boys of Summer are gone for good.

Excitement, because the postseason looms.

Regret, because you didn’t see enough games this year, and you won’t be able to see any more until next spring.

But most of all, the end of a baseball season brings joy and reflection. A time to think about all that’s come before and all that lies ahead, and how wonderful it is to wrap yourself in the nostalgia of our sweet soap opera.

And what better way to dig into those good feelings than with a cardboard trip down memory lane?

After all, baseball cards give us special endings, too, right? I mean,  forever and a day, Topps has reserved prime real estate for prime movers in the game.

Those prime numbers include, of course, the first card in the set, and the century markers (#100, #200, etc.). But they also loop in the final pasteboard of each set, the one that sends us off into the oblivion of another winter.

Here, then, are the final Topps cards from each set of the 1980s, when our fields, and our hopes, were green and fresh.

Did they all merit their lofty last-card status? You can be the judge of that, but I’ll help you make the case …

1980 Topps Steve Yeager (#726)

1980 topps steve yeager

If you look at just his lifetime stats, you might think Steve Yeager was just about the last guy you’d find on a prime baseball card property — .228 batting average, 102 home runs, 410 runs batted in, 14 stolen bases.

Doesn’t seem the stuff of legend, right?

But look deeper and you’ll see that Yeager was a key member of those great Los Angeles Dodgers teams of the 1970s, lining up as the regular catcher for a good hunk of his 15 years in the Major Leagues (the last of which he played for the Seattle Mariners in 1986).

During that time, Yeager logged plenty of post-season time, and he stepped up his game in October to .252 with five homers and 14 RBI in 38 NLCS and World Series appearances.

It didn’t hurt that Yeager was handling some tremendous Dodgers hurlers along the way, including 1979 NL Rookie of the Year Rick Sutcliffe and would fold in award-winners Steve Howe and Fernando Valenzuela in 1980 and 1981.

Those were heady times.

So, yeah, Yeager and his Dodger Blue look just fine on card #726 in 1980 Topps.

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1981 Topps Rick Monday (#726)

1981 topps rick monday

By 1981, Rick Monday‘s flag-saving All-Star days were well behind him, but he was still a well-loved figure for the fans of his various teams: Oakland A’s, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers.

Monday still had some pop left in his 35-year-old bat, too, and would smack 29 home runs over the final four seasons of his career.

Like Yeager, Monday also tasted post-season glory with the Dodgers (and A’s), though his October results were not all that spectacular — .210, one homer, two RBI in 30 games.

For his career, Monday wound up with 241 homers among his more than 1600 hits — and, of course, one set-capper in 1981 Topps.

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1982 Topps Frank Tanana (#792)

1982 Topps Frank Tanana

Once upon a time, a young Frank Tanana provided the left-handed smoke to complement Nolan Ryan‘s righty fire in the California Angels rotation.

Indeed, the future looked bright for the phenom in the mid-1970s when he reeled off a string of top-5 Cy Young finishes.

Then came injuries, off-field-problems, sinking performance, and bouncing from team to team.

Tanana eventually became an accomplished pitcher — not just a thrower — for the Detroit Tigers in the 1980s. Before he got there, though, he made a one-year stop with the Boston Red Sox.

His 4-10, 4.01 ERA mark was good enough to wear out his BoSox welcome after one season  but also good enough to land him the last card in the 1982 Topps seet — somehow.

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1983 Topps Chris Chambliss (#792)

1983 Topps Chris Chambliss

Chris Chambliss was one of the more understated members of the New York Yankees mini-dynasty of the late 1970s, but then, just about everyone seemed understated compared to Reggie Jackson and Billy Martin.

Chambliss was a rock at first base for those teams, though, and was always good for something along the lines of .280, 17 home runs, 80 RBI per year.

And, of course, he had a monster NLCS in 1976 to help the Yankees reach the World Series for the first time in over a decade.

By 1982, Chambliss was entering his third season for the fairly putrid Atlanta Braves. He’d continued his strong production, but the rest of the team had yet to take off.

That all changed in 1982 when Dale Murphy won the first of his two NL MVP awards and the Braves took the old National League West division crown.

For his part, Chambliss smacked 20 bombs, drove in 86, and hit .270.

The last card of the 1983 Topps set is a fine commemoration of that sweet season.

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1984 Topps Bill Russell (#792)

1984 Topps Bill Russell

Bill Russell revolutionized the NBA with his wingspan and defensive …

Oh, sorry. Let me try again.

Bill Russell was the shortstop for the 1970s Dodgers teams that featured the longest-running intact infield to have a future ruined politician manning first base. Or something like that.

Russell was a light-hitting middle infielder, as was the style of the day, but he had some speed and a decent eye, so he got on base and scored some runs.

He was one of the better defenders of the era at short, too. And, well, Dodgers.

Considering that 1983 was Russell’s last year as a mostly regular SS and that LA won the NL West that summer, this last-card treatment in 1984 Topps seems just fine.

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1985 Topps Darrell Evans (#792)

1985 Topps Darrell Evans

The 1984 Detroit Tigers were one of the great teams of the modern era and walked virtually unchallenged through the regular season, the ALCS against the Kansas City Royals, and the World Series against the San Diego Padres.

That Tigers team was loaded with stars like Alan Trammell, Lou Whitaker, Jack Morris, Lance Parrish, and Kirk Gibson, not to mention Hall of Fame manager Sparky Anderson.

One of the chronically unsung heroes of that squad was first baseman Darrell Evans. Granted, the 37-year-old hit .232 with only 16 homers that summer, but he’d bounce back with 40 dingers in 1985.

Topps never lost faith in the first baseman with a solid but overlooked HOF case of his own — he landed on the final card of the 1985 set.

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1986 Topps Charles Hudson (#792)

1986 Topps Charles Hudson

The 1985 Philadelphia Phillies finished 75-87 and in fifth place in the National League East.

Twenty-six-year-old right-hander Charles Hudson made 26 starts among his 38 appearances. He finished the season at 8-13 with a 3.78 ERA, effectively ending his “prospect” status.

It was all an exercise in spectacular mediocrity, which I suppose made Hudson a strong candidate for a prime spot in the 1986 Topps set, the cardboard embodiment of spectacular mediocrity.

Topps bit and granted Hudson the last slot.

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1987 Topps Checklist (#792)

1987 Topps Checklist 661-792

After a milquetoast offering in 1986, Topps cranked up the time machine and the design outrage factor to bring back woodgrain borders for the first time since 1962.

Generally, collectors loved or hated the cards, with the preponderance falling toward the former chasm.

It didn’t hurt any that the set was loaded with huge rookie cards of the day, guys like Wally Joyner, Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco, and … um … Tim Pyznarski.

So how did Topps cap off one of their capstone sets? Maybe with a member of the 1986 World Champion New York Mets? Or perhaps with one last rookie prospect?

Nah, they went with full-on collector hate — a checklist featuring cards #661-792.

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1988 Topps John Tudor (#792)

1988 Topps John Tudor

I’ll tell you what … John Tudor was the man!

In 1985.

That season, as the St. Louis Cardinals tore off toward a historic match-up with the Kansas City Royals in the World Series, Tudor went 21-8 with a stupid 1.93 ERA and 10 shutouts among his 14 complete games.

The next season, he “slipped” to 13-7, 2.82 ERA — very good but not spectacular.

In 1987, Tudor was limited to 16 starts but went 10-2 with a 3.84 ERA.

So, even with limited appearances after 1985, Topps’ decision to cap their 1988 set with Tudor wasn’t terrible.

It looked much better after  Tudor combined to go 10-8 with a nifty 2.32 ERA between the Cards and Dodgers that season.

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1989 Topps Rafael Santana (#792)

1989 Topps Rafael Santana

Rafael Santana came to the Major Leagues in 1983 with the St. Louis Cardinals, then signed as a free agent with the New York Mets before the 1984 season.

He was going to man shortstop for a decade or more as the Mets reeled off championship after championship. That didn’t quite pan out, but Santana was in the hole when the NYM took the World Series in 1986, led by stalwarts like Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden, Lenny Dykstra, Gary Carter, and Keith Hernandez.

Santana was an old prospect, though, and the Mets traded the 29-year-old to the cross-town New York Yankees before the 1988 season. The “youngster” hit .240 with four homers, 38 RBI, and a single stolen base that summer.

But he was the Yanks’ starting shorstop, so, yeah, Topps made him their last card of the entire decade.


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(Check out our other posts about baseball card values here.)

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