Best Player to retire in 2003. Rickey Henderson
Did he have a 2004 card? Yes, a few from Upper Deck and Donruss brands
One of my three favorite players (along with Eric Davis & Ken Griffey Jr.). It’s fitting that Tim Raines was the guy in the previous year’s post and now it’s Rickey’s turn. Henderson played for Boston in 2002, then started the 2003 season in Newark when he didn’t have any MLB suitors. He caught on with the Dodgers for 30 games in 2003, which would prove to be his last. He was back in Newark for the 2004 season and signed to play with the independent San Diego Surf Dawgs in 2005. He did very well for the fledgling minor league team, as they won the California Golden League title.
I don’t think Henderson ever officially retired. He wanted to catch on even after the 2005 season, and even in his Hall of Fame speech he hinted that he still thought he could play. I don’t doubt him – even in 2005 he was probably above Major League replacement level, but teams that are out of the playoffs tend to focus on younger players. Regardless, he’s one of the greatest players of all-time, and aside from Willie Mays and Barry Bonds (pre-steroids), I’d argue he’s the third most complete player.
Henderson had about 8 base cards showing him with the Dodgers (plus many other inserts and hits showing him with previous teams). He wasn’t featured in 2004 Topps, though. That’s another potential “what-if” card. His last Topps card was 2003 Traded which does show him with the Dodgers.
Apologies to: David Cone. The former Cy Young winner sat out all of the 2002 season but attempted a comeback with the Mets in 2003. He retired for good at the end of May after posting a 1-3 record. He didn’t have any final cards in 2004 (he did have a few Yankee legacy cards), probably due to the fact he’d sat out 2002 and then only briefly pitched in ’03. He did have a few update cards in 2003 showing him with the Mets; his last Topps card was in 2002.
Mark Grace and Matt Williams were also pretty good players who hung it up after 2003. Neither had Topps cards in 2004.