Like many other Hall of Famers, Liz Lemon went one season too long

30-rock cast finale nbcTomorrow night we are saying goodbye to Tina Fey, Alec Baldwin, Tracy Morgan, Jane Krakowski, Jack McBrayer and so many of the great players on the 30 Rock team. The seven seasons end with a one-hour finale Thursday night on NBC with sadness for all the great comedy they provided for us over the years and how weak their final season has been.

At its best, 30 Rock was brilliant comedy. Snarky and filled with inside-baseball jokes about the medium, the show was must-see-tv. But, over the last season plus, the jokes are now jokes about jokes. The one-liners miss more than hit and too frequently it feels like one-joke Saturday Night Live sketches that have gone on too long.

But knowing when to quit is not an easy thing either in television or in baseball. Not everyone can be Ted Williams and hit .316 in their last season and homer in their last at bat. More often, their careers end with that one (or two) last embarrassing season.

Here’s a sample of nine players who should have called it a career a little sooner.

Nine to Know

  1. Willie Mays – The Say Hey Kid hit .211 in his last season and looked lost in the field.
  2. Mickey Mantle – In 1966, the Mick had a .305 lifetime average. In 1967, it was .302. When he retired after the 1968 season, it was .298.
  3. Steve Carlton – Lefty finished his career with a 329-244 record with a 3.22 ERA. Over the last four seasons, with five different clubs, his record was 16-37 with a 5.21 ERA.
  4. Babe Ruth – The Bambino played in 28 games for the Boston Braves in 1935 and hit .181 with six homers before he called it quits.
  5. Ken Griffey Jr. – Junior did his best, but in his last 150 games with the Mariners he struggled hitting just .208.
  6. Early Wynn – Gus really wanted to win 300 games and he really didn’t care how he did it. At the ages of 42 and 43 he pitched two final seasons and appeared in 47 games, made 31 starts and had a record of 8-17. He finished with exactly 300 wins.
  7. Jack Chesbro – Happy Jack couldn’t have been that happy that his record his last two seasons were 14-20 and 0-5.
  8. Carlton Fisk – It’s too bad that Pudge couldn’t reach the catcher longevity records before his final three seasons resulted in 221 games, 22 homers, 99 RBI, and a .234 BA.
  9. Rickey Henderson – If you offered Rickey a contract today, he would probably take it. In his last three seasons (2001-03), Rickey played for the Padres, Red Sox, and Dodgers and hit .224 in 225 games. He stole a total of 36 bases the same number he stole in 2000.

A weak ending should in no way lesser the greatness of the career that preceded it. Just like the great players above, 30 Rock is a Hall-of-Famer and we should thank the great Tina Fey for all the memories, the laughs, and the great lines. With seven seasons, 14 Emmys, six Golden Globes and a Peabody Award, it was one great show.

Given the choice, I will always want to go to there.