A Surprise ’52 Topps Mantle?

The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card will probably be one of the last cards I add to my set as even poor condition copies cost multiples of my entire collection. However, when inspecting a recently added card of Tigers outfielder Steve Souchock I spotted a familiar #7 on a uniform appearing in the background. Could it be? Did I really have a 1952 Topps card with Mickey Mantle on it?

Here’s what supported that thought. A player is seen just over Souchock’s shoulder wearing #7. His cap is blue, like the Yankees, and he is wearing a pinstriped uniform. A similarly clad individual is seen holding the other side or observing the movement of a piece of fencing. The logo on the uniform and cap are not distinct but match those worn by the Yankees. Mickey Mantle was one of three Yankees to wear #7 in 1951, the year prior to this card’s production and a good starting point for guessing when photos were taken for the 1952 set. Detroit played often against New York, making Mantle a likely opponent of Souchock’s at the time. Mantle was also a rookie that season so he would have been expected to help break down practice equipment in the manner seen in the photo.

Too bad that’s not Mantle in the picture. Several factors point to this conclusion. For starters, why would opposing players be so close on the field during practice time? Both teams appear to be wearing nearly identical uniforms, from the blue caps and undershirts to white pinstriped jerseys. Detroit does not appear to have utilized pinstripes in this era. Not a single Tiger is depicted in pinstripes in any Bowman issued set from 1948-1953. Souchock’s hat looks heavily painted, a common occurance in the ’52 Topps set and usually a sign that a photograph was woefully out of date. Souchock played partial seasons with the Yankees in 1946 and 1948. Given Topps’ use of old photographs throughout the set and the editing that placed him in a Detroit cap, this photo is very likely from Souchock’s stint in New York. Mantle was still in high school at that time, so #7 is some other Yankee. Three players (Bobby Brown, Oscar Grimes, Aaron Robinson) wore the digit in 1946 and none wore it in 1948, making the photo almost certainly one from Souchock’s rookie season six years prior to the printing of this card.

Souchock played a few partial seasons in the majors but was eventually displaced by injuries and the rising career of Al Kaline. He did manage to bat a perfect 1.000 in 1955, going 1 for 1 with an RBI single in a game against the defending AL champion Cleveland Indians.