Active Duty in ’52 Topps

The Korean War was still ongoing when Topps released its expanded baseball card offering in 1952. Multiple high profile ballplayers were pulled away from the game and subsequently omitted from one of the most popular trading card sets of all time. Red Sox slugger Ted Williams was one as he technically was still enrolled in the Marines and was recalled to service. Whitey Ford was drafted at the end of 1950 and had already missed the 1951 season.

This isn’t to say Topps skipped over every player that would miss the 1952 season. One pitcher was thought to have such a promising career ahead of him that he was included in the checklist of one of the later series. The text on the back of his card even mentions his service induction, saying he “went into the service before the start of the 1952 season.” Chet Nichols was coming off an impressive rookie 1951 performance in which he led the National League in ERA. He finished in second place (distantly) to Willie Mays in Rookie of the Year voting. Topps was clearing anticipating a talented replacement for Johnny Sain in the Braves’ famed “Spahn then Sain and pray for rain pitching” rotation.

1952 Topps #288 Chet Nichols

Nichols returned to baseball and civilian pursuits in 1954. Control problems limited his effectiveness and he bounced around several teams before leaving the game in 1964. His father, Chet Nichols, Sr., was a former major league pitcher.