If you look closely at the 1957 Topps #95 Mickey Mantle card’s right side, you can see that Topps tried to air-brush someone out of the card. But who is this out-of-place figure? Rumor is that Topps washed out a maintenance worker who was walking by. But the remaining silhouette allowed collectors in 1957 to let their imaginations run, and many joked it was the “Ghost of Babe Ruth.” In this article, I’ll break down the odds of who this mysterious figure might be.
The Ghost of Babe Ruth – Odds 5%.
I saw The Sandlot, the greatest baseball movie of all time, and The Babe showed up black and white. Plus, the Mantle card “ghost” looks to be wearing slacks and a shirt – but let’s not completely discount the supernatural.
Casey Stengel – Odds 1%.
Stengel likely would have been in uniform on a day photos were being taken.
Photographer – Odds 5%.
I think professional photographers have the wherewithal to stay out of other people’s shots.
An Umpire Without a Jacket – Odds 1%.
Why would an umpire be walking around during a photo session? Plus, their pants were black.
Groundskeeper-Maintenance Person – Odds 88%.
The following image shows groundskeepers at work from the era, and the worker seeding the infield’s clothes (cap, pants, and shirt) match the picture in Mantle’s 1957 Topps card particularly well.
I suspect we will continue hearing about the “Ghost of Babe Ruth” on the 1957 Topps Mantle card for years to come. But since air-brushing is more prevalent on some ’57 Mantle cards than others, rumors will persist. I’m still hunting for the original photo Topps used for the card, as that would likely clear things up. If you have any theories or access to the Type-photo used to make Mantle’s 1957 Topps card, let me know over on Twitter or in the comments below.