Two months ago, I went on a mission which seemed truly impossible. I wanted to track down the man behind Pacific Trading Cards, Mike Cramer. The man was a hobby staple for decades but truly fell off the face of the Earth after his company, mired in controversy, lost its baseball license. Mike’s “cork” card of Manny Ramirez made Major League Baseball look foolish and by 2004, Pacific was out of the trading card business.
I have had little problems in finding executives of the past like the Father/Son duo that killed Fleer and the man who ran the most popular card company of 1997 and decided to shut down its doors, breaking the heart of a 17 year-old in Florida in the process. However, Mike has been impossible to track down. The man is the definition of an enigma who has no internet foot print whatsoever.
In early March, I even had a hot lead to a Mike Cramer in Virginia. Through some internet sleuthing, I was even able to find his work place address and phone number and made several attempts to contact him. Finally, one day he returned my call and even though the resemblance was uncanny, he claimed to not be the Mike Cramer of the forgotten Pacific Trading Cards company we loved.
Below is the exact conversation we had on the phone:
Mystery Man – Hi, is this Mario? This is Mike, I am returning your call.
Mario – Mike, thank you. I won’t take up much of your time … I just have one question.
Mystery Man – Uh, okay, what is it?
Mario – Are you THE Mike Cramer of Pacific Trading Cards?
Mystery Man – Short pause ….. loud SIGH. NO.
At that point, this mystery man also named Mike Cramer hung up on me. I couldn’t help analyze his short pause and loud sigh. When someone calls me and it is the wrong number, most times I just say “wrong number” and move on. Was this our Mike and was he upset someone tracked him down? Just look at the side by side pictures, specifically in the nose area. That’s one hell of a resemblance.
Out of respect to this man’s privacy, that was the last form of communication I had with this Mike Cramer. I basically gave up at that point and even discussed my failed attempt to track down Mike on my “one and done” podcast, The Cardfrontation with “Card Cop” who also spent much of his time attempting to track down Mike. You can hear an excerpt of that conversation HERE.
It’s fair to say that I moved on as we hit April. This was just a man who didn’t want to be found and left the industry completely disgraced. I understand why he would want to move on but I feel personally that he needs to know that nearly twenty years since their last baseball set, collectors still LOVE Pacific Trading Cards and some would give an arm and a leg to see their proper, non-Panini America return.
That’s why a particular email sent to me last week was such a pleasant surprise. It came from an industry insider who asked me to keep his identity a secret. What he told me isn’t anything Earth-shattering but it is the first real update on Mike Cramer in 15+ years. This insider is a friend of Mike’s and told me that Cramer is alive and healthy and now has a new career as a painter.
In a follow-up email, I asked if Mike knows how the online card collecting community feels about him and his work and if there was some way to contact him to set up a very friendly interview. That email was sent on the April 2nd and has yet to be returned my way. If it does, I will do whatever it takes to get a few minutes with the man behind Pacific Trading Cards.
Story developing …