The Other Mike Cameron: A 2009 Topps Mini-Mystery Sorta Solved

Like many card collectors, I have a touch of what R. Crumb called “compulsive series syndrome.” That is, the need to create a collection that is not only complete, but organized in a specific way. As a Milwaukee Brewers collector, that means lining up the flagship team set every year – base cards arranged by last name followed by subsets by number, then the traded or update series organized in the same fashion – in nine-pocket bindered pages. It’s a nice way to capture a season, but the last decade or so of Topps flagship sets has often been frustrating. Series one usually contains  handful of guys no longer with the team while series two begins to roll out off-season additions. Unlike the clean single-series sets of yore, it leaves a sort-of two-season amalgamation of players. It also resulted in one of the true quirks of my flagship Topps Brewers collection – the twin 2009 base cards for Mike Cameron that sit side-by-side in my “2004-Present” binder.

cam

Before the 2008 season, the Brewers signed Cameron to a 1-year deal with an option for a second. Cam was to take over in center field for an over-matched Bill Hall and, after serving a 25 suspension for amphetamines, was one of leaders of a team that won 90 games and broke a quarter-century playoff drought for the Brewers. Cameron had a good season, but he wasn’t an all-star, got no MVP votes, and led the league in nothing. He was certainly significant enough to get a spot in the upcoming Topps set… but two? So far as I know, the only other player honored with TWO base cards with the same team in a single set was Ted Williams, who was both the first and last cards in the 1954 set. (I need to make clear here, there may be other examples of this… I just don’t know of or know how to search for them. If you know of others, please mention them)

cam2

So what gives? Well, the series one Cameron card is unremarkable. But the series two card offers a clue. While the series one entry correctly states that Cam was acquired as a free agent on 1-11-08, the second series card says “ACQ: TRADE WITH BREWERS, 12-15-08.” On December 11, 2008, it was reported that the Brewers were very near to a deal to send Cameron to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera. The Brewers had just picked up Cameron’s option year, but were looking at cheaper alternatives in center. Meanwhile, the Yankees were seeking a veteran upgrade from the 23-year old Cabrera. The deal was nearly official before the Yankees asked the Brewers to help pay part of Cameron’s salary. By December 17, it was reported that the deal was dead.

Piecing all this together, we can assume that Topps was finalizing its series two checklist right around the time of the rumored trade and prepared a Cameron-as-Yankee card. When the deal fell apart, they inexplicably kept Cam on the checklist as a Brewer, forgetting to change the ‘how acquired’ line. Why he wasn’t replaced altogether on the checklist remains a mystery. Several players who changed teams around the same time Cameron nearly did appear in series two in their new uniforms, so it’s not as though Topps did not have the time to make significant alterations to the series. And then there is the matter of CC Sabathia, who, like Cameron, was featured in the first series as a Brewer. Sabathia was the that off-season’s top free agent prize, and signed with the Yankees on Dec. 20. While Topps included a number of players who changed teams after Dec. 20 with their new clubs, they ignored the Sabathia signing – and any other player in series one who changed teams – until the update series. So, again, we’re left with to wonder what was so special about Mike Cameron.

So, in my quest to learn why my perfectly-aligned 9-pocket page had two Mike Cameron cards right next to each other, I ended up with as many questions as answers. Can anyone think of other two-base card players in Topps history? Does anyone have any similar petty-yet-maddening card mysteries?

Follow me on Twitter, @mjpmke and check out my blog on Brewers history.

11 thoughts on “The Other Mike Cameron: A 2009 Topps Mini-Mystery Sorta Solved”

  1. If you count errors, then the Brewers had one in 1981 Fleer. Fleer used a photo of Bill Travers and called him Jerry Augustine. Travers already had a card with the Brewers in the set. Instead of giving Augustine a card, the corrected version is Travers’s second base card in the set.

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  2. Both Fleer and Donruss in 1981 had many players with multiple cards, though I believe one of the cards would have the traditional back material and one would have some other trivia about the player. But the fronts of the cards would be designed identically except with a different photo — you have to flip it over to see which was the “real” Pete Rose or Carl Yastrzemski.

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  3. Just the past year, Cubs outfielder Chris Coghlan appeared in both Series One and Update. He was a Cub in 2015, but moved to the A’s in the offseason; still Topps left in Series One as a Cub. Then, the Cubs went ahead and acquired him back, mid-season, and I guess the powers that be at Topps forgot that this “new acquisition” had already been accounted for in One. Coghlan certainly wasn’t the type of player who warrants two base cards – heck, his 2016 barely warranted one!

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  4. Ha! That is an interesting quirk. It’s odd… Topps did that for the Brewers Keon Broxton this year as well. Except he didn’t change teams, he just had a stretch in the minors mid-season. I guess he qualified as a call-up even though he was on the opening day roster. Both have the “rookie card” designation as well.

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  5. I seem to remember Gary Carter got a lot of love from Upper Deck and Topps in 1991. A quick check of tradingcarddb, Carter had two UD issued, and a Topps base, Topps Traded, each with separate images, let alone Topps’ red headed step child O-Pee-Chee.

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  6. There were five players that had two base cards in 2007 Topps: Gary Sheffield, Elizardo Ramirez, Michael Barrett, Mike Rabelo, and Bengie Molina.

    It’s funny, while you can find series 2 cards of both Barrett and Rabelo in packs of 2007 Topps, if you open a factory set, #492 (which was Barrett’s card number) featured John Buck of the Royals. Card #636 (Rabelo) was of Buck’s teammate Billy Butler.

    Michael Barrett of the Cubs also had the honor of having two base cards in the set as well: #68 in S1 and #492 in S2. No explanations or logic behind it. Funny thing though is that while the #492 Barrett card could be found in packs everywhere, if you opened a 2007 Topps factory set, card #492 was John Buck of the Royals.

    I wrote about this a few years back:

    Cards That Makes You Go…What??! of the Week: 2007 Topps #492 (Barrett/Buck) & #636 (Rabelo/Butler)

    Sincerely,

    JayBee Anama
    bdj610

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