Sunday, May 22, 2016

Card Of The Week May 22

The Fighters beat the Hawks last Tuesday 7-2.  It was Rick Van Den Hurk's first loss at the top level in Japan since his debut with the Hawks last season.  He had won his 14th straight decision a week earlier to pass Taigen Kaku of the Lions and Tsuneo Horiuchi of the Giants for most consecutive wins to start an NPB career.

I don't have any particularly interesting cards of Van Den Hurk with the Hawks - flagship cards from BBM for this year and last year, BBM Hawks' team set card from last year and Calbee card from this year - but as he played for the Netherlands in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, he's in the Konami WBC Heroes set from that year:

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09R157/253

Saturday, May 21, 2016

BBM's Website Is Back!

After being down for the better part of a month, BBM's website is back on line.  They've moved their list of new sets to a new page.  They've added info for a couple of the sets I mentioned last month - the Tatsunari Hara box set and the Carp and Baystars team sets - but not for the Lions team set and the Ohtani/Fujinami box set.  The Lions set is scheduled to be released this coming Friday so BBM better get moving.

BBM did add information for two more of the team sets - the Buffaloes and the Fighters.  Both sets have base sets of 81 cards featuring around 70 cards for the players and manager and several subsets.  Both sets have four insert sets - the Fighters have 27 cards over the four sets while the Buffaloes have 18.  Both sets have the usual collection of autograph cards available.  I'm amused that the Fighters set has an 11 card subset featuring the players in street clothes - I guess BBM felt threatened by the AI set that came out recently.  Both sets will be out in mid-June.

Epoch has also recently announced a couple new products.  The latest of the team based "Stars & Rookies" sets is for the Buffaloes and will be released on June 25.  It's pretty much the same idea as the Lions and Baystars sets Epoch has released earlier this season - each box (that retails for 12,960 yen or roughly $118) contains two mini-boxes containing 6 cards each - one or two will be autographed cards and the others will all be base set cards.  I think it breaks down to 9 base set cards and three autograph cards per box.  There are apparently some "hot boxes" that will contain four autograph cards.  There are 27 cards in the base set and a boatload of possible autograph cards.

The other Epoch set is their latest ultra high end set done in conjunction with the OB Club (aka the Japan Baseball Promotion Association).  The theme of this one appears to be "League Leaders".  Once again, it's a very expensive box (16,200 yen or around $147) for a one pack box containing two base set cards, one insert/parallel card and two autograph cards.  There are 27 players featured in the set - each player has a base set card, two different insert/parallel cards, two different autograph cards and a autographed booklet card available.  The set will be out on July 9.

There's something on Jambalaya's upcoming release schedule that is intriguingly called "Kabaya Central League Baseball gum".  I finally did some Googling of the Hiragana text for it (カバヤ セントラルリーグベースボールガム) and discovered that this is a Epoch set being packaged with banana flavored gum from Kabaya.  There's 36 cards in the set (six for each of the six Central League teams).  The set is being sold in boxes of 20 1 card packs.  The boxes have an MSRP of 2160 yen (about $19.60).  I'm including this link to Amazon Japan's listing of the set so that you can see all the cards - the boxes are not eligible to be shipped outside of Japan though.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Fumiya Nishiguchi And The 1995 Sioux City Explorers

A couple months back I did a post on Lions pitcher Fumiya Nishiguchi on the occasion of his retirement.  I mentioned that I had learned while researching the post that the Lions had sent Nishiguchi to the Sioux City Explorers of the Northern League for six games during 1995 season to learn how to throw a change-up.  I figured that with having only spent six games with the team, he wouldn't have made the card set that was produced for the team by Collect-A-Sport that season but I couldn't find an on-line checklist to confirm or deny it.

It occurred to me a couple weeks after I published the post that I should ask Bill Tyler, the web's foremost authority on the resurrected Northern League (1993-2011) and the independent American Association (2006-present), about the team set.  He confirmed that Nishiguchi actually WAS in the set.  Now all I needed to do was to find a copy of the set.  I lucked into one for a reasonably cheap price on Ebay the other day and it showed up in the mail today.

Here's the front and back of Nishiguchi's card:

The bio is actually pretty accurate - although it was Rissho University, not Ritsho and if you didn't know that collegiate baseball in Japan has a Spring and Fall season, you wouldn't understand what the "Fall League" was.

Nishiguchi was one of three players that the Lions sent to the Explorers that summer.  Pitcher Hisaki Tomioka and third baseman Jun Yamada also played for the team.  Yamada made the team set but Tomioka - despite appearing in twice as many games as Nishiguchi - did not.  Here's Yamada's card:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

RIP Mikio Kudoh

Former Nippon-Ham Fighters pitcher Mikio Kudoh has passed away from liver failure at age 55.  Kudoh was drafted out of high school by the Fighters in second round of the fall 1978 draft.  He debuted with the ichi-gun team in 1979, going 0-1 with one start in three appearances.  He spent the entire 1980 season with the ni-gun team and lead the Eastern League in wins.  He returned to the top team in 1981 and went 2-9 during the regular season - but then he matched that win total in the Nippon Series that season, winning Games One and Three in relief (the only two games the Fighters would win in the Series).  He had by far his best season in 1982, going 20-4 with an ERA of 2.10.  Those 20 wins lead the Pacific League that year and he was named to both the All Star team and the Best 9 team for the only time in his career.  He suffered a finger injury late in the season but was still available to pitch in the Pacific League playoffs* against the Lions - getting the win in Game Three (which was the only win the Fighters would have in the Series) and winning the "Fighting Spirit" award (basically the MVP for the losing team).  He went 8-8 in 1983 and suffered what ended up being a career ending injury to his shoulder.  He only made one appearance at the ichi-gun level in 1984 (going only a third of an inning and giving four runs on a walk, a hit batsman and two hits including a home run) and spent the rest of his career with the ni-gun team.  He briefly converted to being an infielder before retiring after the 1988 season.

*The Pacific League did a split season playoff format between 1973 and 1982 with the first half winner playing the second half winner in a best of 5 playoff series.  If the same team won both halves, there would be no playoff - which is what happened in 1976 and 1978 when Hankyu did it.

For some reason, Kudoh does not have a lot of baseball cards.  He appeared in the Takara Fighters sets between 1981 and 1984 (along with the 1984 Takara Kids set) and he had three cards in the 1983 Calbee set.  To my knowledge, that's all the cards that were released of him during his career.  He only has one BBM cards that I know of - a "Legend Of Champion" subset card from the 2003 BBM Fighters set.  He has not appeared in any of the annual "Historic Collection" sets and since the Fighters have never had an OB team set other than the one that celebrated their 10th Anniversary of their move to Hokkaido, there's never been an OB team set for him to appear in.

Here's the BBM card (the only one of the cards mentioned above that I have):

2003 BBM Fighters #111

Card Of The Week May 15

The Marines and Eagles played two crazy games the last two days in Chiba.  Yesterday, the Marines beat the Eagles 13-12 in 10 innings, winning on a walk off single by Tadahito Iguchi.  Today was another extra inning victory for Lotte, coming back from being down 5-1 after 5 innings to win 9-8 on a game winning single by Alfredo Despaigne in the 11th.  One of the stars for the Marines over the two games was left fielder Katsuya Kakunaka, who went 5 for 7 with four walks over the two games, scoring six runs and knocking in four.  Oh, yeah and he homered in each game as well.

Here's his rookie card from the 2007 BBM 1st Version set (#143):

Monday, May 9, 2016

Card Of The Week May 8

Busy weekend so I'm a day late on this...

Jonny Gomes asked for and received his release last week from the Eagles.  He apparently had a family matter to deal with and hopefully everything will work out well for him.  His exit, however, brings to mind other foreign players who had a quick exits from Japan - Mike Greenwell (7 games with Hanshin in 1997), Frank Howard (1 game with the Lions in 1974 before getting injured), Brian Bannister (left before the 2011 season following the Tohoku Earthquake), etc.

For some reason though (and it's probably unfair to Gomes), I keep thinking about Brad Penny, who the Hawks signed for the 2012 season.  He made one start for them, going 3 1/3 innings against the Eagles and giving up 7 hits and 6 runs (4 earned) while walking three and only striking out one.  He complained of shoulder pain although MRIs in both Japan and the US were negative.  The Hawks released him in late April that year.

Gomes did not appear in this year's 1st Version set and apparently is not in BBM's Eagles team set either.  His only card is in the team-issued Eagles set.  Penny similarly did not make the 1st Version set in 2012 but he did show up twice in the BBM Hawks team set.  He had a regular player card plus a card in the 1968 Topps "Game" card-esque "Newcomers" subset (#H90):

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Takahiro Arai

I'm late getting around to this but Takahiro Arai of the Carp got his 2000th hit last week.  Arai was born and raised in Hiroshima but went to college at Komazawa University in Tokyo.  He was drafted by his hometown team the Carp in the sixth round of the fall 1998 draft.  He left the Carp following the 2007 season as a free agent and signed with the Hanshin Tigers.  He returned to the Carp as a free agent again before the 2015 season.

Arai made the All Star team four times - three times with the Carp (2002, 05 and 07) and once with the Tigers (2008).  He's been named to a Best 9 team once (2005) and won one Golden Glove (2008).  He lead the Central League in home runs in 2005 and RBI in 2011.  He played for the Japan National Team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Olympics.  He has never played in a Nippon Series - he was on the roster for the Tigers for the 2014 Series but a back injury kept him from playing.

His brother Ryota has played for the Dragons and Tigers - the two were teammates with Hanshin from 2011-14.

Here's a sampling of cards from his career (his rookie card is 1999 BBM #374 but I don't have it):

2000 BBM #474

2002 Calbee #SH-8

2006 BBM 1st Version #440

2006 Upper Deck Future Watch #WBC-52

2008 BBM 1st Version #095

2008 BBM All Stars #A18

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #47

2012 BBM 1st Version #334

2015 Epoch Red Helmets 40th Anniversary #21