Friday, August 17, 2018

Late Summer Releases

Here's information on some new sets that will be released in the next month or so:

- The Hawks are celebrating their 80th Anniversary this year.  BBM commemorated this with a 90 card Hawks Anniversary set back in late March.  That set contained a nine card "Hawks History" subset.  I was kind of baffled that the subset only covered from 1938 to 1968.  A few months later BBM released their annual Hawks team set which contained a nine card continuation of the "Hawks History" subset.  This one covered 1968 to 1988 which made me wonder if they were only covering the Nankai years.  Now BBM has announced a box set for the Hawks entitled "Hawks 80th Anniversary" that features a 27 card base set including the final (I assume) "Hawks History" subset.  It looks like the nine "Hawks History" cards covers the years since 1989.  The other 18 cards feature players from the 2018 Hawks team wearing the 80th Anniversary commemorative uniforms.  The boxes also include either a memorabilia card or an autograph card - possible autographs include people who aren't in the base set - including Hawks president Sadaharu Oh.  The set will be released in late August.

- BBM is releasing a third "Premium" team box set.  This one is for the Hanshin Tigers and is called "Marvelous".  Like the two previous ones ("Invincible" for the Carp and "Ambitious" for the Fighters) each box contains 29 cards - a 27 card base set plus 1 serially numbered "TRUSTWORTHY" insert card and 1 autographed card.  It will out in early September.  And like "Ambitious" the set's name reminds me of a music video from the mid-1980's:

- Epoch is releasing two more team based ultra high end "Stars & Legends" sets - one for the Dragons (out on August 25th) and the Buffaloes (September 8th).  The boxes for the Dragons set retail for 13,600 yen while the Buffaloes boxes are 12,600 yen.  The boxes only contain six cards but at least two of them are guaranteed to be autographed cards.  The Dragons set has a base set of 39 cards - 29 active players and 10 retired players - while the Buffaloes set has a base set of somewhere between 30 and 34 cards - 26 active and 4-8 OB players.  Both sets have a wide variety of autograph cards available.

- After being limited to only two Series last year due to a potato shortage, Calbee is returning to three Series this season.  Series Three will be released around September 17th and will feature 88 cards in its base set, just like Series One and Two did.  There will be 72 "regular" player cards (6 per team), a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset and the ubiquitous four checklist cards.  In addition there will be the usual 24 "Star" insert/premium subset cards and a 12 card "Lucky Card" redemption set (called something like "Team Killing" cards which Google Translate is probably not quite translating correctly).  As usual the checklist for the set is available on-line.

- The Baystars are putting out a team issued set in late September.  It's a pack based set that has an 81 card base set that apparently only features 15 players (including manager Alex Ramirez).  There will be a variety of autograph cards available and I think there will also be memorabilia cards.  The set will be out on September 22nd.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What Is This?

I picked up an interesting card recently off of Ebay that I thought was a menko card but it's not.  I'm not really sure what it is to be honest.  Here's the front of it which was the image I saw on the auction listing:

That's Tetsuharu Kawakami of the Giants on the right and Fumio Fujimura of the Tigers on the left.  I'm guessing that since there's a guy in a Swallows uniform in the background that this is from an All Star game.  I'm pretty sure that the photo is from 1953 as that was the only year that the Giants wore that insignia on their hat and the Tigers started wearing that style uniform in 1953.  If it is from 1953 then the Swallows player is Masaichi Kaneda as he was the only Kokutetsu player to make the CL All Star team that year.

The first thing that told me that this wasn't a menko card was that it's larger than a typical menko card from the 1950's - it's almost "standard" card size.  It's also on much thinner stock than most menko cards are.  The last thing was what the back looked like:

Needless to say this is not a typical menko card back.  This photo shows Noboru Akiyama (standing) and Kiyoshi Doi (squatting) of the Taiyo Whales.  The Whales wore these uniforms in 1955 and 1956 but neither player debuted with the team until 1956 so that narrows it down. 

So I'm guessing that this is some sort of bromide card instead of a menko but I've never seen another bromide that has photos on both sides.  It's also really weird that the photos are from three years apart although I guess it's not unheard of card makers from that era reusing older photos.  I was able to digitally search the latest Vintage Guide from Engel but I didn't find a card meeting this description.  I'm basically stumped on this one.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Card Of The Week August 12

There were two very impressive home runs last Thursday.  Yoshio Itoi of the Tigers hit the back wall of the Tokyo Dome during their game against the Giants (H/T NPB Reddit for the link to the video):

Masataka Yoshida of the Buffaloes launched an impressive shot into the center field seats for a grand slam at the Osaka Dome (not using corporate names until I get a check) against the Lions:

While it looks like Itoi's went further, according to Dingers This Week it was actually Yoshida's home run that was hit further - 435 to 420 feet.  (Surprisingly Zealous Wheeler of the Eagles actually had the second longest home run of Thursday with a 422 foot shot - Itoi's was third longest on the day.) 

Here's are BBM team set cards for both Itoi and Yoshida.  Both of these are from "Newcomer" subsets - Yoshida's is from his rookie year of 2016 (card #Bs72) while Itoi's is from last year (#T72) - his first year (obviously) with Hanshin after four years with Orix.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Lodi T-Shirt

Ebbets Field Flannels unveiled several new T-shirts this week and one of them had a Japanese baseball connection - they included a shirt for the 1972 Lodi Orions which was owned by Lotte Orions Nagayoshi Nakamura and had four players from Lotte on their roster during the year.  Nakamura bought into the Nishitetsu Lions the following year but kept the Lodi franchise, redubbing it the Lions.  He had six Lions players on the roster that year including Akinobu Mayumi.  While I'd rather have a Lions shirt than an Orions shirt I think I'll be ordering one of these for myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Yasutomo Kubo of the Sugar Land Skeeters

I had somehow missed this story a few months back but former Marines, Tigers and Baystars pitcher Yasutomo Kubo came to the US a few months back.  He had originally signed with the Gary SouthShore Railcats of the American Association back in April.  The team released him in mid-May but resigned him in late June just before they traded him to the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League for future considerations.  His manager with the Skeeters is former Chiba Lotte Marine Pete Incavilgia. 

Kubo was drafted in the "free frame" by Lotte in the 2004 draft from Matsushita Electric of the corporate leagues (who he had joined after graduating from Kansaidai Number One High School).  He won his first seven decisions that year and ended up going 10-3 for the eventual Nippon Series champions.  He didn't get into the Series though (the Marines swept the Tigers in four games so I'm guessing he would have started Game Five if it had gone that far) but he did win the Pacific League MVP award.  He was Lotte's Opening Day starter in 2006 but had a poor season, going 7-13.  He missed some time the following year due to a broken finger and his numbers suffered. 

Following the 2008 season Lotte traded him to the Hanshin Tigers for Kentaro Hashimoto.  He went 14-5 in 2010, leading the Central League in Winning Percentage and making the All Star team for the only time in his career.  After being a starter for most of his career the Tigers moved him into a relief role after Kyuji Fujikawa went to the US in 2013.  He left the Tigers for the Baystars as a free agent after that year and he went back to starting role, going 12-6 in 2014.  His playing time decreased over the next three years - last year he only started seven games with the ichi-gun Baystars, going 4-2 with an ERA of 5.35.  The Baystars released him in early October.

His BBM rookie cards are #20 from the 2005 Rookie Edition set and #159 from the 2005 1st Version set.  He's had cards in every 1st Version set from 2005 until 2016.  His first Calbee card was in the Title Holders subset (#T-03) from the 2006 set.  His first "regular" Calbee card was not until 2009 (card #171).  Check out his card list at for a more comprehensive list.

Here's a bunch of his cards:

2005 BBM Rookie Edition #20

2005 BBM 1st Version #159

2006 BBM 1st Version #435

2008 BBM Lotte 40th Anniversary #84

2009 BBM 2nd Version #781

2010 BBM All Stars #A14

2014 Calbee #159

2017 BBM Baystars #DB15
The Skeeters were playing the Lancaster Barnstormers this past weekend.  Since Lancaster, Pennsylvania is only about an hour from my home I went up last Friday night to see if I could get an autograph from him.  Kubo never made an appearance before the game - one of the pitchers in the bullpen told me he usually is stretching under the stands before the game but I might be able to catch him after the game - he said they'd tell him that someone was looking for him.  Unfortunately just after I finished this conversation the skies opened up.  After I waited for about an hour for them to be able to start the game I decided there wasn't much chance of them getting the game in and I wanted to beat the rush to leave.  Sure enough on my way home I discovered that the game had been rained out.  I wasn't able to get back up there on either Saturday or Sunday but the Skeeters are coming back to Lancaster next weekend (the 17th to the 19th) and hopefully I'll be able to try again then.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Card Of The Week August 5

The 100th edition of the National High School Baseball Championship - better known as Koshien - kicked off today.  Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times had an interview last week with Yuki Saitoh of the Fighters where they discussed Saitoh's performance in the 2006 tournament, particularly the final game in which he matched up with Masahiro Tanaka for a 15 inning tie.  Because the final ended in a tie, the game had to be replayed the next day and Saitoh pitched that game as well, winning it 4-3.  He struck out Tanaka to end the game.

I swiped some images of Saitoh from the 2006 from a book celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the tournament that came out a few years ago (this year is the 100th tournament but the first tournament was held in 1915 - there were a couple years - most of which were during the war - where the tournament was not held):

Here's the writeup on the championship that includes a couple photos from a mook celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Koshien Stadium in 2014:

Saitoh's professional career hasn't been particularly successful but it's interesting to see him reflect in the article that he is "still able to continue playing baseball because I still carry that feeling from Koshien. When I think about giving up, the memory of Koshien pulls me back.”  Here's a 2011 Bandai Owners League 02 card (#038) of him:

UPDATE - I don't know why I didn't think to look before I posted this but I found highlights of the 15 inning tie game on YouTube:

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Jason Standridge

Somehow last winter I had missed the story that the Marines had released Jason Standbridge.  It had suddenly clicked with me about a week ago that he wasn't playing and a day or two later the news broke that he had announced his retirement.

Standridge had spent some time in the majors with Tampa Bay, Texas, Cincinnati and Kansas City before joining the Hawks mid-way through the 2007 season.  He spent 2008 with the Hawks before returning to the US.  He started 2009 in the Marlins organization but was released shortly after the season started and ended up spending the rest of the season with Somerset of the independent Atlantic League.  After signing with the Phiillies for 2010 and being released during spring training he returned to Japan and joined the Hanshin Tigers.  He spent four years with the Tigers before returning to the Hawks in 2014.  He spent two seasons in Fukuoka, helping the Hawks win the Nippon Series in both years.  He moved on to the Marines in 2016.  He'd played in Japan long enough that he would no longer counted against the foreign player limit had he played this season.

Here's a card of his from each team he had a stint with:

2008 BBM 1st Version #293

2012 Calbee #060

2014 Calbee #195

2017 BBM Marines #M29