Sunday, August 17, 2014


I'm going to be going on a brief hiatus for a couple weeks.  I had back surgery done on Wednesday and I suspect that attempting to continue the blog during recovery is going to be difficult.  I'll try to still respond to comments and questions although I won't guarantee that I'll do it in a timely manner.

Hopefully I'll be back blogging by the middle of September.  Take care and I'll see you then.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

10 Years Of OB Team Sets

NPB celebrated the 70th Anniversary of professional baseball in Japan in 2004*.  Since the Giants were the first professional team in Japan, they also celebrated their 70th Anniversary that year.  To commemorate the Giants' anniversary, BBM released a set called (obviously) the Giants 70th Anniversary set.  (They also released a small box set for the 70th Anniversary of professional baseball but the less said about it, the better.)

* Just to be clear, Nippon Professional Baseball as an organization has not been around since 1935.  Professional baseball in Japan was called the Japan Baseball League from 1935 until 1949.  The reorganization into the two league system resulted in the creation of NPB.

The Giants 70th Anniversary set was the first set BBM ever released that was a team specific OB set.  BBM had done team specific sets before that included OB players (the 1999 Seibu Lions team set celebrating their 20th year in Tokorozawa is one example) but this was the first set that featured many more OB players than current players.  The pack based set pretty much established the pattern for many of the OB team sets that would come later.  There was a six card "History Of The Giants" subset, a large subset (75 cards in this case) featuring OB players for the Giants which included players who were still active at the time in both NPB and MLB, and a smaller subset (28 cards in this set) featuring the current year's team.  This particular set was 104 cards, the largest of any of the OB team sets.  Most would be 99 cards with some of the more recent sets dropping to 90 or even as low as 81 cards.

BBM followed up the Giants set with 70th Anniversary sets for the Tigers (in 2005) and Dragons (in 2006).  In 2008, they really got going - pumping out sets to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Hawks, the 40th Anniversary of the acquisition of the Orions by Lotte, the 30th Anniversary of the Lions being acquired by Seibu and the 30th Anniversary of the Whales (now Baystars) moving to Yokohama.  In addition to those pack based sets, BBM also issued box sets celebrating the Lions' 29 years in Fukuoka and the closing of Hiroshima Municipal Stadium.

2009 saw another six OB team sets.  The 60th Anniversary of the two league system brought 60th Anniversary sets for both the Lions and the Carp as well as a Kintetsu Memorial set (BBM had done a small box set in 2004 to commemorate Kintetsu leaving professional baseball but that was a more traditional BBM team set with only a relative few OB players).  Another set celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Swallows by Yakult.  The 20th Anniversary of Orix buying the Braves from Hankyu was commemorated by a pair of box sets - one was dedicated to Hakyu players before the sale of the team and the other was for the Orix era.  Somewhat significantly, 2009 did NOT see a 75th Anniversary set for the Giants.

BBM dialed things back a bit for 2010 and 2011.  They only issued two OB team sets in 2010.  Five years after the Tigers had celebrated their 70th Anniversary, BBM was back with a 75th Anniversary set.  And for the first time, BBM issued an OB team set that was not tied to an Anniversary (or an event like the closing of a stadium) - the Lions Classic set that showcased the throw back uniforms that the Lions had worn in recent seasons.  The set contained both active players wearing the throw back uniforms and OB players wearing the original uniforms.  BBM did three more sets in 2011, only two of which were actual Anniversary sets - the Dragons 75th and the Marines 20th year in Chiba.  The other set was a tie-in to a promotion that the Orix Buffaloes were doing that commemorated the 1970's era Kintetsu Buffaloes and Hankyu Braves.

After no OB team sets in 2012 (for the first time since 2007), BBM brought them back with a vengeance in 2013.  Three were "traditional" Anniversary sets - the Hawks 75th, the Baystars 20th of having the name and the Fighters 10th of being in Hokkaido.  They also did a small box set featuring the three Nippon Series championships that the Hawks had won during their 25 years in Fukuoka.  Lastly, BBM started a new series of OB team sets called Legend.  The first one was for the Giants and commemorated the two stints Shigeo Nagashima had managing the team (1975-1980, 1993-2001).  The second highlighted the Tigers in the 1980's (when they won their sole Nippon Series championship).

So far 2014 has seen three OB team sets - the latest Legend set that commemorates the Senichi Hoshino era with the Dragons (1987 to 2001 although he didn't manage them that entire stretch) and Anniversary sets for the Eagles (10th) and Orix (25th).  I'm anticipating that there will be a Giants 80th Anniversary set before the end of the year but that remains to be seen.

If you've read this blog for a while then you know that I'm a big fan of the OB teams sets.  I actually own all of these sets and I've written a post on all of them except the Giants and Dragons 70th Anniversary sets.  I thought I'd present a table breaking all the sets down by team with links to the post for the set:

Team Year Set Commemorates Type Of Set
Chiba Lotte Marines 2008 Lotte 40th Anniversary Lotte buying Orions in 1968 Pack
2011 Chiba 20th Anniversary Lotte moving to Chiba from Kawasaki in 1992 Pack
Chunichi Dragons 2006 Dragons 70th Anniversary Dragons 70th Anniversary Pack
2011 Dragons 75th Anniversary Dragons 75th Anniversary Pack
2014 Dragons Legend Senichi Hoshino Mangerial Era (1987-2001) Pack
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 2008 Hawks 70th Anniversary Hawks 70th Anniversary Pack
2013 Hawks 75th Anniversary Hawks 75th Anniversary Pack
2013 Fukuoka Legacy Nippon Series Championships in Fukuoka Box
Hanshin Tigers 2005 Tigers 70th Anniversary Tigers 70th Anniversary Pack
2010 Tigers 75th Anniversary Tigers 75th Anniversary Pack
2013 Tigers Legend 1980's Pack
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 2008 Hiroshima Memorial Closing of Hiroshima Municipal Stadium Box
2009 Carp 60th Anniversary Carp 60th Anniversary Pack
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 2013 Fighters 10 Years in Hokkaido 10th Anniversary of Fighters moving to Sapporo Pack
Orix Buffaloes (including Kintetsu) 2009 Hankyu Memorial Players from before Orix bought Braves in 1988 Box
2009 Orix 20th Anniversary 20th Anniversary of Orix buying Braves Box
2009 Kintetsu Memorial 60th Anniversary of founding of Kintetsu team in 1950 Pack
2011 Legend Of The Bs 1970's era Hankyu and Kintetsu Pack
2014 Orix 25th Anniversary 25th Anniversary of Orix buying Braves Pack
Saitama Seibu Lions 2008 Lions Memorial Players from before Seibu bought the Lions in 1978 Box
2008 Seibu 30th Anniversary 30th Anniversary of Seibu buying the Lions in 1978 (and moving them from Fukuoka to Tokorozawa) Pack
2009 Lions 60th Anniversary Lions 60th Anniversary Pack
2010 Lions Classic Lions throw-back uniforms Pack
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 2014 Eagles 10th Anniversary Eagles 10th Anniversary Pack
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2009 Yakult 40th Anniversary 40th Anniversary of Yakult buying the Swallows in 1969 Pack
Yokohama DeNA Baystars 2008 Yokohama 30th Anniversary 30th Anniversary of then-Whales moving to Yokohama from Kawasaki Pack
2013 Baystars 20th Anniversary 20th Anniversary of Whales changing their name to Baystars Pack
Yomiuri Giants 2004 Giants 70th Anniversary Giants 70th Anniversary Pack
2013 Giants Legend Shigeo Nagashima's stints as manger (1975-1980, 1993-2001) Pack

As you can see from this list, all 12 NPB teams have had at least one OB team set done.  The coverage of a team's history, however, varies greatly from team to team.  While most teams have coverage for their entire history (in theory anyway), for teams are missing large chunks of their history.  The Marines, the Swallows and the Whales all were founded in 1950 but their coverage in the OB teams sets starts in 1969, 1970 and 1978 respectively.  The Fighters have been around nearly 70 years (they started life as the Senators in 1946) but their history prior to 2004 has been ignored.  I'd love to see BBM rectify this for these four teams but I'm not really expecting it to ever happen.

Card Of The Week August 10

Juzo Sanada was a star pitcher for the Taiyo Robins (aka Pacific in 1946 and the Shochiku Robins in 1950-51) in the years immediately following the war (during which he served in the Navy).  He threw two no-hitters and won a Central League record 39 games in 1950, leading the Robins to the inaugural Nippon Series (that they lost to the Mainichi Orions).  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1990, a couple of years before he passed away.

As far as I can tell, Sanada has only appeared in three BBM sets - the 2006 Nostalgic Baseball set, the 2012 No-hitters set and the recently released 80th Anniversary Pitchers Edition set.  I have a couple cards of him from 1949.  Here's one of them, from the JBR 53 set:

One of the things I really like about this card (other than showing off Sanada's leg kick) is the faces in the crowd behind him.  There's what looks like a couple kids in the front row enjoying themselves and a couple guys behind them that look kind of bored - the one guy is resting his head on his hand and the other appears to be yawning.

2009 BBM Masaichi Kaneda Set

In late 2008 through 2009, BBM issued a series of three biographical box sets they called the "Legend Series".  The first two were for two greats who had retired at the end of the 2008 season - Sadaharu Oh and Kazuhiro Kiyohara.  The third (and final) set was for Masaichi Kaneda.  I'd been back-and-forth about getting this set for years but I finally decided to pick it up earlier this year.  I'm glad I did as it's a nice set.

I have to say though that I have no idea why BBM decided to do a Kaneda set in 2009 and, given that Kaneda rarely appears in an OB set, I have no idea why Kaneda agreed to do it (well, other than my favorite Krusty the Clown quote - "They drove a dump truck full of money up to my front door! I'm not made of stone!").  Like almost all BBM box sets, this one has x number of cards in it where x-1 cards are in the base set and the other card is a "special" card - parallel, autograph or memorabilia.  In this particular case, x = 35 and I'm not sure what "special" cards were available.  As usual, I got an opened set.

Having 34 cards in the base set works out well as 34 was the number that Kaneda wore during his career (including his two stints as Lotte Orion manager).  The first 19 cards in the set cover his days with the Kokutetsu Swallows from 1950 to 1964.  This includes a couple cards of him in street clothes.  Unlike some of BBM's other biographical sets, there are no childhood pictures of Kaneda in the set.




 Card #08 commemorates Shigeo Nagashima's first professional game, where Kaneda struck him out four times.  Two of the other cards celebrate the two no-hitters he pitched for the Swallows.

10 of the base cards deal with the five years he spent with the Giants from 1965 to 1969, the first five seasons of the Giants V9 stretch.  These five championships were the only ones of his career, as the Swallows were pretty pathetic during most of his years with them.  There are cards commemorating his 400th (and final) win in 1969 and his retirement ceremony on Opening Day of 1970.  This card shows him getting the final out of the 1967 Nippon Series:

Four of the remaining five cards deal with his days as Lotte Orions manager during the 1970's (nothing for his return in 1990 and 1991).  The fifth card is for his Hall Of Fame induction in 1988, which I used for Card Of The Week a few months back.


Card #30 is the only color card in the entire set.  Card #34 shows the victory parade in downtown Sendai for Lotte's championship in 1974.

You can see all the cards here.  I really like the photography in the set and the cards have a very clean, unobtrusive design.

One card in the Kokutetsu cards kind of stands out - this one showing Kaneda and another player wearing Japan National Team uniforms.  I don't know for sure what this is from - the History Of Uniform indicates that the uniforms were worn in 1951, 1953 and 1956.  I think this picture is from 1956.  I don't know if these were worn during the post season tours by MLB teams.  The Dodgers toured Japan in 1956 but none of the pictures I've seen from the tour show these uniforms.


Some Unknown Menkos

I've picked up a number of old menko cards in the last month or so from Ebay.  A couple of them I have been unable to identify.  Any suggestions anyone has would be helpful.

Kagome was a company that produced a number of sets of rectangular menko in the late 1940's and early 1950's,  The company had a distinctive logo - a six point star.  This Fumio Fujimura card was obviously made from Kagome but the set does not appear in Engel (or at least I haven't found it).  There's a set called Kagome 1 2 3 4 (JCM 52) that is somewhat similar but this card is not from that set.

This Masaichi Kaneda card looks very much like a Kagome card but it does not have the logo.  This is potentially a very early card of Kaneda, perhaps from his rookie year of 1950.

I think this card of Atsushi Otsu of the Tigers is from the same menko set as the "action" cards I wrote about last fall.  It would be from around 1957.

Marusan cards are among the more common menko cards.  They were produced between 1957 and 1964.  A couple of the sets were imported to the US by Mel Bailey and Bud Ackerman in the early to mid 1960s.  Given that the sets are pretty well known, I was surprised to discover that I could not place this Shigeo Nagashima card.  I suspect that it is from one of the JCM 12a-e sets from around 1961 and 1962 but that's really nothing more than a gut feeling.

The last card is of Shigeru Fujio of the Giants.  It's clearly a Marukami "Bat On Right" card from the JCM 14a-g sets from 1959-64.  Based on the size of the text and the location of the team name (and the fact that it's not in parentheses), it looks to me that it's from the 1961 JCM 14d set but it is not listed.  That particular set is the rarest of the "Bat On Right" sets - a couple of the later sets are perhaps the most commonly seen menko cards.

If anyone has any ideas about these cards or can point out to me where I missed them in Engel, please let me know.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

2007 Calbee Pack Busting

Got an odd unopened pack of Calbees in the mail today from an Ebay win.  It's a clear cellophane pack with the Calbee logo on it and several cards in it.  From looking at the two visible cards, it was obvious that the cards were from 2007:

Pack Front

Pack Back
There were eight cards in the pack:

I don't know if it was by design, but the pack was all Pacific league and very heavy on Orix and Rakuten.

I'm curious how this pack was distributed.  Obviously the packs distributed with the chip bags only have 1-3 cards in them (depending on the year) and have never been transparent.  What are these from?

Friday, August 8, 2014

The World Is Saved

This discussion on Reddit NPB the other day reveals that there is another place to check out live streams of NPB baseball - a Korean site called WinTV24.  From what I've seen the last two mornings, the NPB games will appear in the channel list when they are available.  Video quality is very good and the streams are from Japanese channels, so you still get to see some of the more entertaining Japanese commercials:

Resist the urge to point out what the "ichi" alien looks like. This is a family blog...'

Can't seem to find the Koshien tournament Opening Ceremony however, so I still do miss