Sunday, May 24, 2015

Achievers

The last of the recent box sets I got from Ryan a week or so ago were the Achievement sets for the Hawks, Buffaloes and Whales.  The Achievement sets a new series of box sets from BBM that have a retro feel to them.  The sets have a matte finish rather than a glossy finish and the backs of the cards have a look that evokes old (pre-1992) Topps cards.  BBM issued sets for the Hankyu Braves and Nankai Hawks last October and the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Taiyo Whales in December.

I don't have a whole lot to add about these sets that I didn't already say about the Braves set so I'll keep this kind of short.  I do like these sets quite a bit - the photos are nice (even if some of them are black and white) and it's an interesting change of pace from BBM.

The Hawks set is only 29 cards while the other two are 30 cards.  The Hawks and Buffaloes sets feature primarily players from the 1970's and 80's which purely from a player selection standpoint make both sets a bit redundant as this era for both teams been featured in a number of OB team sets over the past several years.  Both sets feature the guys you'd expect (Katsuya Nomura, Hiromitsu Kadota, Yoshinori Hirose, Nobuyuki Kagawa for the Hawks, Keishi Suzuki, Masataka Nashida, Koji Ohta, Charlie Manuel, Ralph Bryant for the Buffaloes).  Here's some sample cards from the two sets:

2014 BBM Hawks Achievement #16 (Katsuya Nomura)

2014 BBM Hawks Achievement #23 (Shinsaku Katahira)

2015 BBM Buffaloes Achievement #20 (Yasanuga Makishi)

2015 BBM Buffaloes Achievement #25 (Charlie Manuel)

The Whales set on the other hand features players from the 1950's through the 1970's as it focuses on the team's time in Kawasaki before they moved a little further south to Yokohama in 1978.  This is an era previously untouched by BBM in any of their OB team sets for the Whales/Baystars franchise.  As a result, there's a number of players included in this set that I don't think have previously had BBM cards - Shigeyuki Takahashi, Katsuji Sakai and Isao Itoh are a couple of the names in this group.  There's a large number of players who are a bit more familiar as well - Akio Saitoh, Masaji Hiramatsu, Akihito and Kazuhiko Kondoh, Makoto Matsubara, Shinichi Etoh, Daisuke Yamashita, Tomio Tashiro and John Sipin.  This is the kind of OB team set I'd like to see BBM do more of.

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #04 (Shigekuni Mashiba)

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #13 (Isao Itoh)

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #30 (Kazuhiko Kondoh)

To see all the cards in the sets, check out Jambalaya's pages for the Hawks, Buffaloes and Whales sets.  Ryan has posts up on all the sets as well (Hawks, Buffaloes and Whales).

Card Of The Week May 24

Last week Ichiro Suzuki of the Miami Marlins got his 2,874th hit of him MLB career, passing Babe Ruth for 38th place for batters since 1900 (and 42nd for all time).  Ichiro now has 4,154 between NPB and MLB (including his hit in today's game) which is pretty damned impressive even if it isn't a record.

Here's Ichiro's card from the 1999 TV Sports set:


This was a 16 card set that appeared as an uncut sheet in an issue (or issues) of the magazine TV Sports.  Besides Ichrio, the set included Hideki Matsui, Kazuo Matsui, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Tomonori Maeda, Tsuyoshi Shinjyo, Atsuya Furuta, Tomohiro Kuroki, Kenshin Kawakami, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Atsushi Kataoka, Akinori Ohtsuka, Takanori Suzuki and Yoshinobu Takahashi.  Half the guys in the set ended up spending time in the US and a quarter of them are still active this year in either MLB or NPB (Ichiro, Kazuo Matsui, Kenshin Kawakami and Yoshinobu Takahashi).  So far there are only two Hall Of Famers (Sasaki and Furuta) but that will change.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Just Released and Upcoming New Stuff

Well, once again I've put off doing a new releases post while waiting for BBM to add information about their upcoming sets onto their website and once again, I've ended up delaying so long that one of the sets that they actually did list on the site has been released.  Here's a quick run-down of what's coming soon from BBM and Epoch:

- The latest two team sets from BBM are for the Fighters and the Dragons.  The Fighters set was actually released yesterday and the Dragons set will be out on Tuesday.  Both sets will have 81 cards in their base sets, 18 insert cards (two nine card sets - Sky Is The Limit and Game Changer - for the Fighters, no details for the Dragons) and the usual assortment of autograph cards.

- BBM hasn't updated their new release website in almost a month, but Niki has information up about the team sets for the Marines, Baystars, Tigers and Lions as well as this year's editions of Dancing Heroine - Hana and Classic.

- Niki also has information up about Epoch's next two sets.  The first is a set celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Carp's "Red Helmet" era - the Carp switched to the red caps similar to the ones they wear today starting in 1975.  It's a bit odd that Epoch is releasing this set since they just did one on this era for the Carp last year and BBM covered similar ground in the Carp Legends set last winter.  This set will be a box set containing 64 cards - 61 in the base set plus three "special" cards - a "shadowbox" card, a parallel card and some sort of autograph or memorabilia card.  The big difference between this set and the one released last year is that this one will contain cards of active players, a first for Epoch's box sets.  There will be 32 cards for "active players, coach, mascot" and 29 cards for OB players.  The set will be out in late June.

The other Epoch set is another collaboration with the Japan Baseball Promotion Association called "National Record Holders".    If I'm reading the Google translations correctly, this looks like Epoch's answer to BBM's extremely high end "Masters Of Insert" set.  Each box will contain five serially numbered cards - two regular cards, one "shadowbox" card and two autographed cards.  There are 24 regular cards available, each of which has two possible "shadowbox" parallels (including a "1 of 1" parallel).  The boxes will run 15,000 yen apiece (around $125) and will be released on July 11.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Some 2014 BBM Box Sets

BBM put out three team based box sets last summer that included both active and OB players for the featured team.  Ryan tracked these down for me and included them with the stuff he sent me last week (and I have neglected to publicly thank Ryan for finding all this stuff for me so let me fix that now - Thanks Ryan!).

The first of these was a set that only contained pitchers for the Carp.  This set was called "Pitchers Spirits Of Carp" and featured 27 cards in the base set - 18 OB pitchers and 9 pitchers from the 2014 roster.  The OB players included retired greats like Ryohei Hasegawa, Manabu Kitabeppu, Yutaka Ohno, Shinji Sasaoka, Yoshiro Sotokoba and the late Tsunemi Tsuda as well as Hiroki Kuroda and Kan Ohtake who were active with other teams in 2014.  The active players include Kenta Maeda, Yusuke Nomura, Bryan Bullington, Kam Mickolio and 2014 rookies Aren Kuri and Daichi Ohsera.  It's kind of an odd little set but I like it.  For more information, check out Jambalaya's gallery for the set and Ryan's post on it.

#03

#21
The name of the next set reminds me of some of the Front Runner sets - "Young Hawks - Futures And Legends".  This is a 36 cards set that features 27 "young" players for the 2014 Hawks and 9 "Legend" players from the 1970's era Nankai Hawks.  The active players include guys who were major contributors to the Hawks Nippon Series Championship last year like Shota Takeda and Yuki Yanagita along with guys who pretty much spent the season in ni-gun.  The backs of the cards show the p;ayer's 2014 ichi-gun stats up until May 18th.  One thing I like is that some of the players are shown wearing retro Nankai Hawks uniforms.  The nine "Legend" players include Katsuya Nomura, Yoshinori Hirose and Hiromitsu Kadota.  I don't know if there's a theme to why these OB players were selected to appear in this set.  Oddly enough there's an OB player included in this set (Sanshiro Nishioka) who is making his first BBM appearance despite BBM having done two Hawks Anniversary sets in the past 10 years.  This is an attractive set but probably my least favorite of these three sets.  Once again, check out Jambalaya and This Card Is Cool for more information.

#08

#36
The final box set of this group was issued as a tie-in with the "Lions Classic" series of games that Seibu put on last season.  BBM has issued a couple sets like this in the past (like this one from 2009) and they typically show active players wearing this year's retro uniform along with OB players from the era that the retro uniform is from.  The retro uniform from 2014 was the all blue uniforms that the Lions wore in the 1980's.  This years set (which is named "Lions Classic - Impact Of Lionsblue") contains 27 cards - nine cards showing members of the 2014 Lions and 18 cards showing 1980's era Lions players.  The previous Lions Classic sets have shown the active players in action but this set actually uses posed shots for them instead.  The nine players selected for the set include Shogo Akiyama, Yusei Kikuchi, Kazuhisa Makita and Ginjiro Sumitani.  The OB players kind of surprisingly don't include the obvious guys - there's no Koji Akiyama, Tsutomu Itoh, Kimiyasu Kudoh or Kazuhiro Kiyohara.  The biggest names are Osamu Higashio, Hiromichi Ishige and Koichi Tabuchi.  My only real gripe with this set is that all the OB players except Higashio appeared in the Lions Legend set that came out last November so it's kind of redundant.  As usual, check out Jambalaya and Ryan's blog for more information.

#09

#22

Monday, May 18, 2015

Recent Epoch Sets

Continuing with the box sets I got from Ryan last week...

Epoch has issued two new OB box sets in the last six months, neither of which were done in conjunction with the Japan Baseball Promotion Association.  The first one of these was 46 card set that was issued last November called something like "Giants V9 Glorious Victory".  The set was a tie-in with the Giants 80th Anniversary last season (the third and final set following the Front Runner Giants Stars & Legends set and the BBM Giants 80th Anniversary set) and commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the V9 Giants.  For those who don't know (and even for those who do), "V9 Giants"is the name for the Giants team that won nine straight Nippon Series between 1965 and 1973.

The 46 cards each feature a different player from the Giants' teams of that era.  I haven't done a serious study, but I believe that it's a fairly comprehensive list.  The set includes all the guys you'd expect - Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Isao Shibata, Tsuneo Horiuchi, Masahiko (Masaaki) Mori and Shozo Doi - plus a lot of guys who were very much bit players such as Isao Ohhashi, who got into around 220 games for Yomiuri between 1963 and 1968.  It's probably safe to say that for guys like Ohhashi and Yusaku Akimoto this set may contain their first baseball card ever (the V9 era overlaps the "dead zone" in Japanese baseball card history between the end of the menko era in 1964 and the first Calbee issue in 1973).  This set also contains a card for Masaichi Kaneda, making it the only set of the three Giants 80th Anniversary sets to feature him.

While I like the set quite a bit, I think it could have been a little bit better.  It would have been nice to have had cards for the Giants' manager during this time period (Tetsuharu Kawakami) as well as at least one of the team's coaches - Hall Of Famer Shigeru Makino who has no modern cards.  A subset devoted to each Nippon Series would have been nice as well.  But these are minor quibbles.

Here's some example cards:

#31

#10

#1

As always, Jambalaya has all the cards on line and Ryan did a post on this set a few months back.

The second recent Epoch set came out about a month or two ago.  The Hanshin Tigers are celebrating their 80th Anniversary this season and coincidentally are also celebrating the 30th Anniversary of their sole Nippon Series Championship in 1985.  While BBM is taking care of the former celebration (and I'm hoping to have a post up on that set later this week), Epoch is handing the latter celebration with a 45 card box set entitiled "Tigers Nippon Champions 1985".  43 of the cards in the set feature the players, coaches and manager (Yoshio Yoshida) for the 1985 team.  Like the Giants V9 set, this includes both stars - Randy Bass, Akinobu Okada, Masayuki Kakefu and Akinobu Mayumi - as well as players who's roles were much more minor - like Koichi Hattori who only appeared in 14 games during the 1985 season.  I've only found five players from the team who are not in the set - Rich Gale, Masashi Fujiwara, Hideaki Sato, Eiju Tsukiyama and Shinichi Yamauchi.  (All the missing players except Tsukiyama appeared in BBM's 2013 Tigers Legend set that covered this period of time and ironically Yamauchi appeared in the V9 Giants set!)  The biggest name in the coaches for the team was Hall Of Fame pitcher Tetsuya Yoneda.

The other two cards in the set are a card dedicated to the 3-4-5 hitters in the Tigers lineup that season (Bass, Kakefu and Okada) and a card showing the Tigers' celebration after winning the Series.

Here's some example cards:

#39

#03

#44
One item of interest - Randy Bass is the first Westerner to appear in any of Epoch's box sets since 2009.

Jambalaya has all the cards on line here.

And I think it would be appropriate to mention here that I've added a list of all of Epoch's box sets to the Set Index.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Card Of The Week May 17

One of the box sets that Ryan found for me cheap in Japan recently was a little team set for the Orix Buffaloes that BBM put out in early 2012.  Called "Pedigree", it has three subsets that each show Orix players (and manager Akinobu Okada) in a different uniform - the regular uniforms (both home and away) for Orix, Hankyu Brave retro uniforms and Kintetsu Buffalo retro uniforms.  I'm assuming all the photos are from the 2011 season.

Here's the Okada cards:

#01

#02

#03


Saturday, May 16, 2015

More 2014 Front Runner Sets

Christmas came early at my house this year - yesterday I received both a box full of goodies from Ryan and a box with my latest Yahoo! Japan Auction wins from kuboTEN.  So I'll try to start blogging a little bit more than I have the last few weeks to try to cover a bunch of the new stuff.

I thought I'd start out with a couple of Front Runner Trading Cards sets from last year that Ryan picked up for me.  But before I do, I want to mention that I added a spreadsheet listing all the Front Runner box sets to the Set Index.

The first of the sets is the Giants Stars & Legends set.  This was the first set that Front Runner has done with the Giants - their previous sets had only been for the Carp, Lions, Buffaloes and Baystars.  This set was also a tie-in for the Giants 80th Anniversary last year.

The base set contains 30 cards (the largest Front Runner base set so far).  There are 12 cards for the "Stars" - the 2014 Giants players (and manager Tatsunori Hara) - and 18 cards for the "Legends" - retired Giants players.  The "Stars" include pretty much who you'd expect - Shinnosuke Abe, Hayato Sakamoto, Shuichi Murata, Tomoyuki Sugano, Hisayoshi Chono for example.  The "Legends" are players from the 60's through the 90's - guys like Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Isao Shibata, Tsuneo Horiuchi, Isao Harimoto, Suguru Egawa, Hiromi Makihara and Masumi Kuwata.  I'm not sure what Front Runner's criteria for picking the retired players for this set was (other than could they still sign an autograph) so it's hard to say if anyone should have been included but wasn't.

The front of each card shows the picture of the player in front of a tinted background - blue for the current players and gold for the retired players.  The back of the card shows the photo with it's original un-tinted background.  Most of the photos are in color but there's a couple in black and white:

#14

Back of #14

#1

#2

#20
It's not a bad little set.  Front Runner was able to attract enough "Legends" (including the two biggest ones in Oh and Nagashima) to make the set worthy of the name - I felt that their 2013 Carp Stars & Legends set that didn't have either Koji Yamamoto or Sachio Kinugasa in it was really not worthy of the name.  My only real complaint with the set itself is that the player's name is very difficult to read on some of the cards.

The big issue with this set though really has nothing to do with this set.  It's that the BBM Giants 80th Anniversary set that came out a few months later has pretty much everything that this set has plus more.

Ryan did a post on this set when it came out and all the cards can be seen here.

The other Front Runner set I got yesterday was the Carp Season Summary set.  In 2013, Front Runner did three Season Summary sets (for the Carp, Buffaloes and Baystars) which were among my favorites of their sets.  The Carp one was the only Season Summary set for 2014 and while I still like it, it's not as good as the 2013 versions.

The 2013 sets were an attempt to actual chronicle the season.  The backs of most of the player cards referenced the events of a particular game during the season.  Since a player could have have had more than one good game, some of the players had multiple cards in the sets (for example Kenta Maeda appeared four times in the Carp set).  This set only has one card for each of the 24 players included in the set and the backs of the cards don't carry any details about any particular games.

The cards themselves are fairly attractive.  The set contains most of the big names for the Carp - Kenta Maeda, Shota Dohbayashi, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Masato Akamatsu, Bryan Bullington, Kila Ka'Aihue and Brad Eldred.  Here are some examples:

#08

Back of #08

#07

#22
The top borders were cut a bit tight by my scanner.

Ryan did a post about this set a few months back and Jambalaya has all the cards on-line.