Sunday, March 19, 2017

Topps Now World Baseball Classic Cards

For the third straight tournament Topps has the license to produce baseball cards for the World Baseball Classic.  I don't know what plans they have for sets later this year (or if they have plans for sets later this year) but I was tipped off by Zippy Zappy a little while back that they were producing Topps Now cards for the tournament.

For those that don't know, Topps Now cards are cards that Topps sells directly on their website that commemorate a particular event.  Each card is usually available for only 24 hours.  Topps has issued roughly 50 for the tournament so far - currently the only ones you can buy from them are three dealing with the US beating the Dominican Republic last night.  Each card is $9.99 although there is usually a deal to buy all the cards issued for a day at a slight discount - for example you can buy all three cards they're selling today for $24.99.  The cards can usually be found slightly cheaper on Ebay - I bought a card for Japan's victory over Cuba on March 7th showing Nobuhiro Matsuda for only $6.50.  I'd love to pick up a complete run but even at $6.50 a card, a 50 card set is going to be $325.  I'll probably just settle for getting the Samurai Japan cards.

In addition to the "regular" WBC cards, Topps is also selling 10 card team sets for each of the four teams that have made it to the final round - Japan, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico and the US.  Each set is $34.99.  The 10 cards for each team are pretty much a batting lineup including DH plus a pitcher.  The preliminary set list for Japan is Tetsuto Yamada, Sho Nakata, Seiji Kobayashi, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, Hayato Sakamoto, Nobuhiro Matsuda, Shogo Akiyama, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Nori Aoki and Shintaro Fujinami.  Fujinami is kind of an odd choice for pitcher since he's only appeared in two innings in the tournament but maybe the actual set will have someone else.  Topps says that purchasers of the team sets will earn bonus cards if that particular team advances to the final game, especially if they win it.  The team sets can be bought now but will only remain available until 24 hours after the team has been eliminated or wins the WBC.

Topps had also been selling a six card "Throwback Thursday" WBC set a week or so ago but it is no longer available from them.  The six cards were in the 1988 Topps designed and showed a single player on each card.  Nori Aoki was the only member of Samurai Japan included in the set.  The sets are available on Ebay but unlike the Topps Now cards, they're much more expensive than they were on Topps website.

Card Of The Week March 19

Wladimir Balentien was named the MVP of Pool E of the World Baseball Classic this past week.  He went 8-13 in the three games in Tokyo with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.  Overall for the tournament he's hitting .591, which leads all batters with more than 10 at bats.  He's leading in almost every other major offensive category - hits (13), runs (8), home runs (3 tied with five other players), RBIs (10), OBP (.654) and Slugging (1.000).  He'll get his next chance to shine tomorrow night against Puerto Rico in Los Angeles.

Here's a card of him from last year's BBM Swallows set (#S71) with Tetsuto Yamada, who also had a pretty good Pool E including two home runs against Cuba on Tuesday:

Yamada of course will next see action on this coming Tuesday against Team USA.  I will be at the games in Los Angeles - I'm flying out of Maryland early tomorrow so I'll be a zombie at the Netherlands-Puerto Rico game but I should be well rested for Tueday night's game.  If you're at the games, give me a holler on email or twitter (@npbcardguy) and say hello!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

2000 BBM O-N set

This is going to be kind of an odd story so bear with me for a minute.  I've been trying to make sense of something for a couple weeks and I think I finally figured it all out.

According to both Engel and Sports Card Magazine, BBM issued a high end box set in 2000 called "O-N" that was dedicated to Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh.  There were 2000 numbered sets issued that contained 54 cards each.  The 54 cards included a film card, a windbreaker card and a jersey card for each player - so each box had four memorabilia cards and two film cards in it.  I don't mean one of four possible memorabilia cards - each box had all four memorabilia cards in it.  As you might expect, the original price of the box was pretty high - 30,000 yen (which in 2000 would have been roughly $280).

There were two of these sets available on Ebay a few weeks back.  Both were being sold by the same seller.  One had a starting price of around $20 and the other had a starting price of around $50.  I didn't really notice any differences at the time in the two sets - they were both listed as complete sets - but I did think it was odd they were being listed at two different prices.  This wouldn't normally be something I'd be all that interested in but the idea of picking up some memorabilia cards of Oh and Nagashima fairly cheaply was quite appealing so I bid on the cheaper set and won it for $28 (plus $10 shipping).  The set showed up a few days later (actually the same day I got Ryan's last package so I was wading in cards that day) and I got very disappointed and confused.

The disappointment came first.  As I said, the set was supposed to have 54 cards in it.  The set I got had 55 cards in it, but only 51 unique ones.  I was missing cards 15, 52 and 54.  The last two were exceptionally disappointing as they were the jersey and windbreaker cards for Sadaharu Oh.  I contacted the seller and told them that the set was not complete and I wanted them to either supply the missing cards or give me a partial refund.  The seller's first reply was "This is a $300 set that sold for $28" and that I could return it for a full refund.  I then pointed out to them that first of all it wasn't a $300 set without the two Oh memorabilia cards and second of all that the "book value" of the set really didn't enter in to it - they were supposed to sell me a complete set and they didn't.  They backed down pretty quick and agreed to refund me the $5 I asked for.  I felt that even without the Oh cards I was getting a pretty good deal on two Nagashima memorabilia cards but I also felt there should be some consequence for them having an incorrect listing.  I gathered from the messages I had with them that they are basically a consignment outfit and don't really know much about what they're selling.

On to the confusion.  I mentioned that I got 55 cards.  Four of the cards were duplicates.  Or were they?  On closer examination, I realized there were some differences.  I had one version that had a red letter on the front and a card number of "ON XX" and another version that had a blue letter on the front and a card number of "ON-BXX".  Was there some sort of parallel version of the set as well?  There was no indication in either Engel or SCM of there being any sort of parallels.  As I looked through the rest of the set, I realized that I had a mix of versions.  Of the 55 total cards I had, 31 had card numbers in the form "ON XX" and 24 had card numbers in the form "ON-BXX".  Here's the front and back of one of the cards I had duplicates of (card #7):

Another source of confusion involved the 10 card subset that featured both players.  Engel lists all these cards are being gold bordered.  Only five of the ones I have have a gold border (and they all have card numbers like "ON XX" - the other five have silver borders on the top and bottom (which all have the "ON-BXX" card numbers.

I had mentioned before that there had been two of these sets on Ebay, the one I won and the one that had a starting price of $50-ish.  The other set did not sell so the seller relisted it starting at $10.  I took a look at the pictures of the auction and realized that there were multiple Oh jersey and windbreaker cards in the auction.  So maybe that's what happened to the Oh cards that were supposed to be in my set.  I sent a message to the seller asking about it and basically got blown off - they felt they had already spent enough time talking to me about it.  I bid on the second auction but ultimately lost out - the set sold for $42.  So I still don't have the Oh cards.

In looking at the photos for the other auction and actually paying attention to the description, I think I finally have figured out what's going on.  The box my set came in is black and says "ON 2000 BBM Limited Box".  The box for the set in the other auction was red and said "BBM 2000 BBM Basic Set".  There were two versions of the set!

ON 2000 BBM Limited Box

ON 2000 BBM Basic Set
The Limited set had 2000 numbered sets while the Basic had 3000.  The Basic set is not mentioned in either Engel or SCM (which is really surprising since BBM's the publisher of SCM).  The cards with the red letter and the "ON XX" number are from the Limited set while the cards with the blue letter and the "ON-BXX" number are from the Basic set.  The gold bordered cards are from the Limited set while the silver bordered cards are from the Basic set.  I took a look at all the cards I can see in the following picture and verified that I have the other version of each of them in the set I bought:

So what I think happened is pretty obvious - someone had one of each of these sets and the cards got mixed together at some point.  When the cards were put up for sale, someone did a fairly sloppy job of separating them into the two sets - in fairness the differences aren't entirely obvious, especially if you aren't familiar with card sets.  So I've ended up with a franken-set - an unholy hybrid of the two sets.  Which I wouldn't mind so much if I had the Oh cards - I'm pretty sure the two in the lower center of the above picture are the ones that should have been with my set.  I'm also pretty confident that whoever won the second auction is going to be confused by this as well - maybe they'll read this post and contact me!  Not that I expect to be able to get the Oh cards but maybe we can resolve some of the issues with the rest of the set - they won't have a complete set either.

OK, with all of that out of the way, let's talk about the set itself.  As I've said a couple times now, it's a 54 card set.  There's 20 cards for Nagashima, 20 cards for Oh and 10 cards featuring both of them with the remaining four cards being the windbreaker and jersey cards for them.

The 20 cards for each player pretty much parallel each other - the first five cards of each group feature the player's photo superimposed on a silver baseball. The next five cards feature the player batting - the first of these five cards are the film cards - a card with an actual piece of film embedded in it.  The next two cards are dedicated to fielding and the one after that is dedicated to base running.  The fourteenth card is for the player's retirement and the fifteenth is for the first Nippon Series the player won as manager (1994 for Nagashima and 1999 for Oh).  The sixteenth card is for their respective league championships in 2000 (Nagashima's Giants won the Central League that year while Oh's Hawks won the Pacific League) and is thicker stock than the rest of the cards.  Card 17 breaks the pattern - Nagashima's card is for "leisure time" while Oh's features his "batting style" - although both cards show the player with a samurai sword.  Card 18 shows the player with his wife while card 19 celebrates the player's playing career (17 years for Nagashima and 22 years for Oh).  Card 20 shows each of them during the 2000 Nippon Series - on his card Nagashima is getting tossed in the air while the Giants celebrated beating the Hawks.  Here's several of the cards from this part of the set:


#ON-B6 (film card)

#ON 12



#ON 21

#ON-B26 (film card)

#ON 32

#ON 36

#ON 38
The back of ON-B18 shows Nagashima playing Shogi with his son Kazushige who would grow up to play in NPB also:

The ten cards showing the two players together mostly span their careers together with the Giants.  There's one that was taken showing the two of them as opposing managers in the 2000 Nippon Series.  Here's a couple examples:



#ON 49
Finally, here's the front and back of the two Nagashima memorabilia cards.  The cards came in screwdown cases that don't allow a decent scan so I took pictures instead:

And when I say that the cards came in screwdown cases, I mean that BBM included them in the set in screwdown cases.

All in all this was a pretty attractive set.  BBM did a really good job picking out pictures for the set and I was pleased that there wasn't a lot of duplication between the photos of Oh in this set and the ones BBM used in their Oh tribute set eight years later.  I certainly wouldn't have paid $300 for the set but I don't regret spending the $33 I did ($28 winning bid plus $10 shipping minus the $5 I got the seller to refund me) on it.

One last note - I reassembled how I think the box was originally packaged and took a couple photos.  The packaging was pretty attractive as well - there was a cardboard sleeve over a felt covered box with a gold satin interior.  Engel says that it's like a jewelry box.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

2003 BBM Fighters

I've frequently mentioned (well, complained really) that there hasn't been an OB team set for the Fighters that covers their history before they moved to Hokkaido after 2003.  Recently I discovered that that's not completely true - their 2003 BBM team set had an OB section to it.

I'd bought a pack from the set back when it came out but I wanted to track down one particular card from it that shows the colorful uniforms of the 1973 Nittaku Home Flyers.  When researching the set in Engel, I realized that there were a bunch of OB cards in it.  So I tracked a complete set down on YJA and asked Ryan to pick it up for me.

This was the first time that BBM did a team set of any kind for the Fighters.  2003 was the last year that the Fighters played in Tokyo and was also the 30th Anniversary of Nippon-Ham buying the team.  I don't know if either of those played a factor in BBM deciding to do a team set for the Fighters that year - it wasn't until 2004 that they started doing pack based team sets for all 12 teams.

The base set contained 126 cards.  The first 78 cards are a traditional (or what has become a traditional) team set.  There's 66 "regular" cards for the players (and manager Trey Hillman and coach Kazuyuki Shirai) of the 2003 team and two six card subsets - "Top Prospects" and "Top Of Fighters" (team leaders from 2002).  Here's some example cards from this part of the set:






The remaining 48 cards in the set were split into seven different subsets.  One of these was a two card checklist subset but the remaining ones all dealt with the history of the Fighters.  I'll hit each one of these in order.

First up is a six card subset for great dates in Fighters history.  The six dates are 11/19/1973 (Nippon-Ham buys the team from Nittaku Home), 10/6/1977 (first time attendance reached one million), 10/13/1981 (winning the Pacific League pennant by beating Lotte in the playoffs), 9/28/1982 (clinching the second half of the 1982 season - they would lose to Seibu in the playoffs), 7/3/1998 (the "Big Bang Lineup" set a hitting record that I can't figure out), and 7/9/2002 (the team announces the move to Sapporo).

The two checklist cards actually do contain a little history themselves as the former mascot Gyorotan and the then-current mascot Fighty are shown in the background.  The front of each checklist uses a tinted picture while the back shows the untinted version.  Here's the back of checklist #1 (#085) and the front of checklist #2 (#086):

Next is a four card subset labelled "Uniform Story" that shows the different uniforms worn by the Fighters from 1974 to 2003.  The back of each card shows a drawing of the home and away versions of the uniform a la "The History Of Uniform".  Here's manager Futoshi Nakanishi modeling the uniform worn during the first half of 1974:


Back of #087
The next group of cards is a nine card "Team Records" subset.  As you'd expect from that name, this subset includes the career leaders in a number of categories for the Fighters - saves (88 by Yutaka Enatsu), RBI (683 by Hideo Furuya), home runs (167 by Junichi Kashiwabara), strikeouts (1454 by Yukihiro Nishizaki), managerial wins (631 by Keiji Ohsawa), stolen bases (351 by Makoto Shimada), pitching wins (95 by Naoki Takahashi), hits (1835 byYukio Tanaka) and games played (1435 by Fumio Tamura).  Tanaka was the only one of these players still active at the time.

That the Fighters existed before Nippon-Ham bought them is acknowledged in the next subset.  This is a three card subset that I do not know the title of.  The first card shows Hiroshi Ohshita in a Tokyo Senators uniform in 1946 (the franchise's first season).  The second card shows a group of Toei Flyers (including Isao Harimoto) from around 1959-60 and the final card shows the infamous Nittaku Home Flyers alternate uniforms from 1973.

The next three card subset is a summary of the Fighters' 30 seasons while owned by Nippon Ham.  Each card covers a decade (1974-83, 1984-93, 1994-2003) and the backs have a summary of how the team did each year and what the attendance was.


Back of #104
The next three cards feature Fighters players on Shukan Baseball covers over the years.  One shows Isamu Kida from 1980, one shows Yutaka Enatsu from 1983 and this one shows Yukio Tanaka from 1998:
The final subset is 18 cards devoted to the 1981 Pacific League Champion Fighters called "Legend Of Champions".  With the success that the Fighters have had since moving to Sapporo in 2004 it is easy to forget that at this point in their history the Fighters' franchise had only won a single Nippon Series and that was in 1962 when they were owned by Toei.  Their 1981 pennant was the only one that the team won between 1962 and 2006.  So it shouldn't be a major surprise that there's such a large subset devoted to that team.  What is kind of a surprise is that the subset includes Yoshinori Ohkoso, who was the team owner at the time (and I assume the head of the Nippon-Ham corporation).  The subset also includes manager Keiji Ohsawa, Yutaka Enatsu, foreign players Tommy Cruz and Tony Solaita, Hideo Furuya, Junichi Kashiwabara, Isamu Kida, Makoto Shimada and Kazumi Takahashi.



I mentioned earlier that I'd bought a pack for this set back when it originally came out.  Here's the wrapper:

The set also included two insert sets - "Fighting Spirit" (18 cards) and "Fighters Best 9" (12 cards - includes manager, relief pitcher and DH if you're wondering how they got to 12).  The "Fighting Spirit" cards only have active (at the time obviously) players while the "Best 9" cards include both active and OB.  I pulled a "Fighting Spirit" insert in the pack I opened:

On the whole I really liked this set.  It does a pretty good job covering the Fighters' post-1974 history.  Since the bulk of the OB players are from the 1981 team I think there's some significant players in the team's history that could have been included (Isao Harimoto in a Fighters uniform, Toshizo Sakamoto who was the first ever DH in NPB, Masanori Murakami who was on the 1981 team) but some OB Fighters are better than no OB Fighters.  I'd still like an OB team set that covered the pre-Nippon-Ham days.  I know that the 2004 BBM Fighters set also contains an OB player subset but I suspect that they are all Nippon-Ham players as well (Harimoto is in that subset though).

Oh, and I'm sure you'd all be disappointed if I didn't show off the card that made me look for this set in the first placed so here it is:


I'd like to acknowledge that I leaned a LOT on Engel while researching this set.  I'd also like to acknowledge that it was the now defunct "Fighters Collection" website for showing this card - that's where I learned it existed.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Package From Dani

Ryan is not the only one that I get cool stuff in the mail from.  I received a package yesterday from Dani that had a bunch of goodies in it.  We have kind of an ongoing trade in progress - I sent her a bunch of cards last year, she sent me a bunch of cards this week so I need to get some cards together for her now.

Here's what she sent me.  First up, a couple random cards.  She sent me what I think is a Weekly Baseball insert of Ryota Wakiya from 2006:

Next a Calbee Star Card of Shuichi Murata from 2012:

2012 Calbee #S-42
Next she sent me a card from last year's Nippon-Ham Home Run Sausage set.  I've been wanting to get a complete set of these but complete sets are nowhere to be found on Yahoo! Japan Auctions so I will settle for just this one.  As a bonus, I'm pretty sure this picture of Shogo Yagi was taken in Arizona last spring:

2016 Nippon-Ham Sausage #2016N-34
The bulk of what she sent me was a bunch of her extras from last year's Pro Yakyuu Ai "street clothes" set for the Fighters.  She had sent me a couple cards from this set last year but she bought another box and sent me more of her doubles.  She said she tried to find the "least goofy" cards for me "but well they are all goofy".  She gave me 10 more of the base set cards:

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #02

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #16

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #18

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #22

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #28

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #33

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #42

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #43

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #52

2016 Pro Yakyuu Ai #56
She also sent me a "Shop Campaign Card" for Kensuke Kondoh.  I'm not quite sure what this is but it looks like there's one to a box.

She also sent me an empty pack along with the "Original Binder Application Ticket".  Apparently there was some sort of lottery you could enter to get a binder for the set:

I was tempted to call the set "Professional Baseball Affection" but Dani says that that's the name of the magazine put out by Pro Yakyuu Ai.  I now have at least one card for each of the nine players in the set - that'll probably be enough.

I saved the best part of the package for last though.  For any number of reasons I was unable to make it to Arizona last month for the Fighters training camp.  I felt I had a little unfinished business there from last year, however, and I knew Dani would be going again so I asked her for a favor and she graciously agreed.  I mailed her a card that I wanted signed in late January and she got it done on her very first day in Arizona:

I need to get a good screwdown case to put this in.

Thanks so much for everything Dani!  I'll be getting some cards together for you but they probably won't be as cool as these were.