Sunday, April 21, 2019

Card Of The Week April 21

Having let Craig Kimbrel leave as a free agent, the defending World Champion Red Sox have turned to for Carp pitcher Ryan Braiser to be their closer this year.  Brasier was originally drafted by the Angels and made his MLB debut with them in 2013.  He missed the entire 2014 season due to an elbow strain and was released by the Angels at the end of the year.  The Athletics picked him up and he spent two seasons in their organization before he headed to Japan.  He spent 2017 with Hiroshima, going 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 26 games with the ichi-gun team and going 0-0 with an ERA of 1.35 in 19 games with the Carp's farm team.  He returned to the US late last winter, signing with the Red Sox on March 4th and split last year evenly between Triple-A Pawtucket and the major league team, appearing in 34 games for each team.  He also pitched for the Red Sox in each round of the post-season last year.  Here's Brasier's card from the 2017 BBM Carp "Successful Achievement" set (#17) celebrating the team's second consecutive Central League pennant:

This season has not been kind so far to either the Red Sox or the Carp.  They both have nearly identical records - the Red Sox are 8-13 while the Carp are 8-12.  They have both moved out of last place lately but part of that has been because of more hapless teams (the Baltimore Orioles and the Hanshin Tigers) although both teams won their first series this weekend.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Card Of The Week April 14

Last Tuesday night Ernesto Mejia hit a solo home run for the Lions in the ninth inning of their game against the Eagles.  The home run itself was unremarkable - it made the score a little closer but the Eagles still won the game 7-5 - but it was notable in that it was the 9000th home run in Lions history.  They are only the second team to reach this milestone - the Giants were the first and are actually the only team to reach 10,000 home runs.  I find it odd that the Lions, a team that has "only" been around since 1950, has out-homered several teams that started out in the 1930's, including the Tigers, Dragons and Hawks.  It's really a meaningless milestone but I have no idea why the Lions reached it before these other teams.

Here's Mejia's 2017 Epoch Lions card (#27):

Friday, April 12, 2019

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version Set - Where Are They Now?

BBM's fourth collegiate set was released in April of 2009.  The Tokyo Big Six Spring Version set was a box set containing 60 total cards - 54 player cards (nine from each team) and six team cards.  Eleven of those 54 players would go on to play in NPB.  Five of those eleven have their first cards ever in this set - Toshiki Abe, Fumiya Araki, Yuya Fukui, Kisho Kagami and Kenta Matsushita. 

Here's a summary of the future NPB players in the set.  Seven of them are still active.

Player College Year Drafted Notes
Toshiki Abe Meiji 2 2015 Dragons 5th Played for Honda after graduating before being drafted by Chunichi.  Played for Dragons 2016-present
Fumiya Araki Meiji 3 2010 Tigers 5th Played for Tigers 2011-present
Yuya Fukui Waseda 3 2010 Carp 1st Played for Carp 2011-2018, Eagles 2019-present.
Kazuhito Futagami Hosei 4 2009 Tigers 1st Played for Tigers 2010-2016
Kisho Kagami Hosei 3 2010 Baystars 2nd Played for Baystars 2011-15.  Played for JR West after leaving Baystars
Kenta Matsushita Waseda 4 2009 Lions 5th Played for Lions 2010-15
Yusuke Nomura Meiji 2 2011 Carp 1st Played for Carp 2012-present, 2012 Rookie Of The Year.  Lead Central League in wins in 2016.  All Star in 2012 & 2016.  Named to Best 9 team in 2016
Tatsuya Ohishi Waseda 3 2010 Lions 1st Played for Lions 2011-present
Yuki Saitoh Waseda 3 2010 Fighters 1st Played for Fighters 2011-present.  All Star in 2011-12
Hisashi Takeuchi Hosei 4 2009 Carp 3rd Played for Carp 2010-15
Kenji Tomura Rikkio 4 2009 Eagles 1st Played for Eagles 2010-present

Here's each player's card from the set plus a card of them from NPB.  I've tried to get one of the most recent cards I have for the player although I'm also trying not to repeat cards for players who've been in the previous sets.

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #25

2018 BBM Dragons #D45

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #24

2018 BBM Tigers #T56

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #07

2018 BBM Carp #C02

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #30

2015 BBM Tigers #T29

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #31

2015 BBM Baystars #DB34

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #04

2015 Lions Fan Club #57

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #20

2018 Epoch NPB #222

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #05

2018 BBM Lions #L05

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #06

2018 BBM Fighters #F02

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #29

2010 BBM 2nd Version #600

2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #38

2018 BBM Eagles #E12
Of the remaining 43 players in the set, fifteen had the only card ever in this set: Yudai Kajiya (Hosei), Shingo Kamegai (Hosei), Nagomu Kasai (Toyko), Takuma Kobayashi (Meiji), Hiroki Kojima (Waseda), Yusuke Kusada (Waseda), Yuki Maeda (Rikkio), Takayuki Morita (Meiji), Yuki Murayama (Keio), Msashi Nanba (Hosei), Yusuke Ohmae (Waseda), Kazuya Onodera (Keio), Tetsuya Urushibata (Keio), Yosuke Yamakawa (Waseda) and Ryota Yasuda (Meiji).  The other 28 players also appeared in one or more of BBM's previous three collegiate sets and/or one or more of their seven later sets.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Card Of The Week April 7

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles manager Yosuke Hiraishi had to get kind of creative today in their game against the Orix Buffaloes.  The Eagles were down 5-1 in the seventh inning when he pinch hit for his starting catcher Motohiro Shima with Louis Okoye to lead off the inning.  Okoye struck out but the Eagles managed to score a run in the inning.   Backup catcher Yuichi Adachi replaced Shima in the field for the next two innings.  When Adachi's spot came up in the ninth with one out, Hiraishi brought in Kazuya Fujita to pinch hit for him.  Fujita hit a single that started a game tying rally for the Eagles.  But now the Eagles were in a bit of a pickle - the game was tied but who was going to catch?

Hiraishi took his first baseman, Ginji Akaminai, and suited him up in the tools of ignorance.  This was not quite as random as it seemed since Ginji (as he is known) had played catcher in high school and was actually drafted by the Eagles in 2005 as a catcher.  But he hadn't played the position since 2009 with the ni-gun team and had never caught in an ichi-gun game.

With two outs in the bottom of the ninth Orix center fielder Hayato Nishiura singled and probably everyone in the ballpark figured he was going to try to test Ginji's arm.  On the second pitch to Masataka Yoshida Nishiura broke for second.  Ginji's throw sailed to the first base side a little but shortstop Eigoro Mori made a nice play to grab the throw and slap the tag on the head first sliding Nishiura to end the inning:

The Buffaloes failed to get a baserunner in the remaining three innings so Ginji was not challenged again.  He didn't make any errors and wasn't charged with any passed balls so the emergency move by Hiraishi was an apparent success.

Ginji's first appearance in a BBM flagship set shows him as a catcher (2006 BBM 1st Version #212).  I don't know how many cards he has showing him in catching gear - I'm pretty sure I don't have any others but after looking through Yahoo! Japan Auctions I can say that at least his 2009 BBM Eagles card shows him catching.  Here's his 2006 BBM rookie card:

Saturday, April 6, 2019

2019 Panini USA Baseball Stars & Stripes Japanese Collegiate All Stars

A couple weeks ago Panini issued a set for USA Baseball called "Stars & Stripes".  Normally this isn't something I'd be paying much attention to but Panini included autograph and memorabilia cards for members of the 2018 Japanese Collegiate All Star team (specifically the one that took part in the Haarlem Baseball Week tournament that took place last July in the Netherlands) so the set turned out to be something I was interested in.  This is the second time that Panini has included autograph and/or memorabilia cards for a Japanese Collegiate All Star team (the first being in 2013) and the third time overall that a US manufacturer has done it (Upper Deck did it in 2007).  One big difference between these cards and those two previous sets is that the cards from the previous sets were either autograph cards or memorabilia cards while the new cards are both.

I've been putting off writing about this set until I got one of the cards from it.  It took eight tries on Ebay but I finally won a card the other day and it arrived in the mail today.  That's it at the top of the post.

I put together a list of the players in the set with their colleges, their year in college (my best guess anyway based on their age) and if they had been drafted.  Eight of the 24 players were taken in last fall's NPB draft including four players who were first round picks.  There were four other players who I think were seniors last year but weren't drafted - I don't know if they have gone to the independent or corporate leagues.

Name Position College School Year Year Drafted Team Round DOB
Ryosuke Aizawa Outfielder Meiji 4 N/A 9/26/1996
Hayata Fujino Catcher Rikkyo 3 N/A 1/7/1998
Hiromi Ito Pitcher Meiji 3 N/A 8/31/1997
Yukiya Ito Infielder Rissho 4 2018 Baystars 2 8/30/1996
Shunya Iwaki Infielder Kyushu Sangyo 4 N/A 1/25/1997
Hiroshi Kaino Pitcher Toyo 4 2018 Hawks 1 11/16/1996
Daigo Kamikawabata Infielder Nihon 4 N/A 1/12/1997
Shoki Katsumata Infielder International Budo 3 N/A 7/20/1997
Ryosuke Kodama Infielder Kyushu Sangyo 3 N/A 7/10/1998
Wataru Matsumoto Pitcher Nittai  4 2018 Lions 1 11/28/1996
Masato Morishita Pitcher Meiji 3 N/A 8/25/1997
Motoki Mukoyama Outfielder Hosei 3 N/A 5/7/1997
Kento Ogo Pitcher Tokai 2 N/A 9/28/1998
Kazuya Ojima Pitcher Waseda 4 2018 Marines 3 7/7/1996
Teruaki Sato Infielder Kinki 2 N/A 3/13/1999
Toshiya Sato Catcher Toyo 3 N/A 1/27/1998
Noburo Shimizo Pitcher Kokugakuin 4 2018 Swallows 1 10/15/1996
Seiya Tanaka Pitcher Rikkyo 3 N/A 10/27/1997
Ryosuke Tatsumi Outfielder Ritsumeikan 4 2018 Eagles 1 12/27/1996
Yuma Tongu Catcher Ajia 4 2018 Buffaloes 2 11/17/1996
Yuki Tsumori Pitcher Tohoku Fukushi 3 N/A 1/21/1998
Takashi Umino Catcher Tokai 3 N/A 7/15/1997
Yoshiaki Watanabe Infielder Meiji 4 2018 Eagles 6 1/8/1997
Nagi Yonemitsu Infielder Nara Gakuen 4 N/A 1/9/1997

What's a bit bewildering about the set is that according to the checklist for the set in Beckett there are 10 different versions of each card!  What I have is the most common version - the Silhouettes Signatures Jerseys Prime version, each of which is numbered to 13.  There are five other versions of the Silhouettes Signatures cards - Jerseys (numbered to 5), "Gung Ho" patch (numbered to 4), "Samurai Japan" patch (numbered to 4), "Brand Logo Asics" (1 of 1) and "Samurai Japan Small" (1 of 1).  I found images of all but the "Samurai Japan Small" version on Ebay:


Gung Ho

Samurai Japan

The other four versions are "Signatures" (numbered to 4), "Prime Signatures" (numbered to 2), "Laundry Tag Signatures" (1 of 1) and "Buttons Signatures" (numbered to 7).  Again I was able to find images on Ebay for all but one of these ("Prime Signatures"):


Laundry Tag

You can see that despite having names like "Jersey" and "Signature", each card has both an autograph and a piece of memorabilia.  I like that the signatures are in kanji - they look better than the ones in English on the 2013 cards.

Here's what the back of the card I got looks like.  I'm kind of disappointed that unlike the 2013 Panini cards there's no biographical information about the player on these cards.


The set also contains similar cards for the Chinese Taipei Collegiate All Star team.  There was a Taiwanese team at the Haarlem Baseball Week tournament also but I don't know if this is that team.  Since I don't know anything about the CPBL I don't know if any of the players in the set have turned professional.

I probably won't seriously try to complete this set but I'll do what I've been doing with the 2013 set - pick up the cards when they are available for a reasonable price.  There were only 25 of each card from the 2013 set but if you take all 10 versions of each card into account there are 42 cards for each player in this set!

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Card Of The Week March 31

Opening Day for NPB was Friday and three of the six games that day went extra innings.  All three were won on walk offs by the home team (it would be very unusual to have a walk off by the visiting team of course) but none was more impressive than that of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.  The Fighters had been down 3-1 to the Buffaloes late in the game but tied it up with two runs in the bottom of the eighth.  Nippon-Ham loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the tenth for Sho Nakata who ended the game emphatically with a grand slam:

Here's a card of Nakata from his first season in NPB (2008 BBM 1st Version #501):

Despite his inclusion in this subset, Nakata wasn't actually a candidate for the Rookie Of The Year award in 2008 as he spent the entire season with the Fighters' farm team.  He made his ichi-gun Fighters debut in 2009 and didn't become a regular with the top team until 2011.  The actual 2008 Pacific League MVP was Satoshi Komatsu of the Orix Buffaloes who was not included in the subset.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

RIP Akihito Kondoh

Akihito Kondoh, who manned second base for the Taiyo Whales in the 1960's, passed away this past week at age 80.  Kondoh signed with the Whales after graduating from Waseda University and made his debut with them in 1960.  Taiyo won their first Central League pennant that season and defeated the Daimai Orions in the Nippon Series in the first ever four game Series sweep.  Kondoh's solo home run in the ninth inning of Game Three broke a 5-5 tie and proved to be the game winner.  He followed that the next day with an RBI single in the fifth inning of Game Four that plated the only run of the game.  He was named the MVP of the Series. 

The rest of Kondoh's career was relatively unspectacular.  He was the Whales regular second baseman through the 1971 season and spent two seasons as a bench player before retiring following the 1973 season.  He made the Central League All Star team twice - 1962 and 1965.  He became a coach after his playing days were over, coaching for Taiyo from 1974 to 1978, the Swallows from 1979 to 1981, the Lions from 1982 to 1986 and the Giants from 1989 to 1991.  He returned to his old team as manager in 1993 (becoming the first manager of the newly renamed Yokohama Baystars) and ran the team for three seasons.  He managed the Chiba Lotte Marines from 1997-98 and returned to the Giants to coach again in 2006.

I was surprised when I went to pull cards for this post to discover that I didn't have any cards from him that came out when he was playing.  After doing a little research I discovered there's a reason for that - he only had five cards that appear in Engel's latest guide and a couple of those are somewhat obscure - 1960 Marusho Flag Back menko (JCM 13a), 1960 Sakai Gum (JF 49), 1961 Union Oil Taiyo Whales (JA 1), 1962 Shonen Club Flag Back Playing Cards (JGA 180) and the 1979 TCMA set (when he was a coach for the Swallows).  He also doesn't show up in BBM or Epoch's OB sets very often - there's only about five of him as a player since 1998 with another two commemorating his managerial career.

2016 BBM The Ballpark Stories #038

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #045

2010 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation #107

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #16

1979 TCMA #23

1993 BBM #398

1997 BBM #517
If it's not obvious the card from the 2016 BBM The Ballpark Stories celebrates him winning the 1960 Nippon Series MVP award.  His name is misspelled on the TCMA card.