Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Pari Of New Items

A quick note on two new items of interest:

- BBM is releasing a box set to celebrate the Carp clinching the Central League pennant.  It's called something along the lines of "Successful Achievement" and each box will contain 46 cards - a 45 card base set plus one "special" card.  The 45 card base set is split up between 36 "regular" cards and 9 "name scene" cards.  The "special" card will either be an autograph card or one of five possible oversize 3D cards.  This set sounds very similar to the one BBM released last year to celebrate the Carp winning the CL.  Considering that it's possible to get an autograph card out of it, the set is somewhat reasonably priced at 3000 yen (Discount Niki has it for 2780 yen).  It will be released in mid-October.

- I spoke too soon last week about Topps being done with their WBC cards for the year.  They've just released the "Triple Threads" set and it includes five different relic cards for the Samurai Japan team.  There are "World Baseball Classic Relic Cards" for Hayato Sakamoto, Kosuke Tanaka, Yoshitomo Tustsugoh and Tetsuto Yamada plus a "World Baseball Classic Relic Combo Card" that features Sakamoto, Tsutsugoh and Yamada on the same card.  I think they're all serially numbered but I'm not sure what the counts are.  The set has already been released and there are cards available on Ebay.

2017 Calbee Series Two

Calbee's Series Two set this year was released about two weeks ago - about 2 and a half months after it would normally have been released due to the lack of a suitable potato crop for making chips.  Despite the delay, it's pretty much what we've come to expect from a Calbee set so if you've liked the previous ones, you'll like this one too.

Like Series One earlier this year, Series Two has 72 "regular" player cards that are split evenly between the 12 NPB teams so there are six cards per team.  The set includes a lot of stars - Seiya Suzuki, Shogo Akiyama, Takeya Nakamura, Daichi Suzuki, Seiichi Uchikawa, Shintaro Fujinami, Kosuke Fukudome, T-Okada, Yusuke Nomura, Kazuo Matsui, Yuki Matsui, Eigoro Mogi, Yasuaki Yamasaki and Shuichi Murata are all in the set.  I'm fairly certain that none of the players who had "regular" cards in Series One are in this set.

I had a minor gripe with the photographs used in Series One.  I felt that they used too many of the "pitchers pitching and batters batting" shots that kind of plague BBM's sets.  I think things have improved somewhat with this set.  There seems to be more diversity in the shots and even the "batters batting" shots aren't the standard "batter standing waiting for the pitch" shots.  Here's some sample cards:






The base set also includes a couple subsets.  The first is a 12 card "Draft Pick" subset that contains cards for the 2016 1st round draft picks for each team.  Here's a sample card of Yuya Yanagi of the Dragons:

The other subset is the ubiquitous four card checklist subset.  The fronts of the cards highlight events from the first week or so of the regular season - Marines rookie Chihaya Sasaki winning his first start on April 6th, Baystars rookie Haruhiro Hamaguchi winning his first start on April 9th, Lions rookie Sosuke Genda batting in his NPB debut on March 31st and Tigers catcher (and not rookie) Fumihito Haraguchi hitting a walk off home run against the Swallows on April 6th.  Here's the Haraguchi card:

All the cards (including the Star insert cards and the mail-in box set) can been at Jambalaya.

Normally Calbee does three sets a year and the third set is typically released right around now.  But that's all up in the air now with Series Two being delayed so long.  I don't know if and when a Series Three will be released.  I've sent questions to Calbee and their response basically has been to tell me to wait and see.  Obviously it would be disappointing if they didn't put out a third set, especially because many of the very top players in NPB - Shohei Ohtani, Tetsuto Yamada, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, Takehiro Norimoto, Tomoyuki Sugano, Yuki Yanagita and Hayato Sakamoto for example - did not have "regular" cards in either Series One or Two.  Most of these players were in the "Title Holder" subset in Series One and it's not unheard of for a prominent player to not have a "regular" Calbee card - Masahiro Tanaka only had cards in the "Title Holder" and "Opening Day Pitcher" subsets in 2012 for instance - but this would be a LOT of players without "regular" cards.  But all we can do is wait and see.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Takashi Toritani

Back on September 8th Takashi Toritani of the Tigers became the fourth Japanese player to reach 2000 hits this season.  Toritani was the Tigers fourth round draft pick out of Waseda University back in the fall 2003 draft.  He's been with the Tigers ever since, having taken over the starting shortstop position from Atsushi Fujimoto in 2005.  He's made the All Star team seven times (2005-06, 2012-15, 2017) and been named to the Best 9 team six times (2008, 2010, 2011, 2013-15).  He's also won four Golden Gloves (2011, 2013-15).  He has played in two Nippon Series (2005, 2014), both in losing efforts for the Tigers.  He's played for the Japan National team once for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  He made an attempt to come to MLB following the 2014 season but while he did attracted some interest, he didn't get a deal that he was happy with and he stayed in Japan.

Here's a sampling of cards from though out his career:

2004 BBM 1st Version #213

2005 BBM Nippon Series #41

2007 BBM Tigers #T067

2010 Calbee #025

2011 BBM Legend Of Tokyo Big 6 #084

2012 BBM All Stars #A58

2015 Tigers Original Player Card #13

2017 BBM 2nd Version #546

The first card he ever appeared on was #40 in the 2004 BBM Rookie Edition set which I don't have.

RIP Dave Hilton

Former Yakult Swallow and Hanshin Tiger infielder Dave Hilton passed away this past weekend at the age of 67.  Hilton had played for the Padres as well as in the Blue Jays organization before joining the Swallows in 1978 and helping them to their first ever Nippon Series Championship.  His numbers dropped in 1979 and Yakult let him go at the end of the season.  He joined the Hanshin Tigers for 1980 and was the center of controversy when Hanshin fans were upset that manager Don Blasingame was starting Hilton at second base instead of popular rookie Akinobu Okada.  Hilton ended up getting released by the Tigers after only 18 games and he returned to the US, signing a deal with the Pirates to play with their AAA team in Portland, OR.  He retired as a player following the 1982 season.  He managed at the minor league level a couple of times and eventually founded a youth baseball school in Scottsdale, Arizona.

One of the interesting tidbits of trivia about him is that Japanese writer Haruki Murakami has credited seeing Hilton hit a double at Jingu Stadium as the inspiration for him to become a novelist.

Hilton's 1973 Topps rookie card also has Ron Cey and Hall Of Famer Mike Schmidt on it so it's a bit pricey.

Hilton's NPB cards aren't quite as valuable.  He had a number of cards in the Takara, Calbee and Yamakatsu sets from when he was in Japan although most of his cards appear to be from 1979.  TradingCardDB only lists Takara cards for him for 1978 and 1980 although the 1978 Calbee set is poorly checklisted and it wouldn't surprise me to discover that he has a couple 1978 Calbee cards.  The only cards I have for him in this time period are his TCMA card and Yamakatsu card:

1979 TCMA #18

1979 Yamakatsu JY8 #16
He's appeared in two of BBM's OB sets in recent years - the 2009 Yakult 40th Anniversary set and the 2013 Deep Impact (Legendary Foreigners Vol. 2) set:

2009 BBM Yakult 40th Anniversary #42

2013 BBM Deep Impact #05
I used Hilton's Baseball-Reference Bullpen biography as a primary source for this post.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dennis Sarfate

Hawks closer Dennis Sarfate broke the NPB single season record for saves a couple weeks back when he notched his 46th save this season, breaking the record of 45 held jointly by Hitoki Iwase and Kyuji Fujikawa.  He has since extended the record to 51.  Now that the Hawks have clinched he's going to take some time off but he'll get some more chances to add to the record starting this coming weekend.

I don't do retrospectives on gaijin players very often so I thought I'd take the opportunity to do one on Sarfate.  He originally came to Japan in 2011 to join the Carp.  After two years in Hiroshima he moved to the Saitama Seibu Lions for one season.  He then moved to Fukuoka in 2014 and has been there ever since.  He's been a closer every season except for 2012 when he was the set up man for Kam Mickolio with the Carp.  Here's a card of his from each year he's been in NPB:

2011 Bandai Owners League 02 #128

2012 Front Runner Carp Starting Lineup #11

2013 BBM 2nd Version #577

2014 BBM 2nd Version #506

2015 BBM Hawks #H32

2016 Calbee #150

2017 BBM 1st Version #039

Card Of The Week September 17

From time to time over the years Calbee offers cards that are only available as part of some sort of mail in redemption process.  A couple of times the cards available have been oversized cards.  The first time they offered the oversized cards was in 1973 and I don't have any of those cards (they are extremely scarce).  They did it again in 1990 and 1991 and I have a couple examples of those.

The 1990 Calbee Big cards were issued in two series.  The first series contained 16 cards while the second series contained 28.  The cards in both series were 3 1/2 inches by 5 inches.  The photos on the first series cards had a border and also had the player's name in English, the team logo and the player's uniform number.  The backs of the card had the usual information that Calbee was putting on the backs of the cards at the time:

The cards also came with a little frame that could be folded to display the card like a picture frame:

The fronts of the second series cards (which I don't have) simply showed a full bleed photo of the player along with a facsimile autograph.  The backs were blank.  According to Engel (where I'm getting most of the background information for these cards from) the cards were issued with a plastic holder of some sort.

At 3 3/16 inches by 4 19/32 inches the 1991 cards were slightly smaller in size than those of the previous year.  The fronts had a full bleed photo of the player along with the player's name in English - very similar to the design of the regular Calbee cards that year.  There were 24 cards in the set and each card had player info on the back that was similar to the info on the back of the regular cards.  These cards were also issued with a plastic holder.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Trade With Ralph

As I mentioned yesterday I made a trade with Ralph Pearce in August.  I sent him 60 or 70 of KBO cards and he sent me around 25 vintage Japanese cards.  Once again I think I got the better part of the deal - Ralph was very generous in what he sent me.  It took me a couple of days to figure out what everything was and there's a couple that I still haven't quite figured out.

Ralph sent me a bunch of old menko cards plus some more recent Lotte and Calbee cards (well, "recent" is kind of relative as the cards are from between 1975 and 1990).  I'll start with the more "recent" stuff:

1975/76 Calbee #345 (John Sipin)

1987 Calbee #280 (Hiromi Makihara)

1989 Calbee #1989 (Kimiyasu Kudoh)

1989 Calbee #30 (Hiromi Makihara)

1989 Lotte #45 (Hiroshi Yugamidani)

1990 Lotte #112

1990 Lotte #72

1990 Lotte #68

1990 Lotte #94
The bulk of the menko cards were from the sets known as "tobacco" menko due to their resemblance to the American tobacco sets from the early 1900's, especially the T206 set.

1957 Yamakatsu JCM 27 Tatsuro Hirooka & Tetsuharu Kawakami

1957 Yamakatsu JCM 27 Kazuhisa Inao

1958 Yamakatsu JCM 33e Tadashi Sugiura & Katsuya Nomura

1959 Marusho JCM 38b Kazuhisa Inao

1959 Marusho JCM 38b Motoshi Fujita

1959 Marusho JCM 38b Yoji Tamadukuri

1959 Marusho JCM 39 Masuho Maeda

1960 Marukami JCM 14c Yoshimi Moritaki

1961 Marusan JCM 12c Minoru Kakimoto

1962 Marukami JCM 14e Mamoru Zaitsu

1962 Doyusha JCM 55 Shigeo Nagashima
I'm not positive I've identified all of these cards correctly.  The Tamadukuri card is not listed as being part of JCM 38b in Engel but it's the only set that it appears to fit into.  I'm a bit amused that the card with Sugiuchi and Nomura on it doesn't identify the player on the far right.

There was also a round menko card that I was able to easily identify:

1950 JRM 14 Kaoru Bettoh
The remaining cards were a bit more of a challenge.  First up is this rectangular menko card of a Stars player.  This appears to be from an uncataloged set.  I eventually figured out it was of Makoto Kozuru ("figure out" is making it sound harder than it was - his name's in the lower right of the card) which made it easy to figure out when the card was made as Kozuru only played for the Stars in 1949:

Next up are two round blank backed menko cards that I think are from the same uncataloged set.  Both players are from the San Francisco Seals.  The Seals did a tour of Japan in late 1949 that was valuable in helping baseball reestablish its popularity in Japan after the war.  There were a number of menko and bromide sets that were issued to commemorate the tour.  I don't know who either of these players are although Ralph mentioned that one of them might be Lefty O'Doul which would be really cool.

The final card is a bit frustrating.  It's a 1960 Tachibana Seika card showing a Dragons player.  But there's nothing on the card to identify the player so I have no idea who it is.  There was a bit when I was thinking it could be Don Newcombe who played for the Dragons in 1962 but the time frame is off (and if it was Newcombe I'd be sending the card back to Ralph because that would be just a little TOO generous - Engel has a value of $2500 for the 1962 Tachibana Seika Newcombe card).  That "8" in the upper right of the card is a point value that could be used to redeem prizes.

So thanks Ralph!  I had a lot of fun identifying the cards.  It was a great way to spend time when I was recovering from my back surgery.