Sunday, June 13, 2021

Card Of The Week June 13

In the fifth inning of today's game against the Swallows, Wladimir Balentien of the Hawks hit his 300th career NPB home run.  Coincidentally, it was also his 1000th hit in NPB.  He became just the fourth foreign player to reach that milestone, behind Tuffy Rhodes, Alex Ramirez and Alex Cabrera.  He hit his 301st home run in his next at bat two innings later.

Here's a card of Balentien from 2013, the season in which he hit a fifth of those 300 home runs:

2013 Calbee #088

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Corporate League Cards

I have been asked from time to time if there are any baseball cards for the corporate league teams in Japan.  For those who don't know (and those who do also), the corporate (or industrial) league teams are "adult amateur" baseball teams that are run by corporations such as TDK, JR East, Nippon Life and ENEOS.  The players for the teams are employees of the corporations and, as the "amateur" label suggests, they aren't considered professionals but I think it's pretty much the case that their job with the company is playing baseball.  Many NPB players have spent time in the corporate leagues - it's not unusual for a player to play there for a year or two after graduating high school or college.  For example Hideo Nomo spent a couple years after graduating from high school playing for Nippon Steel before being drafted by the Kintetsu Buffaloes.  It's also not unusual for a player to have a long career playing in the corporate leagues and never turning "pro" - Masanori Sugiura spent ten years playing for Nippon Life and resisted numerous attempts to recruit him by professional teams.

Getting back to the baseball cards question...if you had asked me a week ago, I'd have said that I had never seen any baseball cards for corporate league teams.  But then I got that box of stuff from Deanna Rubin that I've been talking about.  Amongst the baseball cards was a silver packet containing five baseball cards from the Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems (MHPS) team.  Here are the fronts and backs of all five cards:

The cards are a little smaller than the standard 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 inches and have rounded corners like playing cards.  None of the five players have ever played in NPB and it looks like Tsushima is the only one still on the team (which is now called Mitsubishi Heavy Industries East).  (There's a Ryota Kawano with the Seibu Lions but he's 10 years younger than this player.)

This is pretty much all I know about these cards.  I don't know if there were more cards from the set and in fact I don't even know what year the set is from.  The company only went by the MHPS name between 2017 and 2020.  Deanna got the cards from a friend of hers in Japan in either 2018 or 2019 so it really only narrows it down to 2017, 2018 or 2019.

Now that I know cards exist for corporate league teams, I'll keep my eyes open for any others.  I did some searching through Yahoo! Japan Auctions today but I didn't find anything.  It's a bit difficult to come up with good search terms though so maybe I just haven't thought of the right one yet.

Thanks again to Deanna for sending these cards my way!

Friday, June 11, 2021

Team Issued Cards From Deanna

As I mentioned yesterday, I recently got a big package of Japanese baseball stuff from Deanna Rubin that included a bunch of baseball cards.  A fair number of the cards were team issued cards so I thought I'd do a quick post about them.

First up is a couple cards from the Chiba Lotte Marines:

2006 Tsuyoshi Nishioka

2011 Shota Ishimine

I think this 2013 oversized (roughly 7 1/2 inches by 5 1/2 inches) card of Katsuya Kakunaka was issued with a meal bought at a Lotteria stand at Chiba Marine Stadium:

I know this oversized (5 x 7 inch) card of Taiga Hirasawa from 2019 is from a Lotteria meal because I got a similar card of Tatsuhiro Tamura with the meal I bought there that year:

Next from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, this 2009 card featuring Atsunori Inaba - I've never been really sure if cards like this should be considered issued by the team or the Lawson convenience stores:

From the Orix Buffaloes is this 2008 card of then-manager Daijiro Ohishi.  Based on the back of the card, I think it was given away at the team's fan fest in November of that year:

Deanna sent me a couple cards from the Yomiuri Giants.  She sent me these two "Pitchers Day" cards from 2008.  Each card was issued in a silver pack - I assume these were an SGA issue:

She also sent me two "Players Day" cards - one from 2008 (Seung Youp Lee) and one from 2009 (Hayato Sakamoto).  These are kind of unique in that they are issued inside folders.  Here's the front cover of each folder and then the inside of the folder with the card still embedded in it.  I'm sure you'll notice that the design of the Lee card is the same as the "Pitchers Day" cards:

Deanna knows that the Lions are one of my favorite teams so half of the team issued cards she sent me were from them:

2009 Shogo Saitoh

2009 Yasuyuki Kataoka

2009 Fumiya Nishiguchi

2010 Ryoma Nogami

2010 Shuichiro Osada

2011 Yasuyuki Kataoka

2013 Ken Togame

2013 Naoto Watanabe

2013 Shogo Akiyama

I was quite happy to receive this last card.  Not only is Takeya Nakamura one of my favorite players, but this postcard sized card was given away with a "player's bento box" meal at Seibu Dome in 2019.  I had intended to buy one of those meals when I was at the Dome that season but I messed up - I didn't realize that the only place to buy the meal was outside the ballpark.  By the time I discovered this, I was already at my seat and didn't feel like fighting the flow of Carp fans coming into the park to make my way back out (with a hand stamp for re-entry):

Thanks for the cards, Deanna!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Shukan Baseball Mysteries Revealed

I've been convinced for years that it's a toss up between the cards issued by the teams themselves (or their fan clubs) and the cards BBM has issued in magazines that are the biggest blind spot in the cataloging of "modern" (post-1990) Japanese baseball cards.  I've struggling to make sense of the baseball cards that BBM has given away with issues of Shukan (Weekly) Baseball for a while now and not made a lot of progress.  The one thing I did know was that what the cards were like changed around September of 2010.  Before that there would be three to five cards issued in the magazines that had cards with them but after that it appears that there were only two cards per issue.  Additionally since 2010 the cards have pretty much all been promo cards for BBM's sets.  While some of the cards from the 00's are promo cards, the majority of them used designs that BBM has not used anywhere else.  

I learned some new things recently about how the pre-2010 cards were distributed from Deanna Rubin.  Deanna moved recently and was kind enough to send me a large box of Japanese baseball stuff - mostly magazines but also a bunch of baseball cards.  The baseball cards included some of the Shukan Baseball cards, including some in their original envelopes in the magazine!

Let me show you one of these cards and what I had originally thought about it.  Here's the front and back of a card of Byung Kyu Lee that was given away with the October 8, 2007 issue of the magazine:

You'll notice the numbering in the lower right corner on the back of the card.  It indicates that this is volume 6 from 2007 and the card is 3 of 3.  Now that volume 6 doesn't mean the issue number (which was 45) but that it was the sixth issue of the magazine in 2007 that has cards in it.  What I had originally thought the "3/3" meant was there were three cards issued with the magazine and that all three were included in the envelope.

I was wrong on both counts.

First of all, there were actually four cards issued with this magazine.  The other card was a promo for a set called "The Climax":

You'll notice that this card doesn't have ANYTHING on the back that would make you realize that it came with the same magazine as the Kim card.  The only way you'd know is by looking at the envelope that the cards were shipped in with the magazine:

The second part that I was wrong on is how many cards were in the envelope.  When I said that the magazine had four cards issued with it, what I really meant was "there were four different cards that you COULD pull from the magazine" because you only got two of them!  I'm guessing this was a marketing decision from BBM to try to force you to buy multiple copies of the magazine but how many people were going to buy another copy at 380 yen a pop for a chance to get the other two cards?

This was the only issue that Deanna sent me that still had the envelope in it.  She sent me a couple she had pulled out of the magazine but only one of them was from before 2010.  These two cards were included in the May 9th, 2005 issue:

As was the case with the other issue, there's nothing on the back of the promo card to tell you it's from the same issue as the solo card of Tamura.  In fact, it has a numbering scheme that's completely separate - I don't know what WB1, 3 or 4 is but WB5 is a Norichika Aoki promo from Touch The Game and WB6 is a promo from a Kazuyoshi Tatsunami set.

Again, the only way to know that this promo card came with this issue of the magazine is if you see the envelope that the cards came in:

As you might imagine, this makes the job of check-listing these cards even harder.  I can't even assume that every issue with cards has a promo card - this was the third issue of 2005 to have cards but the WB2 on the Baystars promo implies that it's only the second promo.  So not every issue with cards has a promo card with it.  And I can't assume that there aren't issues with multiple promo cards.

Thanks, Deanna, for sending me these cards and helping me to understand how they were distributed (and making me understand why I never seem to find all the cards from a single issue whenever I've picked up a bunch of these cards).

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Card Of The Week June 6

On Friday Swallows pitcher Masanori Ishikawa picked up the win in a rain-shortened 10-1 victory over the Lions.  As a result, Ishikawa became the first ever former collegiate player to win at least one game each year for 20 years in NPB.  (H/T NPB Reddit)

Ishikawa was the Swallows top pick in the 2001 draft (kind of - he was acquired as a "free acquisition slot" player which means essentially that he and Yakult agreed on a deal before the draft) out of Aoyamagakuin University where, among other things, he was a member of the 2000 Japanese Olympic baseball team.  Here's a card showing him in his college uniform from the 2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial set (#79):

Saturday, June 5, 2021

A to Z Challenge

A week ago the Diamond King issued a challenge to bloggers to do a post featuring an A to Z list of their favorite players.  I decided to take a shot at this with NPB players and was able to get a list together although some letters were much more difficult than others - either there weren't many NPB players whose name started with that letter or there were several players I liked a lot with that letter.  What I probably should have done is picked a player whose name started with each hiragana character but I wasn't prepared to that much work yet.  Maybe later.

Anyway, here's my list.  I don't think anyone with a last name starting with "Q" or "X" has ever played in NPB or if they have, I don't have cards for them.

A - Koji Akiyama

1991 BBM Nippon Series #S58

B - Wladimir Balentien

2013 BBM Swallows #S61

C - Koji Chikamoto

2020 BBM Tigers #T58

D - Yu Darvish

2005 Konami Baseball Heroes New Black Edition #C05B051

E - Yutaka Enatsu

2003 BBM Fighters #107

F - Atsuya Furuta

1998 BBM Diamond Heroes "Hit Leader" #H1

G - Sosuke Genda

2017 BBM Fusion #067

H - Isao Harimoto

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #409

I - Atsunori Inaba

2019 Calbee Samurai Japan #SJ-01

J - Kenji Johjima

2001 Upper Deck #146

K - Hiromitsu Kadota

1985 Calbee #129

L - Lee Dae-Ho

2012 Calbee #024

M - Masato Morishita

2019 Panini USA Baseball Stars & Stripes Japanese Collegiate National Team #JC-MM

N - Takeya Nakamura

2019 Epoch One #401

O - Hiromitsu Ochiai

2011 BBM All Stars #A36

P - Roberto Petagine

1999 Calbee #230

R - Tuffy Rhodes

2001 BBM Nippon Series #S55

S - Hayato Sakamoto

2010 Georgia Coffee #002

T - Motonobu Tanishige

2005 Dragons Official Card

U - Seiichi Uchikawa

2014 Calbee #C-6

V - Dayan Viciedo

2016 Epoch Record Breakers #18

W - Tsutomu Wakamatsu

1977 Yamakatsu JY3

Y - Yuki Yanagita

2015 Calbee #ES-13

Z - Julio Zuleta

2006 BBM Hawks #H052

If I were to do this list again, it might not come out the same way.  Some of the players who I narrowly decided against include Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Shohei Ohtani, Ichiro Suzuki, Shogo Akiyama, Tetsuto Yamada, Yutaka Fukumoto, Hisashi Yamada, Masahiro Yamamoto, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Kimiyasu Kudoh and Masahiro Tanaka.