Monday, September 29, 2008

Card Of The Week September 28

The Carp played their last regular season game at Hiroshima Municipal Stadium (Hiroshima Shimin Kyujo) on Sunday against the Swallows (they could possibly play there again if they win the Central League Climax Series and play in the Nippon Series). They will move into a new ballpark next spring. There's a discussion of the new park and pictures here.

Here's the old ballpark's card from the 1992 BBM ballpark subset (#107):

This is the fourth ballpark in the 11 card subset that is no longer in use, joining Heiwadai, Fujiidera and Nagoya.

Update: I'd meant to include a link to Deanna Rubin's post about her visit to the ballpark also. Great pictures as always. Also, in this week's Pro Yakyu Weekly, Michael Westbay points out a couple of related links - one to Wayne Graczyk's Baseball Bullet-In column in the Japan Times dealing with the closing of the ballpark and to the Japanese Wikipedia entry on the park. The Japanese Wikipedia entry on the new park has photos of the model and of the construction.

Finally, here's the Google Maps view of the old park:

View Larger Map

Monday, September 22, 2008

1963 Nishitetsu Lions - Men Of Miracle

I mentioned a couple of days ago that I didn't know what the backstory of the Lions' 1963 Pacific League championship was. The Lions Memorial set had a six card subset for the "Men Of Miracle", but all I could figure out was that they had won the pennant by one game over the Nankai Hawks.

Well, I have some of the story now. Thanks to the Hanshin Tigers blowing a 13 game lead over the Giants this year, Michael Westbay's latest "Pro Yakyu This Week" webcast has a brief review of other epic collapses/comebacks in Japanese baseball history. In his summary of the webcast, he writes "In 1963 the Nishitetsu Lions were 14.5 games back on July 12 after which they went 49 and 26 (2 ties - .653) to take first place on October 8 and win the pennant." He also posted a list of the biggest comebacks in Japanese baseball history in this thread. The 1963 Lions were the second biggest comeback in history (and obviously the biggest when it happened) and the biggest that actually resulted in a pennant. Truly a miracle.

Thanks to Westbay-san for the information.

The card displayed in #37 from the Lions Memorial set.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Card Of The Week September 21

I mentioned the other day that I thought the Taiheiyo Club Lions uniforms were among the ugliest in history. I thought I'd try to back that up by showing the only two cards I have that show these uniforms:

The top card is of Don Buford and is from the circa 1975 JCM 15 menko set. The bottom card is of Jinten Haku and is from the 1975-6 JCM 58 Flag Front menko set.

I don't think either card does the uniform justice. Neither card shows the wide red stripe down the side of the pants.

Actually, while these were ugly, they were only worn from 1973-75. In 1976, the Lions topped themselves with this (from "The History Of Uniform"):

Now there are some fashion mistakes in Japanese baseball history. The wide stripes on the Swallows away uniforms in the 1990's, the solid blue pants of the Lions in the 80's and 90's, the Fighters rainbow-Astro wannabe uniforms of the 80's, the Hankyu Braves reverse pinstripe's of the early 60's (black uniforms with white pinstripes), the Hawks' green pinstripes, the Hawk-helmets of the late 80's and early 90's and some of the recent "interleague series" uniforms. Not to mention that stretch in the mid 70's when the Flyers wore different uniforms at different positions. But to me, nothing says beer-league softball team more than a solid maroon uniform with the number just as big on the front as on the back.

Or is that too insulting to beer-league softball teams?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Lions Nostalgic sets

This year, BBM has produced two retrospective sets for the Lions. The first was a box set that came out back in February. As I mentioned a while back, this set (the Lions Memorial) commemorates the years that the Lions played in Fukuoka (1950-1978).

The Lions actually started life in 1950 as the Nishitetsu Clippers. They merged with the Nishi-Nippon Pirates in 1951 to become the Nishitetsu Lions. Nishitetsu sold the team in 1972 to the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation who essentially sold the naming rights to the team to the Taiheiyo Club (making the team the Taiheiyo Club Lions). After the 1976 season, the naming rights were sold to Crown Lighter Gas, so the name became the Crown Lighter Lions.

The box set features 39 "regular" cards that break down as 27 cards for Lions players, a six card Kazuhisa Inao memorial subset and a six card "Men Of Miracle" subset commemorating the Lions' 1963 Pacific League Championship. I can't find any details on the 1963 season, but apparently the Lions beat out the Hawks by one game.

The 27 Lions players are shown in pictures of either the Nishitetsu or Crown Lighter Lions. I was a little disappointed in this as I find that the Taiheiyo Club uniforms are among the uglier ones in history. Of course, this may be why BBM left them out of the set.

If you buy the actual box set, you also get a shot at photo cards or autograph cards. I got my set from someone on Ebay, so not only did I not get the photo card or autograph card, I didn't even get the box. On the other hand, it cost me a lot less than a sealed box would have.

Here's some example cards from the set. From top to bottom that's the cards of Akira Ohgi (#12) and Satoru Yoshioka (#25), one of the Kazuhisa Inao Memorial Cards (#33) and the team picture of the 1963 Lions (#36):

The other Lions set BBM put out celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Seibu Lions.

Following the 1978 season, the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation sold the Lions to the Seibu group, who moved the team from Fukuoka to Tokorozawa and renamed them the Seibu Lions. (They also apparently swiped their logo from the Kimba, the White Lion anime series.) To say that Seibu has been successful in running the Lions would be a gross understatement. In the 29 seasons since they bought the team (1979-2007), the Lions have have finished in first place 13 times and won the Pacific League playoffs two additional times despite not finishing in first place so that they've played in 15 Japan Series. They've won nine of those Japan Series. And as I write this, they (with their new name the Saitama Seibu Lions) are currently in first place with only a few weeks left in the season.

The 30th Anniversary set is a pack based set with 99 regular cards plus a bunch of insert and memorabilia cards. The regular cards break down as a six card "History Of Seibu Lions" subset, 63 cards of OB players, 18 cards of current players and a nine card "Team Record" subset. I found the selection of the 63 OB players kind of interesting. There were the guys I expected to see like Koji Akiyama and Tsutomo Itoh along with still active players who were no longer with the Lions - Alex Cabrera, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, and Kimiyasu Kudoh for example - as well as guys playing in the States like Kazuo Matsui. (Although oddly enough no Daisuke Matsuzaka.) There were also cards for each manager of the Lions, although some of these (like Itoh) were really as players. There were a couple of cards that surprised me (like Koichi Tabuchi and Yasushi Tao) because I hadn't really thought of those guys as Lions. No Katsuya Nomura though.

There's a handful of guys (like Osamu Higashio and Masahiro Doi) who appear in both sets.

Here's some example cards. That's one of the "History Of Seibu Lions" subset cards (#02), Tsutomo Itoh's (#34) and Koichi Tabuchi's (#18) OB cards, G.G. Sato's card from the current Lions subset (#90) and Koji Akiyama's card from the "Team Record" subset (#94). (Oddly enough, Akiyama's card is for him having the second most RBI's for the Lions. The number one guy, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, has a card in the subset for having the most home runs, not RBI's.)

Note: I got most of the details of the Lions' history for this post from Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Card Of The Week September 14

Bobby Thigpen has been in the news this week as Francisco Rodriguez broke his record for saves in a single season. I thought I'd point out that Thigpen pitched for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in 1994 and 1995. Here's his 1995 BBM card (# 185):

Friday, September 12, 2008

New BBM - Olympic team & Yokohama Anniversary

New stuff listed today on BBM's website: a boxed set for the Olympic baseball team and a 30th Anniversary set for the Yokohama Baystars.

The Olympic baseball team box set will be out on September 27. It will contain 28 cards for the players plus the coaching staff. It will also contain one insert card. It looks like there are 28 possible insert cards, so there's basically a parallel set of the players and coaches.

After the 1977 season, the Taiyo Whales moved from Kawasaki to Yokohama and changed their name to the Yokohama Taiyo Whales. They changed their name to the BayStars in 1993. BBM is releasing a set celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the team's first season in Yokohama (1978) on September 20. The regular set will feature 99 cards that include 63 cards of OB players, 18 cards of current players, 9 cards celebrating the 1998 Champs and 9 cards commemorating significant events for the team in the last 30 years. There will be insert cards for the team's Best 9 over the period and the usual assortment of photo cards and signature cards.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Card Of The Week September 7

Continuing with Wally Yonamine...

As mentioned before, I've got a bunch of cards of Yonamine in nostalgic sets and subsets. I've also got a couple cards from the 70's when he was Dragons manager and a coach for the Giants. But I've only got one card of him from his playing days. Or do I?

There's a set of bromide cards that Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist And Price Guide" refers to as "JBR 6 - Marusho 4 in 1 B & W". They are very small (1 inch by 1 1/2 inch) cards that are typically found in groups of 4 or more (the book says groups of 16 or prize sheets of 80 - I have some groups of 8). The front of the card is simply a black and white picture of the player. The backs are typical of many of the pre-1970 bromides and menkos - a playing card designation (like 10 of hearts), a "rock-paper-scissors" symbol and a baseball play written in katakana. Obviously the intent was for kids to cut these down to individual cards and play games with them. So there's no biographical information about the players on the cards at all. How do we know who the players are?

Gary Engel has done the legwork here. There are 66 individual cards in the set and he has identified 57 of them. According to the book, the card I'm showing here shows (in clockwise order) Masayuki Dobashi of the Flyers, Tatsuo Okitsu of the Carp, Wally Yonamine of the Dragons and Jun Hakota of the Swallows:

There's a problem with this identification, however. The book lists this set as being from 1960. Yonamine didn't join the Dragons until 1961. So either the set is not from 1960 (FWIW the Flyers uniform Dobashi is wearing is from 1960 not 1961) or the card is NOT Wally Yonamine. (To be honest, I don't think the picture looks like him, but it's hard to say.)

So maybe I don't have a card from his playing days...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wally Yonamine

I just finished reading Rob Fitt's new biography of Kaname "Wally" Yonamine this past week and it was excellent. There was an interview with him (Rob Fitts) this last week over at East Windup Chronicle. During the interview, Rob said something I thought was very interesting: "Baseball card collectors will notice that he doesn’t show up in the Giants greats sets very often even [though] he was their best player in the 1950s." Actually, I hadn't noticed that before, but now that Rob had mentioned it, I'd have to look into it.

Not that I was surprised, since Rob Fitts knows more about Japanese baseball cards than I do, but Rob's right: Wally Yonamine doesn't show up in as much as you would expect in BBM's nostalgic sets. He does not appear in either the 1997 or 2002 Giants team set (which both feature subsets of Giants past stars including several of Yonamine's contemporaries) or the 2004 70th Anniversary Giants set (which is completely ridiculous). He also does not appear in the several of the annual "Historic" sets that you might expect to find him in: the 2002 All Time Heroes set, the 2005 Glorious Stars or the 2006 Record Makers sets. He also does not rate an appearance in the 1999 BBM set's "50's Best Players" subset.

I did, however, find these cards:

The 1992 BBM set contained a subset called "Nostalgic Stars" featuring stars whose heyday was prior to 1960. Yonamine has card #36:

He has card #010 in the BBM's Sluggers set, their 2003 "Historic" set:

He is card #082 in the 2006 Nostalgic Baseball set:

While he may not appear in the Giants 70th Anniversary set, his stint managing the Dragons in the 70's is commemorated in the 2006 Dragons 70th Anniversary set (#45):

And finally, he (like everyone else in the set) had four cards in the 20th Century Best 9 set from 2000. This is card #453:

So I'll agree with Rob that it's odd that he doesn't show up more in the BBM nostalgic sets and subsets, but at least he has appeared in some of them.