Sunday, November 30, 2008

Card Of The Week November 30

Daisuke Miura has resigned with the Yokohama BayStars. Here's his 1994 Takara card:

A Prediction

See this card?

This is a 1989 "Big League Starz" card of Cecil Fielder. There were cards of Fielder in the 1989 Calbee, Takara and Lotte sets (as well as a rumored card in the 1990 Lotte set). Those cards were all licensed by NPB and (I assume) the Japanese Pro Baseball Players Association (JPBPA). The "Big League Starz" card was not. Someone printed up the cards in 1990 and sold them wherever they could, probably to people who didn't know (or really care) any better.

I picked the card up on eBay for next to nothing (and I knew at the time it was unlicensed). I have noticed every year since Ichiro came over that there have been cards on eBay for the new Japanese players that I've never seen before. Cards like this one of Akinori Iwamura:

Now, I don't understand all the legal stuff that goes on with licensing and baseball cards, but I strongly suspect that cards like this are unlicensed.

So anyway the big news right now is that Junichi Tazawa is officially signing with the Red Sox tomorrow. As far as I know, there are no baseball cards that exist of Tazawa. I do not believe that his industrial league team has any baseball cards. But I predict that before spring training, someone will be selling a baseball card of Tazawa on eBay. It'll say "Future Star" or something like that on it or possibly the seller will claim it's a Japanese card of Tazawa. But it'll be unlicensed and essentially worthless.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Fun stuff

Deanna Rubin was kind enough to pick me up a set of the "Kiyohara Security System" stickers on one her recent visits to Osaka Dome (no check from company holding naming rights, no mention of their name). I got them in the mail today:

Not being able to read Japanese, I don't know what they say (although Deanna said that a couple of them - I'm guessing the ones on the bottom - say something like "Be careful! A loud-ass bell will sound!"), but I find them very amusing anyway.

Deanna also included one of the Bikkuriman Pro Yakyu 2008 stickers with the Kiyohara stickers. This one is of Toshihisa Nishi of the BayStars:

So thanks for the goodies, Deanna!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Card Of The Week November 23

I can be remarkably stupid at times.

This, I fear, comes as no great shock to anyone who knows me well. (Hmm, perhaps that sentence could be equally true without the "well".)

The latest manifestation of my stupidity involves the manager of the Orix Buffaloes. Back in May when Terry Collins resigned as Orix manager, I saw that the new manager was "Ohishi Daijiro" and because I'm an idiot (and I don't speak Japanese), I assumed his family name as "Daijiro". Now, if I were more familiar with Japanese names, I assume that I would have realized that that was stupid. So I looked in my baseball card database and in Japan Baseball Daily's Data Warehouse for an Ohishi Daijiro. Surprise, surprise...I didn't find him. So I wrote something about not being sure he had ever played pro baseball and moved on. And didn't pay any attention any other time that I read or heard his name mentioned.

I realized today that I'd been stupid and I should have been looking for "Daijiro Ohishi" instead. Given that he played 17 years for the Kintetsu Buffaloes, it turns out I have a bunch of cards of him, including cards in both the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set and the 2002 BBM All Time Greats set. Here's one of the cards from the 20th Century Best 9 set (#296):

So, my apologies to Ohishi-kantoku and anyone who I misled. All I can say is "D'oh!"

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Hey, How Come...

This post over at reminded me of things that I had wondered about when I started collecting Japanese Baseball cards. So in case anyone else was wondering...

1. What's the deal with the stuffed animals?

When batters for the home team hit home runs, they get handed one or more stuffed dolls of the team mascot to either throw into the crowd or keep. Here's a couple of videos from YouTube showing this, one of Julio Zuleta and one of Kenshin Kawakami.

I'm having a difficult time imagining David Ortiz throwing a Wally doll into the crowd at Fenway.

(2002 BBM Preview Team Leaders Insert A1)

2. Why does this BayStars player's uniform say "Searex" or "Shonan"?

The farm teams for the teams in NPB are different than the farm teams for the MLB teams. For one thing, each NPB team has only one farm team. This team can be referred to as the ni-gun team with the major league team being the ichi-gun team. For the most part, each farm team has the same name and uniform as its parent team. The BayStars are one of the exceptions. Their farm team is the Shonan Searex. Orix is another exception. Their team is Surpass (I think). I've seen a bunch of cards of Yokohama players wearing Searex uniforms, but I haven't been able to find any cards showing Surpass players.

This sort of answers the other question I get from time to time: are there any minor league cards in Japan? The answer is kind of yes-and-no. Yes, there are cards of minor league players (both the regular BBM sets and team sets contain cards of guys who are on the ni-gun team). No, there are no specific cards for say the Giants' ni-gun team. I don't believe you could buy a Shonan Searex team set the same way you could buy a Durham Bulls one.

I do not know if any of the teams in the couple of independent minor leagues in Japan or the industrial league teams have cards. I'd be very interested in knowing if they did.

(2001 BBM #75)

3. What are the Shoriki and Sawamura awards?

The Shoriki award is given to the person who has contributed the most to the "development of professional baseball" (which seems as nebulous as "most valuable player"). It is named for Matsutaro Shoriki, the founder of the Yomiuri Giants. It looks to me like more often than not it is given to the manager of the winning team in the Nippon Series. It has been awarded 34 times since 1977 (two people shared the award in 1994 and 2003). 22 of those award winners have been managers - 18 of them were managers of the champion team. The last player to win the award was Hideki Matsui of the Giants in 2000.

The Sawamura Award is given to the best starting pitcher in NPB. It's often called the equivalent of MLB's Cy Young Award, but it actually predates it by nine years (1947 vs 1956). Until 1990, the award was only given to Central League pitchers - Hideo Nomo was the first Pacific League pitcher to win the award. The award is named for Eiji Sawamura. There is only one award for both leagues (like the Cy Young was until 1967) and there have been years in which no one was deserving of the award (most recently in 2000).

(2000 BBM #29, 2003 BBM 1st Version #402)

4. What's so special about "Hanshin"?

This is NOT a request for Tiger fans to tell me why the Tigers are so great. This is something a little subtle that I've noticed. On the "regular" player cards for both BBM and Calbee, the team name listed for the player is usually just the team's nickname, not the full name (i.e. "Giants", not "Yomiuri Giants"). For some reason, for Tigers players, the full name ("Hanshin Tigers") is almost always listed.

It wasn't always like this. As far as I can tell, it started in 2001. The 2001 BBM Preview set had "Tigers", but the 2001 BBM regular set had "Hanshin Tigers". Since then, every BBM 1st & 2nd Version set, pretty much every All Star, Preview, Rookie and "Historic Collection" set and every Calbee set I've looked at has had "Hanshin Tigers" for Tigers players. Some of the sets have the full team name for all teams, but other than the 2002 BBM All Time Heroes set, I haven't seen a set since 2001 that lists the Hanshin players' team simply as "Tigers".

So...why is this? I don't know. It's been bugging me for a while, so if any of you have an answer, please share it.

(2003 Calbee #26 & #71)

Friday, November 21, 2008

2008 Award Winners

Alex Ramirez of the Giants and Hisashi Iwakuma of the Golden Eagles were named the Central and Pacific League MVPs this week. Here are Ramirez's 1st Version (#025) and Iwakuma's 2nd Version (#672) 2008 BBM cards:

The Rookie Of The Year awards went to Tetsuya Yamaguchi of the Giants and Satoshi Komatsu of the Buffaloes. Here's Yamaguchi's 1st Version (#017) and Komatsu's 2nd Version (#704) cards:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Card Of The Week November 16

I am currently in San Antonio, Texas, running in the Rock'N'Roll Marathon. However, unlike these guys, I am not wearing a Giants uniform.

1978 NST Mr. Giants #166

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Year Later

Today marks the one year anniversary of my first post. I didn't really have any expectations about how well this would go, no real idea if I'd have any kind of audience, and no idea if I'd get tired of doing it. It's turned out to be a lot of fun and I hope that it's been helpful. I've been discovering how hard it really is to write regularly - both in finding time to post and doing the actual writing. Like Steve Martin once said: "Some people have a way with words. Other people...not have way". I think I'm in the latter category more than I'd like but I'm working at it.

So anyway, if you're reading this, thank you. Let's see how this goes for another year.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

2008 BBM Olympic Team set

I picked up the 2008 BBM "All Japan National Team" box set the other day from someone on Ebay. This is the set for the Olympic team, but I'm guessing that for some licensing reason, BBM can't acknowledge that. There's 28 cards, one for each of the 24 team members and 4 coaches (including manager Senichi Hoshino). (The actual box set contains an insert card also - there's a 28 card insert set. Since I bought essentially an open box, I didn't get an insert card.)

The set is what it is. It's not particularly spectacular in any way, but it's nice enough. I don't like the greyed-out backgrounds though. It looks like everyone's playing in a fog (hmm, remind anyone of Game 1 of the 2005 Nippon Series?)

New BBM sets

OK, I'm going to pat myself on the back for a second here. When I wrote up the Yokohama 30th Anniversary set last month, I had some comments about possible future Anniversary sets that BBM could do. Well, I nailed at least one of those. On BBM's website today came news of a 40th Anniversary Lotte set.

In 1969, the Korean company Lotte bought the Tokyo Orions. (I'm trying to figure out who actually owned them before that - it looks like it might be a combination of Daiei and Mainichi. The team was known as the Daimai Orions for a couple of years after the Daiei Stars and Mainichi Orions merged in 1958.) The team was kind of nomadic for a few years after Lotte bought them, playing in Tokyo, then Sendai (in the stadium the Eagles play in now), then Kawasaki (after the Whales moved to Yokohama) then finally to their current home in Chiba City in 1992. Upon arriving in Chiba City, the team changed its name from the Lotte Orions to the Chiba Lotte Marines.

The set looks kind of like the other anniversary sets. There's a six card "history" subset, 75 cards of OB players (which I'm going to assume may include former Lotte players still active in either NPB or MLB but I don't know that for sure) and 18 cards of current (2008) Marines. There's the usual assortment of insert and memorabilia cards also. The set hits the stores on November 22.

Also newly listed on the BBM website today is their 2009 entry in the "Historic Collection" series. If you recall, last year's set was "Back To The 70's" which featured OB players who starred in the 1970's and current players who were born in the 1970's. This year, BBM has decided to continue in that vein with "Back To The 80's", featuring 72 OB players who starred in the 1980's and 72 current players who were born in the 1980's. The set will also have the usual inserts and memorabilia cards and will be in stores on November 28.

I really want to like the "Historic Collection" cards, but BBM has been making it hard. This year's theme is the dumbest they've had since...well, last year. It wouldn't be so bad if it was just the OB players - stars of the 70's and 80's makes sense. Doing a "Stars of..." for earlier decades would be kind of cool too. But insisting that the same number of current players as OB players fit whatever the theme is is a recipe for a lousy set. (That said, I'll probably still pick up the set if I can get it reasonably cheap or at least get some packs.)

On the plus side, I don't think BBM will be able to do a "Back to the 90's" set next year unless they want to only have a 50 card set.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Card Of The Week November 9

The Saitama Seibu Lions defeated the Yomiuri Giants 3-2 today to win Game 7 and the Nippon Series. This was the Lions' 13th championship (10th under Seibu's ownership) and extends the Giants championship drought to at least 7 years (2002-2009). (The record for longest time the Giants have gone between championships is 8 years, which has happened twice - from 1973 to 1981 and from 1981 to 1989 - so it's in reach.)

Lions pitcher Takayuki Kishi was named Series MVP. Here's his rookie card from the 2007 BBM 1st Version set (#68):

So the Asia Series will kick off later this week (I think) as the "Three Lions and a Wyvern Series" with the Saitama Seibu Lions, the Tianjin Lions (CBL), the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions (CPBL) and the SK Wyverns (KBO).

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Ichiro reminds you to vote!

(2000 BBM All Stars #A67)

Monday, November 3, 2008

WBC Preview Set

If I wasn't clear the other day, the new Topps WBC Preview set shows MLB players from the 2006 WBC in their WBC uniforms. Here's the Akinori Iwamura card (#WBC4):

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Card Of The Week November 2

Lions pitcher Hideaki Wakui pitched eight innings of one hit ball and defeated the Giants 2-1 in Game One of the Nippon Series yesterday. Here's his 2005 BBM 1st Version rookie card (#37):

I'm pulling for the Lions not simply because they're playing the Giants (and they are probably my favorite Pacific League team), but also because I'd like to see as much of this happen as is possible. Now, since that post appeared, the Samsung Lions were eliminated in the KBO (the SK Wyverns won the championship the other day), so four Lions is no longer possible. However, the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions could still win the CPBL (Taiwan) championship (Game 7 is probably finishing as I write this), so a three Lions series is still possible. We should be able to find out by checking here later.

Update: It is at least a two Lion Series.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

WBC News

Giants manager Tatsunori Hara was named manager of Japan's World Baseball Classic team last week. Hara will be replacing Sadaharu Oh, something he should be familiar with since he replaced Oh in the Giants lineup back in 1981. (The card above is from the 2002 BBM Giants set, card #G1.)

In other WBC news, it appears that Topps has replaced Upper Deck as the official card producer for the tournament. The new Topps "Updates and Highlights" set features a 25 card insert set that they're calling the "2009 WBC Preview" set. It contains cards of players who appeared in the 2006 WBC. I think all the players in the set are in MLB or at least signed to MLB teams with the exception of Paul Bell, a South African player who used to be in the Brewers organization.

There are four Japanese players in the set - Ichiro, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kosuke Fukudome and Akinori Iwamura. Neither Fukudome or Iwamura appeared in either Upper Deck's WBC box set or Inaugural Images set, although I think Fukudome appeared in one of the other couple of insert sets Upper Deck scattered WBC players through in 2006.

Hopefully, Topps will do a better job than Upper Deck with the 2009 cards. I'd like something akin to Upper Deck's 1994 World Cup set, but that may be asking too much.