Saturday, March 27, 2010

Card Of The Week March 28

So the other day when I was doing a little research on Tetsuharu Kawakami and the Meikyukai, I worked my way through a list of all the guys with 2000 hits in NBP to see who else was excluded for not being born in the Showa Era. I didn't find anyone else, but I did come across an interesting question - why isn't Kihachi Enomoto in the Meikyukai? He had 2314 hits in his career and he was born in 1936 so he should be eligible. The wikipedia article merely states that (unlike Hiromitsu Ochiai), he "has not declined membership, but has never participated in any of the club's meetings or events, and is not recognized as a member." Anyone know why?

Here's Enomoto's card from the 2002 BBM All Time Heroes set (#183):

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Fighters Victory Set

Via Yakyu Baka comes news of the 2010 Fighters Victory card set. The Fighters will produce a card for every victory this season. If they'd done this last year, there would have been 82 cards for the regular season and 5 for the postseason. I don't know if this has been done by anyone before - it's similar in idea to the Hideki Matsui Home Run cards.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hisanori Takahashi of the New York Mets

OK, way late this time - about a month ago, Hisanori Takahashi, formerly of the Giants, signed a minor league deal with the Mets. Takahashi's rookie cards are #426 in the 2000 BBM set and #175 from the 2000 Calbee set. He's in the BBM Nippon Series sets from 2000, 2002, 2008 and 2009 and makes his lone BBM All Star set appearance in the 2007 edition. For Upper Deck, he's in the 2000 Ovation Rising Stars insert set and the 2001 Victory and Upper Deck sets. As always, this is not a comprehensive list, just a couple highlights.

A couple cards:

From top to bottom - 2000 Ovation Rising Stars #24, 2000 BBM Nippon Series #S63, 2002 BBM Giants #G71, 2006 Konami Baseball Heroes Black Edition #B06B202, 2007 BBM All Stars #A46, 2008 BBM 1st Version #459

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The God Of Batting

Today is Tetsuharu Kawakami's 90th birthday. Kawakami was a star for the Giants from 1938 until 1958, missing a couple seasons due to service in the military during World War II. He was manager of the Giants from 1961 to 1974, winning 11 Nippon Series championships including nine in a row from 1965 until 1973 (the V9 Giants). According to his bio on Japan Baseball Daily, he was the first batter in Japan to reach 2000 hits. Oddly enough, however, he is not a member of the Meikyukai as he was born in the Taisho Era and Meikyukai membership is restricted to those born in the Showa Era. He is the only batter who is disqualified because of when he was born. (There are a bunch of pitchers - Victor Starffin, Takehiko Bessho, Jiro Noguchi, Tadashi Wakabayashi, Shigeru Sugishita, Hiroshi Nakao, and Hideo Fujimoto - who are likewise excluded.)

Kawakami once starred in a movie about his life. It would be perfect if that movie had been directed by Akira Kurosawa since today would have been his 100th birthday, but, alas, it wasn't.

This is the only card I have of Kawakami from when he was actually playing. It's a 1949 bromide card that apparently shows him playing in some sort of All Star game - the "E" on his back stands for "East" (I think):

This is card #008 from the 2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball set. I suspect that this is a picture from his rookie year of 1938. The uniform he's wearing looks like the uniform the Giants wore in 1937 (according to "The History Of Uniform"), so I'm wondering if the Giants were still wearing those uniforms in spring training of 1938.

A couple portraits. This is card #78 from the 1978 NST set:

I like this card from the 2004 BBM Glorious Stars set (#011) because I think it's the only picture I've ever seen of him smiling or laughing:

The Giants retired his number 16 when he retired as a player in 1958. This card is from the 2001 BBM sets' "Retired Number" subset (#533):

Here's a card from the 1997 BBM Giants set (#G89) showing him celebrating the 1973 Nippon Series Championship (his last). That's Shigeo Nagashima on the left, who would replace him as manager following the 1974 season.

An 84 year old Kawakami throwing out the first pitch at a Giants game on April 2, 2004 (2004 BBM 2nd Version #837):

Monday, March 22, 2010

BBM Timeline 1991-2000

As I've mentioned before, 2010 is BBM's 20th year producing baseball cards. I've been wanting to do some posts on their history, but I've been unable to get around to it until now. Here are the highlights of the first 10 years (1991-2000):

1991 - The first BBM "regular" set is issued - 399 cards that are slightly smaller than the standard US card (2 3/8 x 3 5/16 rather than 2 1/2 x 3 1/2). The set is issued in packs of 10 cards (with a possibility of a team logo hologram as an insert) and also as a factory set. The first All Star and Nippon Series (Carp vs. Lions) boxed sets are issued.

1992 - Regular set grows to 498 cards and is issued in two series of 249 cards. Insert cards are holograms of players. Set is again issued as a factory set.

1993 - Regular set is again 498 cards, but is issued in a single series. For the first time, the backs of the cards are in color and feature a head shot of the player. For the final time, the set is available as a factory set. Insert cards are team logo holograms again.

1994 - Regular set grows to 608 cards. No factory set is issued (or would ever be again). Insert cards are player holograms (again) and "Sluggers". For the first time, BBM introduces the concept of "Late Series" - where they stop the print run midway through the season and replace a subset of cards with a new group. In 1994, they replaced the Swallows cards with updated photographs. For the first time, the All Star box set contains a random insert card featuring an All Star game MVP from one of the previous years. Also for the first time, BBM releases a boxed team set (for the Hanshin Tigers) and a set to commemorate Hiromi Makihara's prefect game ("Perfect Pitching").

1995 - Regular set grows to 651 cards and literally grows to the standard card size (2 1/2 x 3 1/2). For the first time, there's a parallel issue to the set where 130 cards are available with a gold facsimile autograph. There's also an insert set featuring "All Around Players". The "Late Series" cards feature the Chiba Lotte Marines. The All Star set again features a random insert card featuring one of the two All Star game MVPs from 1994. Team box sets are issued for the Tigers and Orix Blue Wave (actually the Orix set proves so popular that BBM issues a second team set a little later).

1996 - Regular set is 655 cards. The "Late Series" cards are for the Chunichi Dragons. There are some sort printed 9 card puzzle subsets in the set. The only insert cards included are "Magic Motion" cards similar to the "SportsFlics" cards of the 1980's in the US. BBM also issues a 282 card high end set called Diamond Heroes for the first time. This set also features a "SportsFlics"-style insert set. A team set is again issued for the Tigers, this time featuring a random insert card.

1997 - Regular set is 573 cards. There is no "Late Series" cards this year, although there are a couple short printed subsets and a "green border" variation on the League Leader cards. For the first time, the set includes an insert set featuring the previous year's Best 9 winners - this will be missing in 1998 but a constant for all years after that. There's also a die-cut "Rivals" insert set where each card in the set is matched with another card from the set. The Diamond Heroes set contains 294 regular cards, a 24 card insert set using "refractor" technology and, for the first time, a game used jersey card (of Hideki Matsui). Boxed team sets are issued for the Giants, Tigers, Dragons and Marines - actually the Giants set is issued as two 50 card box sets, each containing half the set.

1998 - Regular set is 577 cards. Again, no "Late Series" but the facsimile autograph parallel set first seen in 1995 is back (and be included in subsequent "regular" sets except for 2000). Insert sets include Dream Team, Dream Matchups, Baseball's Best and game used jersey cards of Atsuya Furuta and Fumiya Nishiguchi. Although there's no insert set for the 1997 Best 9 winners, there is a subset to the regular set featuring them. The Diamond Heroes set includes 252 cards with an insert set of die-cut, embossed cards (Hit Leaders/Strikeout Leaders) and a Yoshinobu Takahashi game used jersey card. Boxed team sets are issued for the Hawks, Tigers, Giants and Baystars - as in 1995 with the Orix team sets, the Baystars team set is so popular that a second edition is sold.

1999 - BBM issues a 122 card "Preview" set using roughly the same design and pictures that will be used for the regular set. The Preview set includes a pink(!) facsimile autograph parallel set and League Leaders insert set. The regular set is 627 cards with a "Late Series" for the Swallows. Insert sets include Best 9, Dream Team and game used jersey cards for Kazuhiro Sasaki and Kazuo Matsui. The Diamond Heroes set is again 252 cards with insert sets of Picture Perfect/Above Average and Super Rookies (which features "SportsFlics"-style cards of Koji Uehara and Daisuke Matsuzaka). The set also has the first game-used bat cards for Bobby Rose and Tsuyoshi Shinjyo. Boxed sets are issued for the Tigers, Lions (a 20th Anniversary set for Seibu), Dragons and Hawks - the Dragons and Hawks sets commemorate each team winning their respective league pennant. There is also a Giants team set that is issued as a giveaway for new subscribers of the Yomiuri Shimbun. A 108 card set called "Mr. Giants" celebrating Shigeo Nagashima is issued - this is essentially the first of the annual "Historic Edition" sets although it isn't labeled as such.

2000 - The Preview set is issued with 134 cards including the first draft pick cards BBM has issued. The set has a facsimile autograph parallel set and a league leader insert set again. The regular set contains 632 cards with "Late Series" cards for the Marines and Tigers. Insert sets include New Faces, Best 9, Golden Glove, 90's Best 9 and Rookie Reprints - reprints of the rookie cards of 12 players to celebrate BBM's 10th Anniversary. The set also includes jersey cards of Kimiyasu Kudoh and Shigeki Noguchi. The Diamond Heroes set is again 252 cards and has insert sets of 90's Franchise Players and Golden Battery (featuring Atsuya Furuta and Daisuke Matsuzaka). No boxed team sets are produced this year - instead the Tigers and Giants have team sets issued as pack based sets which include various insert sets including game used Tsuyoshi Shinjyo batting glove cards and Hideki Matsui bat cards as well as Giants autograph cards. The Giants also have two other sets produced - a set issued to Yomiuri Shimbun subscribers and a set celebrating their Central League championship that was issued in a binder with the cards already in sheets. BBM issues their most ambitious "Historic Edition" set (although again it is not labelled as such) - the 484 card Century Best 9 set featuring four cards each of the 120 "best" players of the 20th century, along with a couple insert sets, a gold trimmed parallel set and some autograph cards. A very high end boxed set celebrating the careers of Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima is issued - this 54 card set includes jersey and windbreaker cards for both players as well as other possible parallel inserts.

Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist And Price Guide" was invaluable in helping me put this together.

From top to bottom, the images are a 1991 regular set wrapper, a 1991 factory set box, a 1992 Series 2 box, the back side of Hideo Nomo's 1993 regular card (#43), a 1994 Tigers box set, a 1995 Atsuya Furuta gold signature parallel card (#169), a 1996 Diamond Heroes Hiromi Makihara card (#49), the 1997 Giants box sets (black and orange), a 1998 card of Yutaka Ohno (#81), a 1999 "Mr. Giants" wrapper, a 2000 Preview card of Kenta Asakura (#P127) and a 2000 "Rookie Reprint" Hideki Matsui (#R8).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Card Of The Week March 21

The Pacific League opened yesterday and there was a gem of a ballgame in Osaka. Both pitchers (Hisashi Iwakuma for Rakuten and Chihiro Kaneko for Orix) pitched well, with Kaneko throwing a shutout and Iwakuma only giving up one run for the defeat. Here's Keneko's 2005 BBM Rookie Edition card (#25):

Coffee Cards

According to this post from Yakyu Baka, there will be baseball cards distributed with cans of Georgia Coffee this season. From what the post says, two cards will be handed to you when you buy the cans at convenience stores. There are 60 cards in the set. It's hard to tell from the pictures on the official website, but I think that the cards might be made by BBM - it looks like it might be their logo on the cards. The cards will be available starting March 23 (Tuesday).

Coca Cola Japan, who makes Georgia coffee, announced a partnership with NPB last week.

Yakyu Baka also has a post up showing another couple packs of this year's Calbee cards.

UPDATE: Yakyu Baka has a post up showing his first pack of Georgia Coffee cards. As I suspected, they are produced by BBM.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

2010 Owner's League

Looks like Konami has a rival in the collectible baseball card game business - Bandai is releasing a set called Owners League. I think it's a 240 card set (which probably means 20 cards per team). I can't find anything "official" from Bandai, just what I've seen on a couple website selling cards.

I just realized that Jason had sent me a link to the Owners League official website a couple months ago. It looks like there may be two sets - a 240 card set and a 60 card "Owner's League Draft" set.

Yes, new BBM sets

OK, BBM posted information to their website yesterday regarding the three sets that I had seen listed on Target's Japanese website.

- The Tokyo Big Six Spring Version set has indeed dropped in size from 60 cards to 36 (plus an insert) this season. So for each team, instead of the previous two sets which had nine players per team (plus a team card), there will only be five players per team (plus the team card). The insert card is one of twelve "leading players" - two from each University. I don't know if the players featured in the insert set also appear in the regular set. The set will be out in early April, just in time for the Tokyo Big Six season.

- The Giants "Real Beginning" box set also contains 36 cards plus an insert card. There will be 18 "regular" cards, 6 cards for the 2009 Champs (don't know if they are player or highlight cards), 3 cards for 2010 newcomers, and a 9 card "Zoom In" subset. The insert card is a die-cut parallel of one of the 18 "regular" cards. The set will be out in mid-April.

- The Orix Buffaloes team set is the third team set announced for this year, following the Swallows and Eagles. It's a 99 card pack based set - there are 67 "regular" cards for the manager and players, a 5 card rookie subset, a 9 card puzzle, a 5 card "Something New" subset, a 4 card "New Force" subset, a 2 card "Countdown to 2000" subset, 1 checklist card and six cards for the BBM 20th Anniversary "Cross Stream" cross-set subset. I'm guessing that the "Countdown to 2000" is for Naoyuki Ohmura closing in on 2000 hits. There's a 9 card "Leading Players" insert set and the usual memorabilia and autograph insert cards. The set will be out in late April.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Card Of The Week March 14

In honor of the Dodgers trip to Taiwan, here's a Taiwanese baseball card:

I know nothing about this card other than I think the player is from the Mercuries Tigers. I suspect it's from the early 1990's, but I don't know that for sure.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

2010 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation Set

Since the first set sold out, Epoch and the All Japan Baseball Foundation are releasing a second 15th Anniversary set. It's a box set containing 83 cards - 82 "regular" cards and an autographed card. This Google translation gives a decent list of the players in the set - Shigeo Nagashima and Sachio Kinugasa probably are the biggest two names.

I think that the set will be shipping in early May.

New BBM Sets?

Through a link that Jason left in a comment the other day, it looks like I've found information on three BBM sets that have not been listed on their website yet. It looks like the 2010 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version will be released soon. The webpage says that it's a boxed set with 37 cards (36 "regular" cards plus an insert card). If that's accurate, that means the set will be 24 cards smaller than the previous two years.

There's a Giants boxed set called "Real Beginning". It also is apparently a 37 card boxed set (36 "regular" card plus an insert card). There is also a listing for the Orix Buffaloes pack based team set.

I believe that the two box sets will be out this month and the Orix set will be out in April. Jason has attempted to have kuboTEN order cards from this site, so if anyone wants to give that a try, have at it.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Omar Linares

One of the comments someone left on the Roberto Barbon post the other day mentioned a really cool website devoted to Cuban baseball - including a section not just cards for Cuban baseball, but cards of Cuban players playing elsewhere in the world, including Japan. The players whose cards are displayed on the page include Barbon, Roman Mejias, Orestes Destrade, Ozzie Canseco and Eduardo Perez.

One of the players who was not listed (perhaps because the page has not been updated in a while) was the greatest Cuban player of the 1980's and 1990's - Omar Linares. In 2002, the Cuban government allowed a couple of players to play in Japan. Linares was the only one to play in NPB - the others played in the industrial leagues. Linares played for the Dragons from mid 2002 through the 2004 season. His final appearance for Chunichi was in the 2004 Nippon Series. He did not play particularly well in Japan, but he was in his mid to late 30's and was slowed by injuries. (Although I must add - he kicked butt in the 04 Series - hitting .389 with 3 doubles and 2 home runs - I suspect he received strong consideration for the "Fighting Spirit" award won by Kazuki Inoue.)

Linares did not have many baseball cards in Japan. As far as I can tell, there are no cards of him from 2002 at all, and the only 2003 card I've seen of him is from an oddball deck of cards that doubles as a Dragons team set put out by Chunichi Sports celebrating their 50th Anniversary. He has four 2004 cards - BBM 2nd Version #683, BBM Dragons #D53, BBM Dragons Central League Champs #C27 and BBM Nippon Series #52. He does not appear to have any Calbee cards at all.

Here's the only two Japanese cards I own of Linares - the 2003 Chunichi Sports card and the 2004 BBM Nippon Series card:

I do have a couple of other cards of Linares. There was some sort of "World All Star Game" played in Fulton-County Stadium in Atlanta in 1990. A 52 card set commemorating the game was produced - if I recall correctly, it was originally sold through ads in hobby magazines for some ridiculous price - maybe $25. I got mine on eBay 10 years later for peanuts. Other than the Cuban players (Linares, Orestes Kindelan, Antonio Pacheco and Lazaro Valle), the biggest name in the set is probably Rikkert Faneyte from The Netherlands. (Japan's Ken Suzuki is the other Ken Suzuki - the one who pitched for the Carp in 1993 and 1995). Linares actually has two cards in the set - his "regular" card (#4) and a game highlight card (#43):

In 1994, a Canadian company put out a 132 card set of players from Cuba - I'm not positive but I think it was from some sort of "super league" rather than the normal Serie Nacional - there are only four teams represented and they are the Centrales, Habana, Occidentales and Orientales. Linares of course had a card in the set (#8):

On a personal note, I got to see Linares play against the Orioles when the Cuban National team came to Baltimore in June of 1999. Now, I'm not positive, but I think this is a picture of him batting (I was in the right field corner, and it was 11 years ago, so I can't say for sure it's him):

Calbee Series 1 is in stores...

...and Yakyu Baka has a post with a picture!

Update: Deanna has been opening packs as well. I'm curious as to when Calbee started putting two cards in a pack. The last time I had any unopened packs was 2004 and they were still one card to a pack.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Chico Barbon

The New York Times ran an article last week on Robert "Chico" Barbon, the first Cuban player in Japan. He played for the Hankyu Braves from 1955-64 and then for the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1965. The article is well worth the read and gives me the opportunity to show off the only cards I have of him.

This first card is the only one I have that came out while he was an active player. It's from the 1960 Marusho "4 In 1" set. Barbon's card is in the upper right corner. (Out of completeness, the players on the top row from left to right are Yoshitaka Nishio of the Tigers, an unknown Braves player, an unknown Orions player and Barbon. The bottom row is Kenjiro Tamiya of the Flyers, an unknown Buffaloes catcher, Kunimitsu Yanouchi of the Buffaloes and Kazuhiko Kondo of the Whales.)

A couple more recent cards:

1994 BBM "Nostalgic Stars" subset #538

2009 BBM Hankyu Braves Memorial #21

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Card Of The Week March 7

For no other reason than I feel like showing off an old card, here's a pair of cards from the 1959 Doyusha Game Set. On the right left is Kazuhiro Yamauchi of the Daimai Orions and on the left right is Masaichi Kaneda of the Kokutetsu Swallows.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Bullet Points

(This post's title is offered with apologies to Maximo Nelson...)

- Jason told me about an interesting blog called The Infinite Baseball Card Set whose author is has designed and illustrated his own set of virtual baseball cards. Card #4 is of Eiji Sawamura.

- A friend of mine at work alerted me to an episode of a show on the Travel Channel called Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations in which Mr. Bourdain visits Osaka. Among other things, he joins an Oendan group for the Tigers at both a bar and later in the episode at a game. I was a little disappointed that instead of being at Koshien, the game he attended was at the Osaka Dome, but it was still pretty cool to get a chance to see a little of what it's like to go to a ballgame in Japan. Actually, the whole episode is pretty interesting, even the non-baseball related parts.

- This shouldn't have surprised me. I'm pretty sure that the only legitimate card of Eri Yoshida was a special card produced by BBM late in 2008 or early in 2009 - it may have been an insert in BBM's baseball card magazine. I saw it up on eBay once but didn't try to get it. As far as I know, none of the independent teams in Japan have had baseball card sets (at least I haven't seen them on kuboTen). And as far as I can tell, the Yuma Scorpions have not had a recent baseball card set (and the winter league version of the team probably has never had one). As the eBay listing says, this is a "custom" card - i.e. an unlicensed fake one. To his credit, the seller is not trying to claim that it is anything else (and he's not selling any graded versions of the card either - at least not yet).

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Card Of The Week February 28

OK, really late this week. I spent last weekend in New Orleans for the Mardi Gras Marathon and I've spent this week recovering - both from the run (I ran the Half Marathon) and the city. Nothing like recovering from a run with a hand grenade at Tropical Isle and some beignets from Cafe Du Monde.

So anyway, I thought I'd celebrate my first trip to both Louisiana and the Big Easy with a card of a Louisiana native. Here's a 2007 Konami Baseball Heroes 3 Black Edition card of Andy Sheets, from Baton Rouge (although he does have a New Orleans connection as he attended Tulane as well as LSU).