Sunday, August 29, 2010

Saturday, August 28, 2010

1993 & 94 Tomy Sets

While BBM was the first company to sell baseball cards the way they were sold in the US (10 or so cards to a pack rather than 1 being sold with some sort of food), they weren't the last. The next company to try it was Tomy in 1993. Their first set was 410 cards plus 81 puzzle cards (which made up nine different puzzles). Most of the cards show a photo surrounded by a colored border. Each card also has the initials "I.D." prominently on the front - I have no idea what they stand for. Like the 1993 BBM set, the most highly sought out cards are the rookie cards for Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui. Unlike the BBM sets of the time, the cards were the standard US card size - 2 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches.

Here's a couple example cards of Susumu Mikoshiba (#125) and Takuro Ishii (#232):

A number of the cards feature border-less, multiexposure photos (a la some of the early Upper Deck sets), labelled on the back as "Action Series". Here's one of Jack Howell (#392):

Oddly enough, at least one of the "Action Series" cards commemorates one of the Hawks players who played for the Salinas Spurs in the California League in the early 1990's. I don't know if there are any more of them than this card of Motoi Ohkoshi (#401) who played for the Spurs in 1992, the final year they had an affiliation with the Hawks:

According to Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide", the set also includes team checklist cards and four card Japan Series subset (don't know if the Series in question is the 1992 or 1993 Series - both of which were the Lions and Swallows). I don't have any those cards, so I can't show you them.

I got a question in a comment recently about whether or not the Tomy set had multiple series. I think the answer is no, but the set did have multiple printings. On the lower right side of the back of each card is either "I.D.69-001" or "I.D.69-002". This is sheer speculation on my part, but I suspect that set got issued in two printings with this value changed between issues. There are also three "error" cards from the first printing that appear to have been replaced in the second. Here's the back of Ichiro's card (#102) where you can see the "I.D.69-002" on the bottom right:

Tomy followed up in 1994 with a smaller (288 cards including 45 puzzle cards) set. The first 72 cards of the set were "Kira" cards showing the player superimposed on a sparkly silver background - a preview of the kind of thing that BBM would do a couple years later with the Diamond Heroes sets. Here's Kimiyasu Kudoh's card (#54) as an example:

The remainder of the cards (except for the puzzle cards) showed full bleed photos of the player. Here's Takahide Itoh's card (#106):

Oddly enough, although the set does not include a card for Ichiro Suzuki (Tomy not being as prescient as the Hilo Stars team set manufacturer), it does feature three cards (including two "Kira" cards) for Mac Suzuki, who at the time was playing in the US minors, having signed directly with Salinas in 1992 independently of any Japanese teams and played for San Bernardino (where Salinas moved to in 1993) and Riverside (after signing with the Mariners organization in 1994) in the California League.

For whatever reason, Tomy ceased to produce sets after 1994. I suspect that it is not a coincidence that in 1995, BBM increased their card size to the standard 2 1/2 by 3 1/2 size, same as Tomy's. Also in 1995, BBM had puzzle cards in their set for the first time (they would return in the 1996 set as well). And as I mentioned before, the "Kira" cards from the 1994 Tomy set resemble the kind of cards BBM would start producing in 1996 for the Diamond Heroes set and later the Touch The Game sets. So while Tomy may be gone, they may have had an influence on BBM.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Card Of The Week August 22

Last week, Daisuke Yamai of the Dragons took a no-hitter into the ninth inning against the Giants. Hayato Sakamoto broke it up with a home run. This would be the second time Yamai would throw eight innings of no hit ball - the first was game 5 of the 2007 Nippon Series, where his eight perfect innings were followed by one perfect inning from Hitoki Iwase for the first perfect game in Nippon Series history (plus the first championship for the Dragons since 1954).

Despite these outings, Yamai has had a fairly mediocre career - currently he's 22-22 for his career with an ERA of 4.13. (Looks like his strikeout-to-walk ratio is pretty good: 349-161 in 427.1 innings, but he gives up roughly a hit per inning. I got the stats from NPB's site.) This is reflected in how BBM treats him - he hasn't had a card in the regular BBM sets since the 2008 1st Version set (although I expect that he appears in the Dragons team sets). Here's his rookie card from the 2002 BBM 1st Version set (#148):

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Searching For Hoshino, The Finale

I did it.

I had a lousy day for most of the day. Our DSL went out last night and I spent two hours on the phone with Verizon, trying to get them to acknowledge there was a problem outside the house, not inside. I wasn't successful, but when I got up this morning, our DSL was working again. Obviously elves came in the middle of the night and fixed it. I almost missed my train and the rain made it take 40 minutes to drive the 10 miles from where the train drops me off to where I work. So I was tired and cranky when I made it out to Cal Sr's Yard this evening. The Japan/Mexico game was supposed to have started at 5, but rain had delayed the early games so that the Australia/Korea game was just ending when I got there a little after 6.

I kept scanning the crowd while the Japanese and Mexican teams warmed up on the field. I had lent my Sharpie to some teenage girls who were trying to flirt with some of the Australian players. Just as I got the pen back, I spotted this man walking from the hotel beyond the field over to the stands. I was pretty sure it was Senichi Hoshino. I stopped one of the Japanese fans who I knew spoke English and he confirmed it was him.

I walked up to him and said "Excuse me, Mr. Hoshino, but could you sign this for me?" I think he was a bit surprised and amused that someone knew who he was. I asked him if it was OK if I took a picture as he signed the card and he said yes.

Here's the card (2003 BBM 1st Version #94):

Once he handed the card back, I thanked him and moved away quickly. I had been worried that I was going to go all fanboy and I really didn't want to embarrass myself. I hung out for a little bit longer, but even though I had a little rush of adrenaline from meeting him, I was still pretty exhausted and I wanted to crash early tonight. I did take another picture of him from across the field while he was watching the team warm up:

So my day ended on a much brighter note than it started on.

Japan ended up beating Mexico 1-0 to go undefeated in pool play. This was the only game that they did not win via the slaughter rule. Their next game will be Friday at 5 in the first round of the championships. I can't make that game, but I may be able to be at the International Bracket's Final on Saturday at noon. I'll have to see.

UPDATE: Via Yakyu Baka, Hoshino was at an Orioles/Mariners game this week and met up with Ichiro, Koji Uehara and Alonzo Powell. Looks like he's wearing the same shirt in this photo that he was when I saw him.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Card Of The Week August 15

Via Yakyu Baka, former Orix Blue Wave pitcher Koo Dae-Sung (who is Korean and was most recently playing for the Hanwha Eagles of the KBO and is a former New York Met) has announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season. He played for Orix from 2001 to 2004, departing them for his single season for the Mets. Here's his 2003 Calbee card (#165):

Hoshino Stalking Interrupted By Rain

My excitement over possibly finally encountering Senichi Hoshino at the Cal Ripken World Series was tempered by the fact that it had been raining all afternoon. Still, the website said that the games that were to be played at 2:30 would be played at 4:30 and the Japan/Australia game was still on for 4:30, so despite the downpour, I headed on over a little after 4.

The rain didn't let up after I reached the baseball complex and after waiting for an hour, I became more and more convinced that there was no way the game was going to get played. Here's a picture of Cal Sr's Yard, the nicest field at the complex and a mini-Camden Yards replica:

It's a nice field with lights and a tarp over the infield. Unfortunately, the Japan/Australia game was scheduled for the field that (generously) resembles the Nationals' Park, which has no lights and no tarp:

So I really don't expect them to get this game in today. I did see the Japanese team working out in one of the batting cages, but I didn't see Hoshino with them:

With that pesky work-thing interfering with my day time, I'm not sure I'll be able to make it to another game. I can probably catch the last half of their game against Mexico on Wednesday. Hopefully Hoshino will still be in town.

Oh, shoot - I just checked the tournament website. They're actually playing the game. After an inning and a half, Japan is already up 5-0. Australia is being no-hit so far. By the time I could run back over there, the game will probably already be over. I really didn't think they'd be able to get it in - they did postpone the games that were supposed to be played at 2:30.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

BBM 20th Anniversary Set

This past week, BBM announced plans to publish a 20th Anniversary set. This will be a pack-based set that will highlight the past 20 years of Japanese baseball. The set will contain 252 regular cards - 108 (9 per team) OB players (but active since 1991), 108 (9 per team) active players, 9 managers (I think - if so, I'd expect Nagashima, Oh, and Katsuya Nomura for sure, maybe Senichi Hoshino, Koji Yamamoto and Hiromitsu Ochiai also - except Nomura hasn't been doing OB sets lately) and 27 "Great Records And Highlights" cards. There will also be two insert sets featuring Best 9 squads for the 90's and the 00's (19 cards in each) as well as a nine card "90-00's Top Super" insert set. There will also be autograph and memorabilia cards as well (if I'm reading the google translation correctly, some of them are from Hideki Matsui). The back of the player cards will show that player's BBM rookie card which is kind of cool. The set will be out in late September.

Searching For Hoshino, 2010 Edition

Last year, I discovered that former Dragons pitcher and former Dragons and Tigers manager (as well as 2008 Japanese Olympic team coach) Senichi Hoshino would be traveling to Aberdeen, MD to support the Japanese team in the Cal Ripken World Series. Since the tournament would be played only about 5 miles from my house, I decided to go over and see if I could find him and get him to autograph a baseball card for me. I was unsuccessful in finding him, but I had a good time watching the games anyway. I took a bunch of pictures of the games I attended against Mexico, Canada and Korea.

This year's tournament kicked off this afternoon with Japan taking on Canada. I headed over with a Hoshino card and a Sharpie, hoping to have better luck this year.

Almost immediately after arriving, I ran into one of the Japanese team officials that I had talked to last year. I asked him if Mr. Hoshino was going to be attending the game. He told me that Hoshino would be arriving later that day, but he would almost certainly be at tomorrow's game. He asked me if I was press and I said no, just a fan hoping to get a card autographed. He assured me that he would help me accomplish that at tomorrow's game. So bad news that Hoshino wasn't at today's game, but hopefully good news that I can catch him tomorrow.

I stuck around for the game against Canada. Last year, Japan completely demolished the Canadian team 16-0, no-hitting them for four innings before the game was called due to the slaughter rule. The Canucks fared a little better today - getting two hits and scoring a run, but they still lost 13-1 in a game called after four innings due to the slaughter rule. Ritsuki Ohnishi was the star for the Japanese team - he went 3 for 3 with a single, a double and a home run, scored two runs, drove in four, stole two bases AND pitched two innings, striking out three and getting the win. Not a bad afternoon's work.

I took a bunch of pictures, but I have a bit of a complaint about the field. It's the Ripken Academy's Wrigley Field replica and it seemed like it was impossible to find a good place to sit and have good sightlines to the whole field. Between the trees along side the field, the "press box" behind home plate and the tall roofs to the dugouts, it seemed like no matter where I stood, some part of the field was blocked from view. So I ended up moving around quite a bit. I still think some of the shots turned out alright though:

Manager Koji Okumura. Does he wear 77 in honor of Senichi Hoshino?

Japanese center-fielder Kanji Ito. Notice the ivy in the background:

Canadian baserunner breaking for second on Ritsuki Ohnishi:

Pitcher Shuichi Katayama. I like the yellow glove:

Pickoff attempt at second:

Oendan section:

Ohnishi being greeted at the plate after his three run homer:

Ohnishi getting an award as Japan's player of the game:

Team bow after the game:

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Card Of The Week August 8

The baseball blogo-sphere was abuzz last week over an amazing catch by the Carp's Masato Akamatsu, who climbed the center field wall in Hiroshima to rob Shuichi Murata of a home run. The catch even made the Yahoo's front page one day last week. Yahoo's Big League Stew mentioned that it reminded them of the following catch:

The video shows Hankyu Braves outfielder Masafumi Yamamori climbing the fence to take a home run away from Sumio Hirota of the Lotte Orions. (The pitcher by the way is Hisashi Yamada, who had a very distinctive "submarine" delivery and was later Dragons manager from 2002-2003). It happened in 1981 and I think it is commemorated on the back of Yamamori's card from last winter's BBM Memory Makers set - there's a date of 9/16/1981 listed and while I can't read what it says, I can see the kanji for Sumio Hirota's name. Here's both the front and back of the card (#012):

I will point out that the picture has nothing to do with the catch and is actually from a few years later - the uniform he's wearing is the one Hankyu wore between 1984-88.

And in case you missed it, here's Akamatsu's catch from last week:

EMBED-Spiderman Style Baseball Catch - Watch more free videos

Thanks to Japan Baseball Daily for filling in the background of the Yamamori catch.

Friday, August 6, 2010

August Swapmeet

This is the swapmeet post for August. If you've got cards to sell or trade and/or there are cards you're looking for, add a comment to this post saying what you've got, what you want and how to contact you.

Here's what I'm still looking for:

A handful of cards from the 1995-2000 BBM sets
A bunch of cards from the 2003-06 BBM 1st Version sets
A couple cards from the 2005 BBM 2nd Version set
10 or so cards from the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set
The Kazuo Matsui Century Best 9 insert from the 2001 BBM Preview set
2002 BBM Japanese National Team box set

What I've got for sale or trade:

I'm slowly getting what I've got somewhat organized. I've traded/sold some cards in the last month, but I still have a lot of BBM cards from 1992-2006, along with some 70's and 80's Calbee cards, 70's Yamakatsu cards and 1993 Tomy cards.

I can be reached at

More New BBM Sets

BBM's website announced a couple of new sets this week.

BBM's annual "high-end" set Touch The Game will be out in mid-September. This set will contain 156 "regular" cards which break down as 108 player cards (9 per team), 12 cards for rookies (1 per team) and 36 cards (3 per team) for the cross set 20th Anniversary Cross Stream subset. There will also be the usual myriad of parallel issues and memorabilia and autograph inserts.

The Tokyo Big Six Fall Version set is a box set that will be released in early September. Each set will contain 37 cards - 36 "regular" cards (which will be a team card and five player cards for each team) plus an insert card. The insert card will be one of 10 cards commemorating the players who won awards for the Spring season. BBM is touting that this set will contain the last college card for Yuki Saitoh and the first card ever for Daisuke Takeuchi (who threw a no-hitter last spring for Keio).

Goodbye Shonan Searex

Yakyu Baka reported the other day that the Shonan Searex will be no more after this season. The Searex are the farm (ni-gun) team for the Yokohama Baystars - they are currently the only farm team that does not have the same name as their parent (ichi-gun) team (Orix's farm team was called Kobe Surpass through 2008). Generally, BBM includes cards of players from the farm teams without any differentiation from the ichi-gun team players, but Shonan players stood out since they didn't wear Baystars uniforms. Here's a couple examples - Toshiki Kurobane from the 2006 BBM 1st Version set (#323) and I-Cheng Wang from the 2010 BBM 1st Version set (#193):

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Card Of The Week August 1

Keiichi Yabu has returned to NPB for the first time since 2004. After failing a tryout with the Marines, he signed with the Eagles last week. Here's his 2001 Victory card (#033) from when he was still a Hanshin Tiger:

2010 Calbee Series 3

Calbee's website the other day announced that this year's third series would be out on September 6. According to the checklist, there will be 96 regular cards in this series (8 per team), just like the first two series. There are only a couple insert sets this time: a 12 card (1 for each team) set of highlights from interleague play, a 24 card (2 for each team) "star" set (which is a continuation of a set from Series 2) and a four card checklist set. There's also a 12 card (1 for each team) set featuring the shortstops for each team that is only available through some sort of redemption deal.