Sunday, July 31, 2011

Thursday, July 28, 2011

RIP Hideki Irabu

Stunning news tonight - former Lotte and Hanshin pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead at his home in Los Angeles.  He apparently committed suicide.

I had done a retrospective on Irabu a couple of years ago, so I'll just post one more card here, his 1992 BBM card (#230):

Very sad.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Card Of The Week July 24

Yakyu Baka had a link the other day to an article in the New York Times about former Hanshin Tiger and current Yankee farmhand Kei Igawa.  Igawa signed with the Yankees prior to the 2007 season after Hanshin posted him and the Yankees paid $26 million for his rights.  This was just after the Red Sox had blown everyone away by bidding over $50 million for the rights for Daisuke Matsuzaka and apparently the Yankees felt that they were losing the Japanese arms race.  Which isn't to imply that signing Igawa was a bad idea at the time, but, as the article explains, it really didn't work out well and the Yankees eventually buried him in the farm system.  (While Matsuzaka has been immensly frustrating to watch the past couple years for the Red Sox, they did win a World Series with him in the rotation in 2007 and as a lifelong Red Sox fan who suffered until 2004, to me that $100 million of John Henry's money it took to get Matsuzaka was worth every penny.)

Anyway, Igawa's departure from the Tigers was commemorated by a three card "Good Luck" subset in the 2007 BBM Tigers set.  Here's card #T117:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Hideki Matsui

I have felt that I have neglected Hideki Matsui on my blog over the years.  I think that this has mostly been due to the fact that he first played for my least favorite NPB team, then for my least favorite MLB team, before moving last year to a team I'm not particularly fond of (the Angels) until finally this year he ended up with a team that I like (the A's).

It's particularly ironic that I haven't shown many cards of him over the years in that he's one of the players that I have the most cards of (right around 100).  So in honor of him getting his 500th home run between NPB and MLB last night, here's a batch of Hideki Matsui cards:

1993 BBM Rookie Card (#423)

1994 BBM (#431)

1997 BBM "Nickname" subset (#559)

1999 Calbee (#095)

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 (#479)

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 Combination Insert (#T-10)

2001 Upper Deck (#66)

2002 Calbee (#105)

2002 Calbee "Be Excited" subset (#EX-9) showing him hitting home run #300

2002 BBM Central League Champion Giants (#YG38)

Monday, July 18, 2011

Prestige Collectibles Auction #40

The latest Prestige Collectibles Auction is running until July 26.  Details are here.

1997 BBM Box Break


Another recent eBay pickup for me was this 1997 BBM box.  The box contained 30 packs of 10 cards each, so there were 300 cards in all.  The 1997 set only had two insert sets (and no memorabilia cards) so I wasn't terribly surprised that I only got four insert cards in the box (two Rivals cards of Motoyuki Akahari and Yasuyuki Kawamoto and two Best 9 cards of Luis Lopez and Takeshi Yamasaki).  There were also two subsets in the regular set that were short printed - a nine card "Nostalgic Stars" subset and a nine card "KK" subset that celebrated the reunion of high school teammates Masumi Kuwata and Kazuhiro Kiyohara on the Giants.  I got two of the "KK" cards in the box but no "Nostalgic Stars" cards.

So that leaves 294 "regular" cards.  I have to say that I was expecting a lot of doubles in the box.  While opening the packs, I noticed that two were nearly identical.  Not only did the two packs share six cards but they did it in almost the same sequence of cards.  The top card in each pack was Yasuyuki Yamauchi, followed by Hiromitsu Ochiai and Jason Thompson.  The next three cards were not the same between the two packs, but then the next two in both packs were Yu Sugimoto and a Troy Neel leader card.  Then once again the next card was different between the two packs but the final card in each was a Hawks checklist.  Despite this, however, I was surprised to discover that the box had only 37 doubles in it, meaning that there were 257 unique "regular" cards in the box.  Even better than the box of 2000 BBM I opened last month.  (And even better for me - 120 of them were ones that I didn't already have).

The one things that I came away with after going through these cards is how many big name rookie cards are in this set.  Yoshitomo Tani, Michihiro Ogasawara, Kazuhiro Wada, Tadahito Iguchi, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Akinori Iwamura and Makoto Imaoka all have rookie cards in the set, along with future US imports Shinji Mori, Akinori Ohtsuka, Kats Maeda and Yusaka Iriki.  I haven't studied this at all so I don't know but it seems like this might be one of the more impressive rookie crops (and that's not even taking into account anyone who's first card is in the set but is not labelled "Rookie".

New BBM releases

Been a little slow in getting to these but over the last couple weeks BBM has announced a couple new sets including the final three team sets for 2011.

The Orix Buffaloes team set may already be out as it was scheduled to be released in early July.  It's a packed based set with 99 "regular" cards plus a nine card insert set and various autographed or memorabilia cards.  There are 72 cards for the players and manager, a checklist card, a two card "KOREAN TREASURE" subset (which I assume features Chan Ho Park and Seung Yeop Lee), a three card "Trio Relief" subset, a three card subset that translates as "First Thing Cards" (no idea what this is), a nine card puzzle subset and a nine card subset called "BACK TO THE HANKYU BRAVES" which I'm guessing either show the current players in their Hankyu throwback uniforms from earlier this season or show OB players from the Braves.  The insert set is called "THE GREAT HORNS" - since it's nine cards I would assume it's a Best 9 of some sort but I don't know if it features current or OB players.

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks team set will be released on July 28.  It's also a 99 card pack based set that features a whopping 87 cards for the players, coaches and manager, three cards for a "Promising Young Player" subset, eight "Combination Cards" and a checklist card.  There's a nine card insert set called "HAWKS HEROES" and a bunch of memorabilia cards.  There's also a couple different autograph parallel sets for the player cards (I think they're facsimile autographs but there may be some real ones as well).  Not sure if this has been done by BBM for a team set before, but they are issuing this set in "Light Packs" (6 cards instead of 7) as well.  These packs contain the same regular cards (with only one possible parallel autograph set) but no "HAWKS HEROES" insert cards and only a single memorabilia card (Seiichi Uchikawa jersey) available.  I think the Uchikawa jersey card is only available in the "Light Packs" (which I think are only available in Kyushu).

The Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters team set is listed as being released in late July.  Like the others, it is a 99 card pack based set featuring 70 cards for the players and manager, two checklist cards, six cards for "2010 Title Holders", a three card (!) subset commemorating Yuki Saitoh's first career victory, nine "Combination Cards" and a nine card subset called "Fighters Emotion".  There's a nine card insert set called "Shine Of Gold", a couple memorabilia cards (jersey cards of Yu Darvish and Ryo Sakakibara both singly and in combination - amazingly no Yuki Saitoh cards!) and autograph cards.

BBM is also releasing a box set for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in late July.  This set contains 28 cards - 18 "regular" cards, 9 "subset" cards (that's what the website says - no further details) and either an autographed card or a memorabilia card.

In addition to what's on BBM's website, AmiAmi has listings for this year's Touch The Game set and a new OB set commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Lotte Orions moving from Kawasaki to Chiba and becoming the Chiba Lotte Marines.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Card Of The Week July 17

I learned something interesting last week from NBP Tracker - Ryan Vogelsong was the third non-Japanese player with NPB experience to play in an MLB All Star game, following Cecil Fielder and Alfonso Soriano.  Vogelsong played in Japan for three years - two with Hanshin (2007-08) and one with Orix (2009).  Here's his 2009 BBM 1st Version card (#039):


Just for the record - I do not believe that any cards of Soriano with the Carp exist - he only appeared in nine games with them in 1997.

And speaking of Cecil Fielder, how weird is it that he hasn't appeared in any OB sets?  You'd have thought he'd have made one of the two Tiger Anniversary sets that have come out in the past six years.

Friday, July 15, 2011

BBM Future Icon


I've mentioned before that BBM seems to be going out of their way this season to showcase Yuki Saitoh of the Fighters. There's the "Platinum Age" set featuring players born in 1988, various insert and memorabilia sets with the 1st and 2nd Version sets and the Fighters Mega Energy set. This week, I picked up yet another set that BBM had done that features Yu-Chan: the Future Icon boxed set.

I haven't seen anything about this set on BBM's website and the box is labelled "Kamagaya Stadium Edition" which makes we wonder if it was either a stadium giveaway or simple something only available for sale at the Fighter's ni-gun team's ballpark in Kamagaya.

The set contains 18 cards. The fronts of cards 1-16 are essentially reprints of cards of various Fighter rookies from this season's Rookie Edition, "Platinum Age" and 1st Version sets, with a "Future Icon" logo added. (The Rookie Edition subset includes all six Fighter cards from the original set.) Card 17 (of Yuki Saitoh) does not reprint an existing card, so it's labelled "Original design card". Card 18 is for the ni-gun Fighter's mascot Cubby.

Of the 17 cards showing players, there are actually only seven players who are depicted. Yuki Saitoh is on five of the cards (Rookie Edition, Platinum Age, Platinum Age Printed Autographed Card, 1st Version and Original design card). The other six players have two cards each. The remaining five players (other than Yu-chan) who had appeared in the Rookie Edition
set have their Rookie Edition and 1st Version reprints in the set: Haruki Nishikawa, Masahiro Inui, Yodai Enoshita, Yuya Taniguchi and Masaru Saitoh. The other player is Mitsuo Yoshikawa, who's Platinum Age and Platinum Age Printed Autographed Card are reproduced.

Here's some sample cards. From top to bottom, the Yuki Saitoh Rookie Edition card (#01), the Mitsuo Yoshikawa "Platinum Age" card (#08), the Haruki Nishikawa 1st Version card (#12) and the Yuki Saitoh "Original design card" (#17):





The backs of the cards are not reproductions of the backs of the original cards. The backs of cards 01-09 form a picture when they are all aligned together properly:


The backs of cards 10-16 features the biographical data (birthday, height, weight, etc) for each player (Yu-chan's blood type is A, in case you were wondering). (Card 10 is one of the cards for Yoshikawa and cards 11-16 are the 1st Version cards, so the bio on the back is for the player on the front). The back of card 17 repeats the biographical data for Yu-Chan and the back of card 18 is a checklist for the set. (And this may be the most in depth I've ever gone in describing a set.)

I picked this set up via an avenue that I had not previous tried before - the Rakuten Global Market. I was browsing through their baseball cards, saw the set and decided to see how easy it was to order. The set was around 1100 yen and shipping was 1200, so the total ended up being a little shy of $30. I was amazed, however, at how fast I got the set. I ordered the set this past Monday afternoon (Eastern US time, middle of the night in Japan) and I got it yesterday (Thursday)! Wow! The only thing I was uncomfortable about was that the confirmation emails I got were in Japanese. I ran them through Google Translate to see if there was anything they were actually asking me or if it was just automated messages about the order. I was pretty sure it was the latter but I wasn't completely sure until the cards showed up. I'm definitely going to order through them again, possibly get some of this year's Calbee cards.

Update: just looked again at the listing for the set at Rakuten. I think it's saying that there's a possibility of getting an autographed (not sure if it's a real autograph or a printed one) version of cards 17 & 18 - Yuki Saitoh or Cubby. (Man, that's a good news-bad new situation: the good news is that you got a really rare autographed card; the bad news is it's the mascot...) More importantly, it looks like the set was supposed to be sold at Kamagaya on March 16 but I'm pretty sure than since that was five days after the earthquake, that game was never played.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Card Of The Week July 10

Via NPB Tracker, Marines shortstop Masato Watanabe hit an inside the park home run against Yu Darvish the other day. Here's the video of it and here's Watanabe's "New Wave" subset card from the 2002 BBM 2nd Version set (#822):

Monday, July 4, 2011

2006 BBM Giants Box Break



I don't usually go out of my way to collect the BBM team sets, but every so often I get a good deal on an unopened box and I can't resist. I recently picked up a box of the 2006 Giants set, so I thought I'd do a box break on it:

The box contained 20 packs of six cards each for a total of 120 cards. I got six insert cards (and no memorabilia cards), so I got 114 "regular" cards. The set only contains 108 cards so I was expecting quite a lot of doubles. However, I ended up getting only 22 doubles, so I actually got 92 unique cards (about 85% of the set). (Of course, like the 2000 BBM set, I had already opened a box of this set, so I ended up with only 16 cards I didn't already have - one short of completing my set.)

The insert cards that I got were all from the "Giant Step" (Engel calls it "Great Numbers") set - each card shows a Giants player and their career total (as of 2005 obviously) in some category. For example, Kimiyasu Kudoh's card shows he has 215 wins, Hiroki Kokubo's card shows 313 home runs, etc. It includes retired players as well, such as Tatsunori Hara (382 home runs), although none of the more major retired Giants - Oh, Nagashima, Harimoto, Kaneda, etc. One of the six insert cards I got was actually from a parallel issue to the "Giants Steps" set - for each of the inserts there is a parallel issue that is serially numbered up to the number on the card. So there's 215 Kudoh parallel cards numbered 1 to 215. This is kind of like those stupid Topps Home Run inserts for (I think) Mantle and Bonds where they just re-used the same picture for each card and changed the number.

The parallel issue I got was #144 for Masaaki Saitoh's 180 wins. I also got the normal Saitoh card (#GN02) so I can show both of them here:



I mentioned earlier that I had opened another box for this set previously. The breakdown of insert cards to regular cards was the same - 5 "Giant Step" cards and 1 parallel issue "Giant Step" card.

Card Of The Week July 3

Last week I showed a card of Seiichi Uchikawa in honor of him being named MVP for interleague play. Then I listened to the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast where the hosts had a discussion of whether or not Uchikawa should have won the award. Their feeling was that Nobuhiro Matsuda, also of the Hawks, was the more deserving player. (Michael Westbay wrote up a comparision of the two players here.) So in fairness, I thought I'd show this 2008 BBM Hawks 70th Anniversary "Turn Back The Clock" card (#94) of Matsuda wearing a Nankai Hawks throwback uniform: