I picked up a copy of Gary Engel's new Vintage Edition of the Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide recently. The new guide only covers the pre-BBM era (before 1991) but it covers it in a lot of detail - adding a lot of new information about menko and bromide cards and even adding new information about some of the Calbee sets from the 70's. I've been going through the book trying to identify some cards that I've picked up off eBay over the years. I'm having mixed success - locating some cards but not some others, although in a couple cases, even though I haven't id'd the cards, I know more about them than I did before.
I was pleased that I managed to figure out these two bromide cards:
I got these two blank backed cards with a group of other bromides a while back. I had no idea when they were from or who the players were until while thumbing through the book I noticed that the top card was actually the sample card Engel chose for the 1958 Hinomaru Yomiuri Giants set. Doing a little more research combining the card descriptions in the book (there's about three to five cards in the set with a pose that's described as "hands on hips" or "hips up portrait") and the Player Number Index (where I can attempt to match the kanji on the cards to the text on the website, then have the browser translate the kanji to English), I think that the top player is Shigeru Fujio and the bottom player is Shojiro Namba (or Nanba - Japan Baseball Daily says Namba, the book says Nanba).
Namba's got kind of an interesting but sad story about his career. He came out of Kansai University in 1957 and was close to signing with the Dragons. The Giants managed to get him to change his mind and sign with them - the Giants thought that their first choice for a college player that winter was going to sign with the Hawks instead so they put a lot of pressure on Namba. Of course, after he signed, the Giants ended up signing the guy that they really wanted after all - Shigeo Nagashima. As a result, Namba only got into 164 games with the Giants from 1958 to 1961, with only 242 at bats total. He played one year (1962) with the Lions before retiring. (I got the details for this from his bio on Japan Baseball Daily.)