Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Checklist and Price Guide

Gary Engel and Prestige Collectibles have announced the imminent publication of the latest edition of the  Japanese Baseball Card Checklist and Price Guide.  This latest volume is NOT labelled the Eight Edition.  Instead, this edition is labelled as the "Vintage Edition" as it only covers cards issued prior to 1991.  The book runs $30 plus shipping and can be ordered here.  (There's also a lot more details about it at that link).  Shipping should start around July 9th.

I sent an email to Prestige Collectibles yesterday to see if there were any plans to publish a guide for the post-1990 era (the BBM era) cards.  I got a reply back from "Robert" who I assume is Robert Klevens, the owner of Prestige Collectibles who said "We might put one on disk in the next year or two but no plans to have a printed edition".

Monday, June 25, 2012

Phone Cards

A comment by Jason on my post on Q Cards a couple weeks back made me think some more about phone cards.  Phone cards are (or were) cards that allowed the holder to pay for phone calls.  Their heyday as collectibles was probably in the early 90's - companies would put pictures of players on the cards to increase their marketability.  I think there were some issued in the US but I don't really know how big of a deal they were.  I've seen a bunch from Japan - not sure of when they came out but I'm guess late 1980's to mid 1990's.  They do not appear in Gary Engel's Checklist and Price Guide.

I only have a couple, these two of Koji Akiyama and Shinji Sasaoka:

Again, I'm not sure when these came out.  Sasaoka set the 17 consecutive save record in his rookie season of 1990 and Akiyama had left the Lions following the 1993 season, so the Sasaoka card must be post 1990 and the Akiyama might be pre-1994.

I have one other phone card that celebrates the Giants Central League pennant in 1996.  It came in a cool little folder that unfortunately didn't scan very well.  Here's the front of the folder:

(The silver lettering and vertical edges look more black in the scan than silver, making the text next to impossible to read)

And the inside of the folder, including the phone card in it's holder:

The cards I have were all manufactured by Teleca.  I don't know if this is the same Teleca that made cards for the Korean league in 1999-2000.  I also don't know if anyone else made the cards.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Hiroki Kokubo

It took longer than anyone expected but today Hiroki Kokubo of the Hawks became the latest player (and third this season) to reach 2000 hits.  Kokubo had been stuck for a month at 1999 hits due to some back issues, but he singled in his first game back from the injury to reach the milestone.

Kokubo was drafted by the Hawks out of Aoyama Gakuin University in 1993 (the "1994" draft).  His BBM and Takara rookie cards are in the 1994 set (#531 for BBM, #9 for Takara in the Hawks set).  His first Calbee card is in the 1995 set (#162).

2011 BBM Tohto 80th Memorial #73

94 Takara Hawks #9
Kokubo became a mainstay for the Hawks through the 2002 season - although he missed a great deal of the 1998 season after becoming implicated in a tax fraud scheme.  He suffered an injury during the preseason in 2003 which caused him to miss the entire season.

96 Calbee #34

2000 Power League #004
Following the 2003 season, the Hawks sent Kokubo to the Giants for nothing.  That's right - nothing.  I remember there being speculation at the time that this was a gesture by Daiei to get the Giants to lean towards approving whoever Daiei ended up selling the Hawks to (which was ultimately Softbank).  He resumed right where he had left off before the injury and ended up winning the Central League Comeback Player of the Year award in 2004.  He remained with Yomiuri until the end of the 2006 season.

2005 BBM Giants #G047
He left the Giants as a free agent and returned to Fukuoka where he has remained ever since.

2008 BBM Hawks 70th Anniversary #95

2009 BBM Hawks #H99
Kokubo has been named to 13 All Star teams since 1995, missing only 1999, 2003, 2005 and 2010 during that span (although he did not actually play in the 1998 or 2006 games).

2005 BBM All Stars #A10

He's only played in three Nippon Series (1999, 2000 and 2011), all with the Hawks.  He was named MVP in last year's Series, becoming the oldest player to ever win that award.

2000 BBM Nippon Series #S47

Interesting Post

Wanted to direct everyone to an interesting post Jason did recently on team issued sets in Japan.

Catching up on BBM's releases

Well, I've gotten so behind in reporting on some new BBM sets that a couple of them have already hit the stores.  In the last month or so, BBM has announced the final five team set for 2012 - the Lions, Baystars, Dragons, Fighters and Tigers.  The Lions and Baystars sets are already out - both sets contain 99 base cards and various insert and memorabilia cards.  (I really like the retro look for the Lions set - very un-BBM.)  The Tigers set will contain 117 base cards, nine "Tigers Roar" insert cards and the usual smattering of memorabilia/autograph cards.  The Fighters set has 99 cards (including a Yuki Saitoh 9 card puzzle!) along with nine "Northern Stars" insert cards and some memorabilia/autograph cards.  The Dragons set has 104 base cards, a 12 card insert set call "Dragon Heart" and (as you may have already guessed) some memorabilia/autograph cards.  The Tigers set will be released in late June, the Fighters set will be out in mid-July and the Dragons set will be in stores in late July.

BBM has also recently released this year's edition of their "Dancing Heroine" set that features the dance team/cheerleaders from a number of the teams - the Hawks (the Honeys), the Fighters (Fighter Girls), the Lions (Blue Legends), the Buffaloes (Bs Dreams), the Eagles (the Angels), the Marines (M Splash),   the Dragons, the Swallows (Passion), the Giants (Team Venus) and the Baystars (Diana).  There's 100 "regular" cards in the set along with possible autograph cards.  All the cards can be seen here.

The big news, though, is that BBM recently released information about this year's 2nd Version set.   As has become standard in the past few years, this set will feature a 36 card (3 per team) "Update" subset for the 1st Version set along with 216 regular player cards (18 per team).  There will also be 12 team checklists and the next installment in the Cross Blaze subset - 36 cards (3 per team).  In addition, there will be a subset featuring various celebrities throwing out the first pitch - currently BBM is not saying how many cards will be in that subset.  There is also an insert set called "Twin Gem" - one card for each team for a total of 12 cards.  There will be patch and autograph cards available from one rookie from each team.  The set will be released in early-August.

Card Of The Week June 24

Interleague play wrapped up on Wednesday last week (the make up games scheduled for Tuesday had to be re-postponed to Wednesday due to a typhoon).  The Giants finished with the best record during interleague and pitcher Tetsuya Utsumi won the Interleague MVP award.  Here's Utsumi's "Interleague Topics" subset card from the 2006 BBM 2nd Version set (#797):

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Card Of The Week June 17

Sorry for the fall off in posts lately.  Been under a real time crunch at work lately.

Matt Murton made some news recently after making a high throw in a game in an attempt to throw out a runner at the plate.  After the game he was asked if he had really made his best effort to prevent the runner from scoring.  Murton sarcastically replied "Please, take two bases.  I don't like [pitcher Atsushi Nomi].  Do you understand?"  Then of course there was a big flap of people getting all upset and not understanding he was not serious and the question was idiotic.

Anyway, a week or so later and everybody seems to have moved on.  Here's Murton's 2012 Calbee Title Holder card (#T-22):

Murton probably could have saved himself a lot of trouble if he just used Bryce Harper's way of dealing with a stupid question:

Sunday, June 10, 2012

1997 BBM Set

1997 BBM Set Summary

Size:  573 cards
Cards Per Team:  42 (team card, manager + 40 players)
Team Card Theme:  Team Logos
Number Of Leader Cards: 32
Checklists: 1 
Subsets: Nicknames(5 cards),  Hot Prospects (12), Nostalgic Stars (10), KK Cards (9)
Inserts:  Best 9, Rivals
Parallels:  Green bordered leader cards
Notable Rookies: Yoshitomo Tani, Michihiro Ogasawara, Kazuhiro Wada, Tadahito Iguchi, Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Hiroki Kuroda, Akinori Iwamura, Makoto Imaoka, Shinji Mori, Akinori Ohtsuka, Kats Maeda, Yusaka Iriki, Masahiko Morino
Late Series:  None

The parallel issue was kind of odd - leader cards with a green tint to the border.  Here's Akira Ohgi's regular and parallel cards (#31) (for winning the Shoriki award in 1996):

The "Hot Prospect" subset featured just that - a hot prospect from each of the 12 teams.  They were Eiji Maruo (Orix), Hiroshi Numata (Nippon Ham), Hisaki Tomiaki (Seibu), Kenji Kawaguchi (Kintetsu), Toshiyuki Gotoh (Lotte), Mitsuru Honma (Daiei), Hideki Okajima (Yomiuri), Hiroshi Hirata (Chunichi), Masanori Tokumoto (Hiroshima), Hajime Miki (Yakult), Kazushi Hosomi (Yokohama) and Takao Inoue (Hanshin).  I'm not positive, but I think that none of these players have a "regular" card in the set.

There was a small subset featuring nicknames for a couple players.  These cards showed a cartoon of the player as their nickname - for example, Hideki Matsui's card depicted him as Godzilla.  The other players in the subset were Kazuhiro Sasaki, Hirofumi Kohno, Atsuya Furuta and Shigeki Sano.  Here's Sasaski's card (#560):

For the first time since 1994, BBM included a "Nostalgic Stars" subset in the set.  This short printed subset featured stars from the 1970's and 80's - Koji Yamamoto, Kenichi Yazawa, Takashi Yamaguchi, Yasushi Tao, Kiyishi Nakahata, Masayuki Kakefu, Suguru Egawa, Shigeru Kobayashi, Yoshihiko Takahashi and Osamu Higashio.  Here's the Nakahata card (#553):

Following the 1996 season, Kazuhiro Kiyohara of the Lions became a free agent and signed with the team that was his favorite growing up - the Yomiuri Giants.  This enabled him to be reunited with his high school teammate Masumi Kuwata.  BBM commemorated this reunion with a nine card short printed subset called "KK cards".  Four of the cards featured Kuwata and four of them featured Kiyohara.  The final card (#572) featured the two of them facing off in an intersquad game:

For the first time, BBM issued an insert set for the previous year's Best 9 award winners.  This would be a standard insert set for BBM for 12 of the next 13 years (skipping only 1998 where the Best 9 award winners would be a subset in the regular set).

BBM did their first die-cut insert set this year.  Called "Rivals", the set featured 24 cards (2 for each team).  Each pair of cards for a team featured half the background picture (of their home stadium) and the cards were die cut as mirror images of each other.  The odd numbered cards were the left side of the background picture and the even numbered cards were the right side.  The cards could then be matched together to show the full picture.  I'd show this, but I don't have two cards from any team.  Instead, I'll just show Akira Etoh's card (#R16) (which should be matched up with Tomonori Maeda's):

I know I mentioned this last year when I did a box break on this set, but I'm still convinced that this set has the biggest selection of significant rookies in BBM's history.  Maybe I'll change my mind after doing a couple more of these posts, but so far only 1993 rivals it and that's just a couple HUGE guys.


Some other cards:



Back of Makoto Sasaki's card (#332)
Buffaloes Checklist (#528)
Ad included in packs


UPDATE: Like the 1994 set, boxes of the 1997 cards included two pieces of paper - a poster and an information sheet (again including a checklist).  The poster is wider than the 1994 one was but still too long for my scanner.  Here's the information sheet:

I took a picture of the poster:

Card Of The Week June 10

On Friday night, Kazuhiro Wada ended the Dragons-Eagles game with a walk off two run homer in the bottom of the ninth, giving Chunichi a 3-2 victory.  According to Nikkan Sports (via YakyuBaka), Wada is the oldest player CL player (39 years, 11 months) to ever hit a walk-off home run with his team trailing, passing Osaka Tiger great Fumio Fujimura (39 years, 10 months).  The oldest NBP player is Hiromitsu Kadota at 42 years, six months.

I tuned into the game just after it ended on Friday morning my time (well, I guess that would actually be the post-game I was watching).  I saw Wada standing out in the field waving to the fans, looking a lot like he does on this 2007 Calbee card (#011), although obviously wearing a different uniform:

Sunday, June 3, 2012

2012 BBM 1st Version

BBM's 1st Version set came out in mid-April and I got mine about a month ago, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it.  At 442 total cards this year's set is a little larger than last year's, but I'm still pretty disappointed in it.

Like last year, there are 27 "regular" cards for the manager and players for each of the 12 teams.  This can lead to some people that you might expect to have cards not having them (like, say, Masahiro Yamamoto).  This year's card design is very similar to last year's - a white border on the bottom of an otherwise borderless photo.  While attractive enough on their own merits, after a couple of years of similar designs, I'm kind of getting a real "meh" feeling towards the designs.  Good thing BBM puts the year on the front of the card or it'd start getting hard to really figure out which set a particular card is from.  And while the photography remains outstanding, I'm surprised by the repetition in some of the photographs.  For example, Keiichi Hirano of the Tigers is depicted making a headfirst slide into a base, just like last year.  Last year, that was a really cool shot.  This year, my reaction is more of "Really?  You used that idea again?"  Here's some example cards:






The annual Leaders subset features 33 cards of 24 people (including Hawks manager Koji Akiyama, winner of the Shoriki award) and the Nippon Series Champion Hawks.  Obviously, several players have multiple cards in the subset - Masahiro Tanaka has the most at 4.  (Notably missing in the subset is a card for 2011 PL Strikeout leader Yu Darvish.) Here's a sample card showing one of the most unflattering pictures I've ever seen on a baseball card:

BBM again included subsets for last season's Best 9 and Golden Glove award winners - until last season, these traditionally insert sets.  The Best 9 cards feature two photos of the player on the front - the Golden Glove cards feature action shots of the player fielding.


For the first time in what seems like forever, the team checklist cards do not feature the team mascots.  Instead they feature candid shots involving the team (although several do show the mascot).  A couple are simple action shots.  I like this one for the Baystars - Alex Ramirez has been featured a number of times goofing around with his team's mascot.  I don't think the Baystars currently have a mascot, so he's goofing around with the next best thing - manager Kiyoshi Nakahata:

The final subset for the set is part of a cross-set subset called "Cross Blaze".  This is similar to what BBM did in 2010 where they had a 180 card set called "Cross Stream" that featured 15 cards per team - 3 cards for each team (36 total) in each of the 1st and 2nd Version and the Touch The Game sets and 6 cards in each team's team set.  What I think is happening this year is that the "Cross Blaze" set will be 108 cards in all - 9 cards per team - with again 3 cards for each team in each of the 1st and 2nd Version and the Touch The Game sets, but not have any cards in the team sets.  (Although I think there's some sort of "Cross Blaze" related memorabilia cards that are appearing in the team sets.)  The "Cross Blaze" cards are not numbered as part of the 1st Version set but as a separate set.

Like the "Cross Stream" cards in 2010, the "Cross Blaze" cards feature an image of the player superimposed on a background - for "Cross Stream" it was water; for "Cross Blaze" it's fire.  The back of the card shows the original picture that the image on the front was taken from.  Here's the front and back of Shinnoske Abe's card (#CB074):

You can see all the cards (including the "Cross Blaze" cards and some of the parallel and inserts) here.

The 1st Version set is not a bad set - it's just frustrating looking at it and knowing that it could have been better.  Like this year's Calbee 1st Series, there's an inconsistency in how the Dragons and Baystars (the two teams with new uniforms) are pictured - the Dragons are mostly shown in their 2011 uniforms while ALL the Baystars are in their 2012 uniforms.  So obviously, BBM could have had all the Dragons in their 2012 uniforms as well - they just decided not to.  They could have had a design that didn't look like the design for the last two years, but they decided not to.  They could have shown a little more imagination in picking photos, but they didn't.  BBM doesn't have to really make any effort in their sets since they are really the only manufacturer in Japan making a comprehensive set of baseball cards (Calbee, Konami and Owner's League don't feature as many players) - if you want a set of everyone who's playing in Japan, you'll either buy BBM or you'll go without.  It reminds me of how lazy Topps got in the late 1970's when they had virtually no competition at all.  It'd be interesting to see if someone else could step in (like Fleer and Donruss in 1981) and stir things up a little bit.

(I know it's probably unfair that I'm beating up BBM for unorginal card designs while NOT beating up Calbee for having pretty much the exact same card front for the last 12 years or so, but I expect more from BBM.)

Card Of The Week June 3

Johan Santana was not the only one to throw a nohitter last week - on Wednesday, Toshiya Sugiuchi of the Giants no-hit the Eagles 2-0.  Sugiuchi actually had a perfect game until two outs in the ninth when he walked Toshiya Nakashima.  He then struck out Ryo Hijirisawa to complete the nohitter.

Here's Sugiuchi's 2012 BBM 1st Version card (#221), his first BBM card with the Giants: