Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hideo Nomo

It has occurred to me that I really have never talked much about Hideo Nomo's cards on the blog so I thought I would take advantage of the fact that the Dodgers held a "Hideo Nomo" night last Saturday (he threw out the first pitch and they gave away bobbleheads) to do so.

Nomo actually only played for five seasons in NPB, all with the Kintetsu Buffaloes from 1990 to 1994.  His first four seasons were outstanding - he lead the Pacific League in wins and strikeouts each of those years and won both the MVP and Rookie Of The Year in 1990.  In 1994, however, the Buffaloes changed managers, dismissing Akira Ohgi (who would go to Orix and let a certain 20 year old outfielder hit the way he should) and bringing in Keishi Suzuki, who did not see eye-to-eye with Nomo on how he should be used.  Following the 1994 season, Nomo took advantage of a loop hole in the rules that allowed him to "retire" from NPB, become an international free agent and sign with the Dodgers.

Nomo is very well represented in the major card sets during the period of time he played.  He had Takara cards for all five years he played and Calbee cards for the years 1991 to 1994.  BBM did their first card set in 1991 which featured seven cards of Nomo (his "regular" card and six different cards in the Leader subset) and he appeared in the regular sets in 1992 through 1994.  He was also in the first four of BBM's All Star sets (1991-94).  He also shows up in the 1991 Q-Card sets and the 1993 and 1994 Tomy sets.  Here's some examples:

1990 Takara Buffaloes #11

1991 BBM #201

1992 BBM All Stars #A35

1993 BBM #43

1994 Calbee Hokkaido #C-25
That Takara card is the only card of Nomo from 1990, his rookie season.  It could be argued that this is his only real rookie card.

As far as I can tell, since 1994 there really have not been any cards of Nomo produced in Japan.  He didn't lead the league in any categories in 1994, so there are no Leader subset cards for him in the 1995 BBM set.  He does not appear in any of the BBM OB sets that he might be reasonably expected to appear in - the 2002 All Time Heroes set, the 2003 Golden Arms set, the 2004 Kintetsu Memorial set, the 2009 Kintetsu Anniversary set or the 2009 Legend Players set.  He does not appear in any of the Epoch OB sets from the past few years.  He does sort of appear in the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set - he has four cards in the set but like Masaichi Kaneda and Warren Cromartie, BBM didn't get the rights to use his photo so his cards all look like this:

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #024 (but could be#144 or #264 or #384)
I don't know the reason why Nomo has not appeared in any Japanese sets in the last 19 years.  I don't know if Nomo doesn't want anything to do with Japanese baseball or if the card companies (or NPB) are still carrying a grudge over the way Nomo departed from Japan.  It would actually be nice to see him show up in an OB set some time.


Derek McKim said...

The 1991 BBM #379 rc is my only Japanese baseball card. I always have been a fan of Nomo since his MLB debut. I made an argument for him for inclusion in baseball Hall of Fame as a part of pioneer category on my baseball blog. Doubtful it will happen. Anyways, good post. Always like reading about Nomo.

Fuji said...

I must find and add that 1990 Takara Buffaloes card to my collection. Always thought his 1991 BBM was his rookie card.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Fuji - the BBM and Calbee cards from 1991 are considered rookie cards of his but whether they should be really depends on how you want to define "rookie card". If you say that it's his first card with a manufacturer regardless of whether the card came out in his rookie year, then the BBM and Calbee cards would be rookie cards. Of course, by that argument, all the player cards in the 1991 BBM set are rookie cards.

I'm pretty agnostic on the actual semantics - it doesn't really bother me to consider the 1991 cards as "rookie cards" along with the 1990 Takara. Are there any instances in the US where there's a player who has "rookie cards" in different years from different card makers? Didn't A-Rod not have a Topps card for a number of years? Is his first Topps card considered a rookie card?

Fuji said...

Yeah... A-Rod's first Topps card didn't come out until 1998, while his textbook rookie cards were produced in 1994.

I've added the 1990 Takara to my eBay search... so hopefully I'll one day own one without breaking the bank.

Derek McKim said...

I consider a player's rookie card as his first national release(or several sets that yr). If a player has a regional team issue set prior to. I consider it a pre-rookie. my personal take. So for me, 1991 Nomos will be rcs. the 1991 BBM would be somewhat similar to the 1939 Play Ball. There was a 4-5 yr gap between Play Ball and Goudey sets. So a lot of RCs in 1939.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Derek - the 1990 Takara set wasn't a regional team set - it was a national release, so by your argument the 1991 BBM card would not be his rookie card.

I don't think the Goudey/Play Ball comparison really fits. This is really more like 1989 where Upper Deck started making cards while there were already several other companies making cards. Why's the Griffey in that set considered a rookie card but Walt Weiss's card isn't? It's because Weiss appeared in the Topps, Fleer, Donruss and Score sets in 1988, right? This pretty much the same thing.

To further amuse and confuse, let's consider the matter of Ichiro's first cards. He has cards in the 1993 BBM, Tony and Takara sets, all of which are (and should be) considered rookie cards. But what about Calbee? His first Calbee cards are in a set released only in Hokkaido for a short period of time late in the 1994 season. His first cards in the "flagship" Calbee set don't come until 1995. But it looks to me from the prices listed in Engel that the 1995 Calbee cards are considered rookie (the 7th Edition lists them at $150) and the 1994 cards are the kind of "regional issue" that you're talking about (and list for $700!).

Derek - I apologize if it seems like I beat up on you every time you comment. Your comments are good and they make me think - I just end up disagreeing with you :-) But I do appreciate what you're saying.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Fuji - the 1990 Takara card can usually be had on Ebay reasonably cheaply because usually the sellers really don't know what they have. It seems like there's a bunch of 1989-91 Takara sets that made their way to the US and end up getting dumped out there on Ebay. Since the cards are all in Japanese, most people don't know who's in the sets.

Not that I want to advocate taking advantage of people or anything...

Derek McKim said...

No offense taken. I admit I know very little about the Japanese cards. still learning. been collected USA cards since early 80s. What is the Takara Buffalos set? how was it released? set? packs? players from various teams?
All due respect. I disagree with Griffey/weiss comp. All of 89 Upper deck RCs are RCs from all other 89 sets. Weiss has a 88 fleer rc reason why 89 UD isnt his. Better question is about john smoltz. his RC is all his 1989s including 1989 Upper Deck, yet he has a 88 fleer update card. Is considered his XRC(extended rookie card) because released in set form only I believe, not in packs. Yet modern day players like Miguel Cabrera has his RCs from 2000 Topps Traded and traded chrome released only sets. Beckett really needs to update their rc definitions and designations. guess it comes down to personal preference of collector.

NPB Card Guy said...

I think you're agreeing with my point about the 1989 Weiss Upper Deck card - it's not a rookie card because he had cards in the 1988 sets. Nomo had a card in the 1990 Takara set, so the 1991 BBM card wouldn't be a rookie card.

But something else you've been saying has finally clicked with me - the Takara cards were sold as team sets, not in packs. So, yes, by your argument (and I guess Beckett's), the 1990 card is not his rookie card, but his 1991 BBM and Calbee cards are.

I did a post on the Takara sets a few years back if you're interested in learning more about them.

Derek McKim said...

Guess were are finally agreeing on actually not on Weiss though. He has a 1988 fleer base set card #652 plus the traded sets. so his 89 Upper deck is irrelevant in terms of rookie cards. I think your argument goes for a player who has 1988 traded cards like a Smoltz, jim abbott or Craig Biggio and has 1989 upper deck(and others)cards as RCs by Beckett definitions. which is actually rookie card? Griffey has no cards prior to 1989 so all of his 89 releases are rcs in any defintion.
My personal definition of a rc is first national mainstream card of a player. so I lean towards the 88 traded craig biggios opposed to his 1989 releases because they are major national releases whether in pack or set forms.
I also lean towards the 91 Nomo vs 90. The Takara sets are not mainstream enough for me. Issued only as team sets intended for a playing game opposed to a set with all of league's players in more of a trading card form.
Its personal preference. first pro card or first mainstream pro card.
Each collector should have his/her own preferances and interests, part of what makes collecting fun.

Derek McKim said...

One other food for thought(pun intended) is major national food issue releases.
Hall of Famer Eddie Murray rc is 1978 Topps. He also has cards in the Hostess and Kellogg's sets in 1978. Beckett doesnt include them as RCs. Guess they are not mainstream and popular enough to designate as a RC.
I personally call them RCs because anyone cab grab a box of cereal and build sets just easily as the usual pack form. My personal preference.

Sean said...

Its an interesting question about why Nomo isn`t on any post-1994 cards. I am assuming it is because Calbee and BBM have contracts with the player`s union that allow them to use player images. Because Nomo isn`t a member of that union they would have to negotiate the rights to use his image directly with him, which may be more costly than it is worth to them.

NPB Card Guy said...

IYeah, I think that BBM has to deal directly with any OB players that appear in their sets. But I don't know if he doesn't appear because BBM didn't offer enough money or because BBM simply hasn't asked. As I said, there appears to be some residual bitterness over the way Nomo departed Japan and I don't know if that effects the way BBM (and Calbee and Epoch) treat him.

Anonymous said...

have a japanese 1987 nomo card #266. all in japanese characters. Very small card with him in t shirt on front. anyone know what this is?

NPB Card Guy said...

Hmm, in 1987 Nomo was playing for an industrial league team. I've not heard of industrial league teams having baseball cards. Can you send me a scan of the card? My email is