Monday, September 30, 2013

I See Your Henderson Alvarez And I Raise You One Yutaka Enatsu

In case you missed it, yesterday Henderson Alvarez threw a no-hitter for the Marlins against the Tigers.  What was significant about this was that the Marlins were held scoreless through the first eight innings themselves so when Alvarez left the mound after the top of the ninth with his no-hitter intact, he didn't know if he was going to have to keep pitching more innings.  Luckily for him, the Marlins scored a run (on a wild pitch!) in the bottom of the ninth so he had a run-of-the-mill nine inning no-hitter albeit a walk-off one.

Something similar happened 40 years ago in Japan but it was even more crazy.  Yutaka Enatsu of the Hanshin Tigers took on the Chunichi Dragons at Koshien Stadium on August 30, 1973.  He took a no-hitter through nine innings, but the Tigers were unable to score a run against the Dragons starter Yukitsura Matsumoto (I think) so the game went into extra innings.  After pitching two more no-hit innings, Enatsu was able to end the game by hitting a Sayonara home run in the bottom of the eleventh for a 1-0 Tigers win.  Talk about taking matters into your own hands.

Here's the front and back of the card for this game from last year's No-Hitter set from BBM (#57):

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Card Of The Week September 29

The Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles clinched their first ever Pacific League pennant last week.  This is the Eagles ninth season.  They were created in 2005 to replace the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes who were "merged" (really assimilated) with the Orix Blue Wave, creating the Orix Buffaloes.

The Eagles first manager was Yasushi Tao, former star outfielder for the Chunichi Dragons, Seibu Lions and Hanshin Tigers (and Ichiro Suzuki's favorite player when he was growing up).  Tao was a teammate of current Eagles manager Senichi Hoshino when he was with the Dragons.  The team finished their inaugural season with a record of 38-97 and Tao was let go.  This was the only year that Tao ever managed a team (at least so far).

Here's a card of Tao (#E03) from the box set BBM did for the Eagles in early 2005:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

2013 BBM Genesis Box Break

So I've probably pretty much established that I'm not a big fan of the high end cards, including BBM's high end sets (Diamond Heroes, Touch The Game and the current one, Genesis).  And if you've been reading me for a while, you know that I usually buy complete sets, not unopened material.  So you might be surprised that I'm doing a post about opening a box of this year's Genesis.  Well, there's a simple explanation - it's not my box and it's not my box break.

I got an email the other day from a reader named Pete who, during the course of the conversation, revealed that he had recently picked up a box of Genesis.  I asked him if he'd be willing to give me the breakdown on the box for a post and not only did he agree, he was kind enough to take a bunch of pictures and send them.

The Genesis set has a base set of 120 cards - 108 player cards (9 per team) plus 12 team checklists.  In addition there's 36 cards for the final edition of the "Cross Wind" cross set subset (3 per team).  There's also a bunch of insert sets and various memorabilia cards available.  And parallels.  Lots of parallels.  You can see all the regular cards here and a bunch of the inserts, parallels and memorabilia cards here.

Pete told me that he had ordered the box from Niki via Rakuten Global Market.  He says that the box actually contains four smaller boxes in it.  Each of the smaller boxes contains five packs containing five cards each.  So there's 100 cards total in the box.

He got a total of 98 different cards in the box - only getting two doubles!  That's amazing.  Actually, from someone who used to try to build sets by opening BBM boxes 10 years, that's completely unbelievable.  Either BBM has greatly improved their card collation process or Pete's the luckiest guy on the face of the Earth.  (Both options are possible.)

From the base set, Pete got 70 unique cards (including three team checklist cards) plus two doubles.  Here's some photos of the base cards:


#007 Back


#026 Back


#045 Back


#CL05 Back
Nice to see that BBM has been able to come up with a theme for the team checklists that's more useless than the mascot ones.

Pete also got three parallel cards - a green Mistuo Yoshikawa (serially numbered to 100), a red Motonobu Tanishige (numbered to 50) and a silver Katsuya Kakunaka (numbered to 25):

#057 Green Version

#057 Green Version Back

#014 Red Version

#014 Red Version Back

#099 Silver Version

#099 Silver Version Back
He got 23 cards (all singles, no doubles) from the Cross Wind subset:


#CW034 Back


#CW107 Back
And now for the good stuff - he pulled an "Ultra Nova" insert card of Hisayoshi Chono.  It's serially numbered to 50 - I don't know if it's a parallel version of the insert or if all the Ultra Nova inserts are serially numbered:


#UN01 Back
And, saving the best for last, Pete pulled a Sho Nakata Jersey card (numbered to 400):



So thanks Pete for sharing the photos and stats on the box.  If anyone else opens a box and wants to share photos and stats, let me know.  I think this is a cool way to get a little bit of information out that's different than what I normally post about.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

2013 BBM All Star Memories 80's Set

No set from BBM for this year's All Stars but they did put out a historic set back in July highlighting the guys in the All Star games during the 1980's.  The set is called "All Star Memories 80's" and contains 90 cards - 81 cards of individual players, three cards for what I guess were classic pitcher/batter match-ups and six combination cards.

It looks to me that the pictures on the player cards were all taken during actual All Star games.  A number of them were obviously taken during the games as you can see several players in different uniforms in the shot.  There are some shots that could possibly have been taken during other games but I don't see any pictures that obviously were not taken at an All Star game (no shot of a batter with a catcher from the same league squatting behind him for instance).  Given that this was one of my complaints about the last couple All Star game sets where BBM made a big deal about the shots coming from the games but you not really being able to tell, I think this is great.  Although there may be a little too many shots of guys celebrating winning a game MVP award by sitting on the hood of a car and holding up a big key.

The players appearing in the set include a wide selection of Hall Of Famers and lesser stars - Sadaharu Oh, Katsuya Nomura, Sachio Kinugasa, Koji Yamamoto, Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Masumi Kuwata, Hiromitsu Kadota, Randy Bass, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Keishi Suzuki, Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Tsutomu Itoh, Yutaka Fukumoto and Hisashi Yamada among many others.  The only big stars of the 1980's that I can think of off hand who aren't in the set are Warren Cromartie (who can be seen on Yoshiharu Wakana's card) and Hiromitsu Ochiai (who hasn't appeared in an OB set since the Dragons let him go after the 2011 season).

My only real gripe about the cards is that since a lot of the pictures were taken at night, they aren't the usual high quality photography that I expect from BBM.  But I think the content of the pictures more than makes up for the quality.  Here's a bunch of sample cards:








There are two subsets in the set.  The first is a three card subset featuring what I assume are some sort of significant pitcher/batter match-up.  They show Kazuhiko Ushijima of the Dragons pitching to Nobuyuki Kagawa of the Hawks, Suguru Egawa of the Giants pitching to Daijiro Ohishi of the Buffaloes and Masumi Kuwata of the Giants pitching to Kazuhiro Kiyohara of the Lions.  I know that Kuwata and Kiyohara were high school teammates so maybe that's the reason the other two pairs are commemorated also.


I really like the cards in the other subset, the six combination cards.  I just think it's really cool to see some of these guys on cards together, even though they're just standing there.  The combinations are Oh and Nomura; Masahiro Doi, Akinobu Mayumi, Mitsuo Motoi and Wakana; Tatsunori Hara and Hiromichi Ishige, Koji Yamamoto and Koichi Tabuchi; Randy Bass and Boomer Wells and Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Takahiro Ikeyama.  I couldn't decide which of these I liked the most so I'm showing half of them:



As you might have guess, I really like this set.  I'm hoping that BBM does editions for other decades as well.

You can see all the cards at Jambalaya and Ryan did a post on the set last month also.

Card Of The Week September 22

On August 20, 2006, Waseda Jitsugyo took on Komadai Tomakomai in the finals of the annual Japanese High School Baseball Championship - a tournament better known simply as "Koshien".  Yuki Saitoh started for Waseda Jitsugyo against Masahiro Tanaka for Komadai Tomakomai.  Both pitchers ended up going the distance in a game that ended 1-1 after 15 innings, the first time the title game had ended in a tie since 1969.  A rematch was scheduled for the next day and Saitoh again started the game, pitching another complete game in Waseda's victory 4-3, striking out Tanaka to end the game (I don't think Tanaka started for Komadai - I think he came in in relief late in the game).  The two games made a national star out of Saitoh (and Tanaka to a lesser extent).

It was the final high school game for both pitchers and the divergence of their careers since then has been interesting.  Tanaka decided to go pro and was selected by four  teams in the first round of the 2007 NPB Draft (which was held in October of 2006) with the Eagles winning the rights to sign him.  He's gone on to win the 2007 Pacific League Rookie Of The Year and the 2011 Sawamura Award.  He's pitched for Japan in the 2008 Olympics and both the 2009 and 2013 World Baseball Classics.  His career win-loss record through yesterday is 97-35 which includes the ridiculous 26-0 streak he has dating back to August of 2012.  He's made the All Star team six of the seven years he's been in NPB.  He is rumored to be heading to the US this off season via the posting system but in the meantime he's leading his Eagles to possibly their first League title (their magic number is currently 5) and their first Nippon Series appearance.  He's probably going to win both his second Sawamura award and the PL MVP award this fall.

Saitoh, on the other hand, decided to go to Waseda University and study sociology.  He pitched for Waseda's team in the Tokyo Big Six league, leading the team to a couple league championships during his tenure there.  He pitched for Team Japan in a couple different collegiate tournaments also.  He declared for the 2011 draft (held in October 2010) and, like Tanaka, was selected by four teams in the first round (Swallows, Fighters, Marines and Hawks) with the Fighters winning the lottery.  His professional career has not been anywhere near as successful as Tanaka's.  He was the Opening Day starter for the Fighters in 2012 and made the All Star team in both 2011 and 2012, actually starting one of the games in 2012.  But he was demoted to ni-gun shortly after that All Star start, however, and has not made more than a couple appearances at the ichi-gun level since then (plus a two inning mop up stint in a blowout Fighters loss in last fall's Nippon Series).  He has not appeared for the top team at all this year.  He had an extremely poor start in the minors last Friday, giving up nine runs in 2 1/3 innings against the ni-gun Marines.  In his defense, Saitoh has had a right shoulder injury that he's been trying to work through without surgery.   But after three seasons in NPB, he's got an 11-14 record.

I've mocked Yuki Saitoh quite a bit over the years, but it's not really about him - it's about his celebrity.  He became ridiculously popular following his Koshien stardom.  I'm convinced that BBM started doing the Tokyo Big Six sets so that they print cards of him several years earlier than they would have otherwise.  His two All Star team appearances were due to the "+1" voting where fans got to vote for the final players for each roster.  Even after several years of being mediocre, he still gets a lot of fans out to see him pitch - Deanna Rubin was at the game at Kamagaya on Friday and reported (on Facebook) that the ballpark was much more crowded than normal due to him pitching.  So I think now that I will stop mocking him - it's not his fault that he's popular for something he did seven years ago and it's not really fair for him to have had to learn how to pitch professionally in a fishbowl.

Here's a card of him from the 2008 BBM Japan College Baseball National Team set (#CN24) when he was 20 years old and life was good:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2013 Baystars 20th Anniversary

Following the 1992 season, the Yokohama Taiyo Whales changed their name to the Yokohama Baystars (or BayStars or Bay Stars - never quite figured that one out).  I'm not entirely sure why they made the name change - Wikipedia says it's due to the parent corporation Taiyo changing their name to the Maruha Corporation which doesn't quite make sense.  Maruha had been one of the owners of the team for years - their uniforms had featured a patch for Maruha on the sleeve for years ( from the early 50's until the team moved to Yokohama in 1978),  So I think Taiyo always WAS Maruha.  Regardless, 1993 was the first year for the renamed team.  BBM published a 20th Anniversary set for the Baystars a few months back.

The base set features 81 cards, a little smaller than the "standard" size for BBM's Anniversary sets (99 cards).  As usual, this breaks down to a bunch of OB player cards (57), a bunch of cards for the current team (18) and a couple subsets - former managers (3 cards) and "Baystars History" (3 cards).

As always, the OB Baystars players includes both retired players and active former Baystars.  The former includes Bobby Rose, Tyrone Woods, Takuro Ishii, Norihiro Komada, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Glenn Braggs, Kazuhiro Kudoh, Takanori Suzuki, Marc Kroon and Satoru Komiyama.  The latter includes Ryota Aikawa, Shuichi Murata, Motonobu Tanishige and Seiichi Uchikawa.  It looks like the player selection is pretty good as there's no one in particular who stands out as missing.  Here's some example cards:






There are some guys missing from the "Former Managers" subset.  There have been eight managers of the Baystars prior to Kiyoshi Nakahata, the current manager.  The set only includes three of them - Hiroshi Gondoh (manager of the 1998 champs), Akihiko Ohya (who managed the team on two separate occasions) and Kazuhiko Ushijima.  That means Akihito Kondo, Masahiko Mori, Daisuke Yamashita, Tomio Tashiro and Takao Obana were left out.  Here's the Gondoh card as an example:


Typically BBM's Anniversary sets have a six or seven card subset for the team's history or highlights.  Not to be too mean here, but the Baystars probably haven't had that many highlights over the last 20 years, so the subset in this set is only three cards.  They commemorate the Baystars championship in 1998, something for Kazuhiro Sasaki (maybe leading the league in saves for four straight season from 1995-98?) and Takuro Ishii reaching 2000 hits in 2006.  The only other thing I can think as a highlight for the team might have been Norihiro Komada getting his 2000th hit in 2000.  On the other hand, Komada got a bunch of those hits as a Giant while Ishii got them all in Yokohama so maybe not.  Here's the card for the 1998 Championship:


The current team subset in BBM's Anniversary sets always seem kind of like an afterthought to me and this one's no different.  It contains most of the people that you'd expect - Tony Blanco, Norihiro Nakamura, Alex Ramirez, Sho Aranami, Daisuke Miura and Tatsuhiko Kinjoh among others.  On the other hand, there were two guys that I was surprised to see weren't included - Nyjer Morgan and rookie Kazuki Mishima.  Here's some examples:



You can see all the cards here.

It's not a bad little set, although it's probably only a set you'll want to pick up if you're a big Baystars fan (or love OB sets like I do).