Sunday, September 1, 2013

Card Of The Week September 1

This card was included in a lot of blank backed bromide cards that I won on Ebay a while back.  I've been puzzling over it for a while but I think I just had a break through in the past week on who it is and where the picture is from.

Initially when I got the lot of cards, I had no idea what set any of them were from.  Then I got the "Vintage Card Edition" of Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Card Checklist And Price Guide".  I was able to identify two of the cards from the lot as being from the 1958 Hinomaru Giants set.  I was pretty confident that most of the remaining cards in the lot were from the 1959 Hinomaru set, even though most of the cards didn't appear in the list in the book (the general appearance of the cards match).  This one, though, still defied identification.

For one thing, I couldn't figure out the team.  The "K" on the hat looks like the Kokutetsu Swallows hat from the 1950's but the emblem on the shirt looks nothing like the Swallows uniforms.

Finally I started trying to figure out the kanji and a couple of things started to click.  First, I assumed that the two kanji in parenthesis identified the team (which is typical of a lot of the old menkos and bromides).  From those kanji, it looks like the team is the Nishitetsu Lions - which is really weird because the Lions never wore a hat with a "K" on it.  But the team name being in parenthesis was a clue in itself - the 1959 Hinomaru cards just had the team name on the front, not the team name in parenthesis.  So this card really wasn't from either of the two sets that the other cards in the lot were from.  However, in Engel's writeup of the 1959 set, he states that there is known to be another Hinomaru set from 1956 that is currently too little known to be checklisted yet.  So (assuming that all the cards in the lot are Hinomaru which could be a stretch) maybe this card was actually from 1956.

The player's name is a single kanji and I think it's "Hata" (I believe that the other two kanji indicate that he's a left handed pitcher).  I took a look at the 1956 Lions roster and discovered that there was a 19 year old left handed pitcher named Takayuki Hata on the team.  There's a good chance then that this is him but that still doesn't explain the uniform.

The final piece in the puzzle may have fallen into place when I looked Hata up in Japan Baseball Daily's Data Warehouse.  Hata had gone to Kokura High School where he played in four Koshien tournaments.  He signed contracts with both the Lions and the Hawks and the commissioner's office ultimately awarded his rights to Nishitetsu.  But he was unable to attend spring training that year (1956) while waiting for everything to settle down.  Is it possible that Hinomaru, being unable to get a picture of him playing for the Lions during spring training, decided to use a picture of him from high school instead?  Is the "K" actually for Kokura?

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