Monday, October 30, 2017

Korakuen Stadium

2011 Epoch 1987 #55
Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo opened on September 11th, 1937 and over the next fifty years hosted some 7172 professional baseball games, the most for any ballpark in Japan.  30 years ago tonight the stadium hosted its final game, Game Five of the 1987 Nippon Series.  The visiting Seibu Lions defeated the Yomiuri Giants that night 3-1 on their way to beating the Giants in the Series in six games.  The last player to throw a pitch at the ballpark was Kimiyasu Kudoh, who struck out Giants second baseman Kazunori Shinozuka to end the game.

1987 Calbee #356 (Kudoh)

1987 Amada Heat Sensitive Giants (Shinozuka)
Korakuen Stadium was the home ballpark for seven different teams over the years - the Giants (1937-87), the Fighters (1948-53, 1964-87), the Korakuen Eagles (1937-43), the Daiei Stars/Unions ( 1946-57), the Swallows (1950-62), the Orions (1950-1962) and even the Dragons (1948).  The ballpark hosted the Nippon Series 29 times in the 38 years it was open when there was a Nippon Series.  The bulk of the those Series were for the Giants of course but there were four occasions when Korakuen was used as a substitute home for one of the teams in the Series - 1950, 1962, 1974 and 1978.  There was one Nippon Series that was played entirely in the Stadium - the Fighters/Giants Series from 1981.

Here's a couple of times there's been a good photo of the stadium used on a baseball card:

1974/75 Calbee #416

1075/76 Calbee #406

1980's postcard
The photo on the first card is from Shigeo Nagashima's retirement game on October 14, 1974 (I don't actually have this card - I swiped the image from Sean).  The second card shows the installation of artificial turf during the 1975/76 offseason - Korakuen Stadium was the first ballpark in Japan to have fake grass.  On the lower left corner of the final photo you can see the Velodrome - this was torn down in the mid-80's to make way for the Tokyo Dome.

The Tokyo Dome was built right next door to Korakuen Stadium and during the ballpark's final days you could see the Dome peering over the seats behind home plate (like in the card at the top of this post).  Once the Stadium was closed (the formal closing of the park was November 8, 1987), it was immediately torn down.  The Tokyo Dome Hotel now stands in what was right-center in the old ballpark and there's a shopping center and plaza on the rest of the site.

Here's a couple photos from the book "Nostalgic Stadiums Of Kanto" showing the two ballparks together:

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Card Of The Week October 29

The Hawks beat the Baystars 4-3 today to go up 2 game to none in the Nippon Series.  The key play of the game was a play at the plate in the bottom of the seventh.  With the bases loaded with one out and the Baystars leading 3-2, Akira Nakamura hit a single into right field that scored Yuki Yanagita from third.  Kenta Imamiya attempted to score from second on the play as well but appeared to be cut down at the plate for the third out of the inning.  Imamiya was initially called out but Hawks manager Kimiyasu Kudoh asked for a review of the play.  After the umpires disappeared for what seemed like an extended period of time to view replays, the umpires ultimately overturned the call on the field, putting the Hawks up 4 to 3.

Imamiya's other major contribution to the game was robbing Jose Lopez of a base hit in the top of the eighth.  Lopez hit a ground ball that looked like it was going to through the infield but Imamiya went to his right, backhanded the ball and then threw Lopez out at first.  It was a great play although it was probably aided by Lopez's speed or lack thereof.  Here's Imamiya's "God Of Defense" subset card from the 2014 BBM 1st Version set (#376):

Friday, October 27, 2017

2018 NPB Draft

It was draft day for NPB today.  Officially it's the 2017 draft but since I started mislabelling the draft some years back based on what's on the back of BBM's baseball cards I'm going to call it the 2018 draft.  As usual Deanna pulled an all nighter to live blog the draft and Gen has the round by round lists up as well.

I was kind of surprised to still be doing these posts since it's been four years now since BBM last did a set for the Tokyo Big Six league.  But there was actually someone drafted out of the industrial leagues who appeared in one of those sets.  There's also the virtual cards from the Tokyo Rocks app - all five players who were drafted out of the Tokyo Big Six league today had cards in both last year's and this year's "sets" (this year's set is actually split between spring and fall versions - they issued another 66 cards in early September.  I only have cards for two of the drafted players from the fall set).

One thing I did not check was if any of the former Tokyo Big Six players taken out of the industrial leagues had cards in Tokyo Rocks 2016 set.

Masaki Iwami, Keio (Eagles #2)

2016 Tokyo Rocks

2017 Spring Tokyo Rocks

Takahiro Kumagai, Rikkio (Tigers #3)

2016 Tokyo Rocks

2017 Spring Tokyo Rocks

2017 Fall Tokyo Rocks

Kohei Miyadai, Tokyo (Fighters #7)

2016 Tokyo Rocks

2017 Spring Tokyo Rocks

2017 Fall Tokyo Rocks

Kotaro Otake, Waseda (Hawks #4)

2016 Tokyo Rocks

2017 Spring Tokyo Rocks

Hiromasa Saitoh, Meji (Lions #1)

2016 Tokyo Rocks

2017 Spring Tokyo Rocks

Shunsuke Saitoh, Rikkio by way of JX-ENEOS (Baystars #4)

2013 BBM Tokyo Big Six #28

I'm not positive about this but I believe that Miyadai was the first player drafted from Tokyo University since Takahiro Matsuka was taken by the Baystars in the ninth round of the 2004 draft.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

2017 BBM Team Sets

It's taken me most of the month but I'm finally wrapping up the last of the sets that Ryan sent me at the end of September.  For the third year in a row Ryan tracked down all 12 of BBM's pack based team sets for me. 

Also for the third year in a row, BBM's pack based team sets this year each had 81 cards in their base set.  Each set featured the team's manager as well as all the players on the team's 70 man roster at the time the set went to press (not that any team actually had 70 players on their roster).  The Tigers set also had a card for ni-gun manager Masayuki Kakefu.  Each set also had several subsets and all of them except the Swallows had a single card for all their mascots - the Swallows had three mascot cards.  Two of the sets (the Swallows and Baystars) also had a separate checklist card although several of the sets had the set checklist on the back of the mascot card.  Here's a breakdown of the cards in each set:

Team Player/Manager Cards Mascot Cards Checklist Subsets
Chiba Lotte Marines 68 1 0 Seawall Quartet (4), 2017 New Wave (3), Award winner '16 (5)
Chunichi Dragons 69 1 0 New Face (4), Lord Of Dragons (7)
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 68 1 0 Cutting Edge (3), First Headlines (4), Heavy Hitters Squad (5)
Hanshin Tigers 68 1 0 Newcomer (3), Milestone (3), Heart Of Tigers (6)
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 68 1 0 The Brightest Hope (3), Titlist (9)
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 68 1 0 16 Crowns (7), Fresh Face (2), Spring Smash (3)
Orix Buffaloes 67 1 0 Newcomer (2), Honor Of Bs(11)
Saitama Seibu Lions 69 1 0 Mega Impact(5), High Velocity (3), New Energy(3)
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 66 1 0 Newcomer (2), Great Promise (3), Eager Eagles(9)
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 67 3 1 Aces (1), Rookies (1), Triple Three (3), Full Of Hope (5)
Yokohama DeNA Baystars 68 1 1 Tsutsugoh Sequence (3), Yokohama Pride (3), First Draft Pick (3), Vital To V (2)
Yomiuri Giants 68 1 0 Play For Giants (6), Giants Elite (3), Giants Axis (3)

I do want to point out that the Carp team set has a subset dedicated to the award winners from 2016 that SHOULD have been called "Titleist" but is misspelled "Titlist" which of course makes the middle schooler in me giggle uncontrollably.

As always each set features about 30 to 35 players who don't appear in BBM's flagship sets.  Here's an example card from each set showing a player who did not appear in either the 1st or 2nd Version sets:

2017 BBM Marines #M17

2017 BBM Dragons #D20

2017 BBM Hawks #H21

2017 BBM Tigers #T63

2017 BBM Carp #C49

2017 BBM Fighters #F10

2017 BBM Buffaloes #Bs07

2017 BBM Lions #L44

2017 BBM Eagles #E09

2017 BBM Swallows #S14

2017 BBM Baystars #DB39

2017 BBM Giants #G05
As you can see, all the sets used a different design.  I think the Eagles and Fighters sets ended up being the most attractive this year - both feature a nice card design combined with a good selection of photos.

All the sets were released between March and July.

Thanks as always to Ryan for doing all the work to find these sets for me.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Card Of The Week October 22

The Hawks beat the Eagles 7-0 today to win the Final Stage of the Pacific League Climax Series and qualify for the Nippon Series.  The Hawks won three straight games after dropping the first two against the Eagles.  Seiichi Uchikawa was named MVP of the Climax Series after going 7-18 with four home runs and seven RBIs.  Here's his card from the "Hyper Hawks" insert set from the 2015 BBM Hawks set (#S17):

The Hawks will host the Central League Climax Series winners for Game One of the Nippon Series this coming Saturday.  The CL Series is currently tied up at two games apiece between the Carp and the Baystars.  Both of their games this weekend were rained out due to Typhoon Lan.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

2017 BBM Carp "Successful Achievement" box set

For the second year in a row the Hiroshima Toyo Carp are Central League champs* and for the second year in a row BBM has issued a box set commemorating this.  Last year the set had 55 cards and had the somewhat unwieldy title of "Realization Of A Great Ambition".  At 46 cards thus year's set is a little smaller but it has a much more succinct name - "Successful Achievement".

*Don't forget that NPB awards league championships based on the team that finished first in the regular season so the Carp are CL champs even if the Baystars beat them in the Climax Series and go on to the Nippon Series.

This year's set is organized a little differently than last year's.  Last year's base set told the story of the season in chronological order - card #1 commemorated about Opening Day while card #54 celebrated winning the pennant.  The set had no subsets.  The base set of this year's set is broken into two subsets - 36 "regular" player cards and 9 "name scene" cards (which appear to be highlight cards).

When I say "regular" player card in this case, I mean that the card clearly identifies the player (or manager Koichi Ogata) on the front.  The back of each of the cards however is highlighting a particular game from the season that the player had a contribution to and includes the line score for the game.  There's no biographical information for the player on the back.  Here's an example - Tsubasa Aizawa's card that commemorates him hitting a walk off two run home run to beat the Baystars on April 18th:


Back of #27
You can see that this photo's a little better than the run of the mill BBM batters batting and pitchers pitching shots that I'm always complaining about.  There's some other good shots in the set as well and even the routine photos look pretty good.  BBM used a horizontal format on more cards than the vertical format (about 21 horizontal to 15 vertical) and it works really well.  Here's some more examples:




The players highlighted are pretty much everyone you'd expect.  Beyond the players I've already shown there's Takahiro Arai, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Kosuke Tanaka, Kazuki Yabuta, Yoshihiro Maru, Brad Eldred, Jay Jackson, Kris Johnson and Xavier Batista (only Batista's second card that I know of). 

The "name scene" cards are really more of the same - cards highlighting a particular game.  The photo on the front of the card shows either a player or several players and the players aren't as prominently identified as they are on the "regular" cards.  The backs are nearly identical to the "regular" player cards in that they are giving details about the particular game and don't have biographical information for the player.  Here's a card of Ryosuke Kikuchi scoring against the Giants on April 13th as an example:


Back of #38
Both last year's and this year's set contained a special card as well as the base set.  Last year the special card was one of four oversized 3-D cards.  This year the special card could either be one of five normal sized "Great Heroes" 3-D cards or an autographed card.  I think the autographed cards were extremely rare (which is why the MSRP for the set was only 3000 yen).  I ended up with the "Great Heroes' card.  All the "Great Heroes' cards feature two players.  The one I got had Takehiro Arai and Brad Eldted on it:

It looks much better in person than it does in the scan.

As you might have guessed I like this set.  My only real disappointment with it (other than not getting an autographed card) is that none of the photos on the box front appear on any of the cards. 

As always you can see the whole set over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Card Of The Week October 15

The NPB playoffs (aka the Climax Series) kicked off yesterday with the second place Tigers hosting the third place Baystars in the Central League and the second place Lions hosting the third place Eagles in the Pacific League.  Both home teams won yesterday but the visiting teams came back and won today so both series are tied up at 1-1.  Since both series are a best of 3 that means there'll be two elimination games tomorrow to see who gets to go face the first place Carp and Hawks in the Final Stage of each Climax Series later in the week.

The pitching matchup between Takahiro Norimoto of the Eagles and Yusei Kikuchi of the Lions yesteday was supposed to be the premier pitching match of the playoffs but Norimoto got lit up for seven runs in four innings en route to a 10-0 loss by Rakuten.  Kikuchi however lived up to his end of the pregame hype, throwing a complete game shutout with nine strikeouts while only giving up five hits and one walk.  Here's Kikuchi's 2011 Bandai Owners League card (#016 from the "04" set):

Saturday, October 14, 2017

2013 Bandai Owners League 04 Box break

Like I did about a year ago, I recently picked up an unopened box of one of Bandai's Owners League sets from (the US one, not  Jay Shelton had tipped me off a while back that the boxes could be picked up relatively cheaply so I need to thank him for the heads up.

This time around I bought the "04" set from 2013.  Just to give a little history - Bandai used to issue four sets a year called "01", "02", "03" and "04".  I don't know when during the year the cards were released but the "04" sets came out later than BBM and Calbee's final sets and would frequently feature players who had signed too late to make their flagship sets.  Since I like getting cards of as many different players as I can, the "04" sets are very appealing to me.  And as we'll see in a minute, the 2013

The 2013 "04" base set contains 144 cards - 12 per team.  I believe that some of these cards are short-printed - there are 12 "Super Star" cards, 12 "Clutch" cards, 12 "Great" cards and 24 "Star" cards.  The remaining 84 cards are split between "Black" (36 cards) and "White" (48 cards).  In addition there are at least two insert sets that are not reflected in any checklists that are included with the box - 12 "Legend" cards and 12 "New Star" cards.

The box had 20 packs containing 3 cards each.  Like the box I opened last year I got 60 unique cards.  Here's the breakdown of insert, short print and regular cards:

Legend - 1
Super Star - 1
Clutch - 1
Great - 2
Star - 5
Black - 22
White - 28

Here's examples of each type of card:

#L001 (Keishi Suzuki)






You might notice that the cards for Ginji and Yoshitomo Tani sport "bonus" team logos that reflect the Eagles winning the 2013 Nippon Series and the Giants winning the 2013 Central League pennant.  Since the 2013 Nippon Series didn't end until early November, this set probably didn't come out until December of that year.

The set contains a number of players who didn't make it into any of BBM or Calbee's main sets in 2013.  What I was most interested in was that I picked up cards of a couple foreign players who only pitched in NPB during the second half of 2013 and did not have any other Japanese cards that I'm aware of.  They are Justin Thomas of the Fighters and Tim Corcoran of the Baystars:


One thing you might of noticed - I mentioned that I thought there were two insert set - Legend and New Star.  I got a Legend card in the box but I didn't get a New Star card.  Since Bandai didn't list either set with the checklists in the box, how did I know there was a New Star set?  Not a huge mystery - I had picked up a handful of cards from this set before getting the box and one of them was this New Star card: