Wednesday, February 21, 2018

2018 First Flagship Sets And More

A bunch of new sets have been announced recently including the first flagship sets from BBM and Calbee.

- BBM's annual 1st Version set will be released in early April.  As always this is a pack based set issued in boxes containing 20 packs of 10 cards each.  The set pretty much follows the same pattern as the last few years.  The base set contains 372 cards - 324 player/manager cards (27 per team), 12 team checklist cards and a 36 card "Cross" subset that will be continued in the 2nd Version set later in the year.  This year's "Cross" cards are called "Cross Universe" and have a space theme.  There's the usual assortment of signature parallels for 108 of the player cards (9 per team) plus parallel versions of the rookie cards.  BBM is also doing "secret" versions of 12 cards again (1 per team) - these are basically a photo variation parallel.  There are three 12 card insert sets - "Japanism", "Gemstore" and "3D Cross Universe" and various autograph and memorabilia cards are available as well.

- Calbee's Series One set is to be released around March 26th.  The set will have 72 "regular" player cards (6 per team) along with a 12 card "Draft Pick" subset (featuring the #1 pick for each team from last fall's draft) and four checklist cards.  There's two premium subset/insert sets as well - a three card "Legend" set featuring three players who retired at the end of last season (Tadahito Iguchi, Yuya Andoh and Masahiko Morino) and the ubiquitous "Star" set containing 24 cards (2 per team).  The checklist for the set is available on-line here.

- Epoch is issuing a somewhat reasonably priced set for the Carp called "Rookies & Stars".  Each box contains 20 5 card packs and retails for 8640 yen.  The base set contains 90 cards.  There is a 45 card insert set and there are 45 autograph cards available.  I'm a bit curious how this set is going to be - 90 cards is enough to provide a card for everyone on the Carp's 70 man roster plus the ikusei roster.  If that's what Epoch is doing then it may mean that they are going to attempt to take BBM on in the area of comprehensive team sets.  There doesn't appear to be any mention of photo variants so maybe that craziness from last year is not going to be repeated this year.  The set will be out on April 7th.

- Epoch is releasing their next ultra high-end set in conjunction with the OB Club on March 24th.  This one is called "Award Winners" and will run about 16,200 yen for a box containing six cards (at least two of which are autographed).  There's 40 cards in the base set and 40 "holospectra" insert/parallel cards available.  There are two types of autographed cards for each of the 40 players in the set and a couple "combo autographed ball booklet cards" available as well.

- Hits has returned with "Mini Color Paper" team sets for the Swallows and Baystars.  Each set contains two different "papers" for each player/manager - 12 different ones for the Baystars and 13 different ones for the Swallows.  Each player has a "normal mini colored paper" and a "gilded print signed special mini colored paper".  Both sets will be released on March 31st.

Monday, February 19, 2018

1973 Calbee Large Premiums

Over the years Calbee has issued a variety of items that were available when collectors redeemed "Lucky Cards" that were randomly placed in packs.  In Calbee's very first year (1973) collectors could receive large postcard sized cards as premiums.  These cards were blank backed and are very rare.  I was lucky enough to pick up a couple of them off Ebay recently.

The first card shows a trio of great pitchers - Tsuneo Horiuchi of the Giants, Masaji Hiramatsu of the Whales and Yutaka Enatsu of the Tigers.  Horiuchi and Hiramatsu are both Hall Of Famers and Enatsu would be as well if it was not for his drug bust in the 1990's.  I think this photo was taken at Koshien Stadium at the third All Star game in 1972 but I'm not really sure (the Whales hat has the logo used up until that season).


The other card shows Sadaharu Oh swinging a sword at a baseball:


I can't find a lot about these cards anywhere.  Neither SCM or the 1973 Calbee book mention them at all.  The Calbee collector website has a brief couple of comments about them.  Engel lists about 20 of them but his list does not include the Horiuchi/Hiramatsu/Enatsu card.  I feel very fortunate to have been able to get these.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Card Of The Week February 18

There was a news story about a month ago about a researcher in southern Florida discovering several previously unknown varieties of wasp.  He decided to name one of them "Diolcogaster ichiroi" for Ichiro Suzuki, who has spent the last couple seasons in southern Florida playing for the Marlins.  He's currently a free agent and it's still up in the air if he's going to play in MLB or NPB this coming season.  I last heard a rumor that he was talking to the Rockies but I haven't heard anything more on that since last week.

Here's a Calbee card of Ichiro from 1998:


This is card #W-47 from the "West Special" set Calbee put out that year.  Besides the "standard" set that year, Calbee did three additional 54 card sets that I assume were sold regionally.  The "West Special" set just had cards for the six teams in Western Japan - the Hawks, the Carp, the Blue Wave, the Tigers, the Buffaloes and the Dragons.  The "East Special" set just had cards for the six teams in "Eastern Japan" (essentially Kanto) - the Baystars, the Swallows, the Fighters, the Giants, the Lions and the Marines.  The other set was devoted to the Giants.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2013 Panini USA Baseball Japan Collegiate National Team

In 2013 Panini issued a box set for the USA National Teams (which included the collegiate, 18U and 15U teams).  Each set contained a handful of autograph and memorabilia cards.  The autograph and memorabilia cards had a number of different varieties.  Oddly enough one of the varieties were autographs from the 2013 Japanese Collegiate National Team that Team USA had played in Japan in the first half of July that yearI've written about these cards in the past but I wanted to do another post on them because I think I've finally got the checklist down.

There are 24 cards in the set.  Each card contains a headshot of the player over what I think is a sticker autograph.  Each card is numbered to only 25.  I have five of these now and I'd love to get them all but I suspect completing the set will be financially unfeasible.

Here's the checklist.  For each player I list his uniform number, his college and what collegiate year he was in 2013 (1-4).  16 of the players were drafted directly from college into NPB so I list the year they were drafted along with the team that drafted them and the round.  Two of the players were drafted after playing a few seasons in the industrial leagues so I list their industrial league team as well.  The other six players have not been drafted yet - I was able to track down three of them in the industrial leagues - I suspect the other three may be there as well.

Card No. Uniform No. Name Position College School Year Year Drafted Team Round Industrial League Team
1 1 Ryo Miki IF Jobu University 4 2013 Marines 3
2 2 Shogo Nakamura IF Waseda University 3 2014 Marines 1
3 3 Kanji Kawai IF Hosei University 4 N/A N/A N/A Toyota
4 4 Koji Ohshiro IF Rikkio University 2 2015 Buffaloes 3
5 5 Yudai Fujioka IF Asia University 2 2017 Marines 2 Toyota
6 6 Naomichi Nishiura IF Hosei University 4 2013 Swallows 2
7 7 Tomohiro Mineshita IF Kinki University 3 N/A N/A N/A Osaka Gas
8 8 Gen Mizutani OF Asia University 1 N/A N/A N/A Toho Gas
9 9 Shohri Ookido OF Hosei University 4 N/A N/A N/A ?
10 10 Ryutero Umeno C Fukuoka University 4 2013 Tigers 4
11 11 Masaji Rokuno P Tokai University 4 N/A N/A N/A ?
12 12 Seishiro Sakamoto C Meiji University 2 2015 Tigers 2
13 14 Daichi Osera P Kyushu Kyoritsu University 4 2013 Carp 1
14 15 Yasuaki Yamasaki P Asia University 3 2014 Baystars 1
15 16 Toyoki Tanaka P Nihon Bunri University 2 2015 Fighters 5
16 17 Sachiya Yamasaki P Meiji University 3 2014 Buffaloes 1
17 18 Toshihiro Sugiura P Kokugakuin University 4 2013 Swallows 1
18 19 Ryota Sekiya P Meiji University 4 2015 Marines 2 JR Higashinihon
19 21 Kenta Ishida P Hosei University 3 2014 Baystars 2
20 22 Hiroki Minei C Asia University 4 2013 Baystars 3
21 24 Taiga Egoshi OF Komazawa University 3 2014 Tigers 3
22 25 Hiromi Oka IF Meiji University 4 2013 Fighters 3
23 26 Masataka Yoshida OF Aoyama Gakuin University 2 2015 Buffaloes 1
24 27 Ryohei Ishikawa C Kokugakuin University 4 N/A N/A N/A ?

As you can see it's a pretty interesting list.  There's six first round draft picks and two CL Rookie of the Years (Daichi Osera & Yasuaki Yamasaki).  Here's the five cards I have:

#20

#7

#12

#17

#23

Friday, February 16, 2018

RIP Teruyuki Takakura

Former Lion, Giant and Atom outfielder Teruyuki Takakura passed away earlier this week at age 83.  Takakura signed with the then-Nishitetsu Lions in 1953 after graduating from Kumamoto Shogyo High School.  He got his chance to break into the Lions lineup in 1954 when left fielder Etsuro Otsuka contracted tuberculosis and he remained a starting outfielder for the Lions for the next 13 seasons.  He was the leadoff hitter on the Lions V3 team - the team that won three consecutive Nippon Series from 1956 to 1958.  He was traded to the Giants following the 1966 for Katsutoshi Miyadera in a cost-cutting move by the Lions.  He had a fairly strong first season with Yomiuri but lost his starting job to rookie Shigeru Takada in 1968 and the team released him after the season.  He hooked on with the Sankei Atoms for 1969 (rejoining his Lions teammate Yasumitsu Toyoda who was a coach for the team).  He retired after the 1970 season that he spent with the now Yakult Atoms.

He was named to nine All Star teams (1956-57, 1959, 1961-66) and three Best 9 teams (1959, 1964, 1966).  He played in four Nippon Series with the Lions (losing in 1954 and winning in 1956-58) and one with the Giants (winning in 1967 in which he won the "Outstanding Technique" Award).

There's a number of cards of Takakura available from when he played.  He's also appeared in a number of OB sets over the last 20 years although not nearly as many as some of his contemporaries.  Here's a handful of his cards:

1957 Marusan JCM 43a

1960 Maruya JCM 57c

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #134

2009 BBM Lions Memorial #35

2014 Epoch Giants V9 Glorious Victory #24

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Saturday Afternoon In Scottsdale


Last Saturday my wife and I escaped the frigid Mid-Atlantic for an extended weekend in Arizona.  Our first stop straight from the airport was to Salt River Fields At Talking Stick in Scottsdale, the spring training home of the Rockies and Diamondbacks and, for two weeks this spring, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.  The Fighters were playing a game against the KBO's KT Wiz that afternoon.

We arrived at the game during the bottom of the first and sat behind Deanna Rubin and Dani who were in the first row behind the Fighters' dugout.  We spent the game talking with them and just enjoying being out in nice weather.

The game itself was pretty uneventful.  The Fighters went up 1-0 in the bottom of the third on a home run from Kenshi Sugiya (who spent a couple weeks this winter with the Brisbane Bandits who won the Australian Baseball League championship over the weekend).  The Wiz tied it up in the sixth but the Fighters rallied to score three runs in the bottom of the eighth and went on to win the game 4-1.  (It was kind of odd that they played the bottom of the ninth despite the Fighters - who were the home team - leading.)  Justin of Charm City Autographs (who had intended to be at the game originally but had to work) told me that he was surprised the Wiz had even tied the Fighters since the Wiz hadn't sent any regulars up from their training camp in Tucson.

I was kind of disappointed after the game that there really wasn't any opportunity to get any autographs from the players.  It looked like Yuki Saitoh was the only one who stopped to sign for anyone in the stands.  I was also disappointed that I didn't see any media, scouts or front office people that I had brought cards for.  Saturday was the only day that we were going to spend at the Fighters' camp - we went to a bunch of National Parks, Monuments and Forests during the other two days we were in Arizona - so all the cards I brought were for naught.

Here's some of the pictures that I took:

This is an aerial shot of the ballpark and surrounding fields that I took on a previous trip when I was leaving Phoenix

View from the center field entrance of the ballpark

The view from our seats

Ryo Ishikawa (#68) and top draft pick Kotaro Kiyomiya (#21)

Yuki Saitoh on the mound

Sugiya's home run swing

Sugiya rounding the bases

Sugiya getting congratulations after the home run

More congratulations

Kiyomiya's fielding debut at first - he didn't bat in the game

Koichi Ogata coaching at third

Final score

Saitoh signing for the fans after the game

The Fighters' YouTube channel had highlights for the game:



There's more pictures and a partial box score for the game at the Fighters' website.  Check out Dani and Deanna's Twitter feeds for more photos from the game and the rest of training camp - they were both there for a couple days.  An outfit called Phrake Photography posted a bunch of pictures from the game on Facebook and published a link on the NPB Reddit page.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Card Of The Week February 11

After six seasons in the majors, Norichika Aoki is returning to NPB and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.  He played for seven teams in his six seasons - two years with the Brewers, one each with the Royals, Giants and Mariners and then three teams last season - the Astros, the Blue Jays and the Mets.

I don't usually collect memorabilia cards but I got a good deal on a bunch on Ebay a few years back and one of them was this one of Aoki from the 2007 BBM 1st Version set:

2007 BBM 1st Version #M2

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Matt Murton & Colby Lewis

Two former MLB players announced their retirements in the past few weeks and since both spent time in NPB I thought I'd do a quick post on them.

Matt Murton was originally drafted in the 1st round of the 2003 draft by the Red Sox out of the Georgia Institute of Technology but he was only in Boston's organization for about a year.  He was traded to the Cubs along with Nomar Garciaparra in the four team trade that brought Doug Mientkiewicz and Orlando Cabrera back to the Sox.  He made his major league debut with the Cubs in 2005 and bounced between AAA and the majors for much of the next three seasons before he was traded (along with Josh Donaldson and a couple other guys) to Oakland in the middle of the 2008 season for Chad Gaudin and Rich Harden.  He was traded again to Colorado prior to the 2009 season which he again split between AAA and the majors.  He was released by the Rockies after the season and ended up signing with the Hanshin Tigers.

He spent six seasons with the Tigers.  He broke Ichiro Suzuki's single season hits record in his first season in Japan and led the Central League in hits again in 2011 and 2013.  He also had a 30 game hitting streak in 2011, the most ever by a foreign player in NPB and the fourth highest ever at the time.  He won the 2013 CL Batting Crown, was named to the Best 9 team four times (2010, 2011, 2013, 2014) and the All Star team the same four years.  He played in one Nippon Series in 2014 when the Tigers lost to the Hawks.

He returned to the US and the Cubs, signing a minor league deal with the team for the 2016 season.  He spent the entire season in AAA and then was released.  He signed a minor league deal with the Tigers - Detroit this time - for the 2017 season but was injured after only 7 games in AAA.  He announced his retirement about a month ago.  He'll be taking a front office job with the Cubs.

2010 BBM 1st Version #134

2011 BBM 1st Version #339

2011 Calbee #124

2012 BBM 1st Version #375

2013 Calbee #183

2014 Tigers Original Player Card #23

2015 BBM Tigers #T59

2015 Calbee #054
Colby Lewis was a first round pick of the Rangers in 1999 out of Bakersfield College.  He made his MLB debut in 2002 with Texas.  He was picked up by Detroit off of waivers after the 2004 season.  He missed the entire 2005 season due to rotator cuff surgery.  After splitting 2006 between AAA and the majors he left Detroit as a free agent.  He signed a minor league deal with the Nats in November 2006 but was released by them four months later.  He then signed with the Athletics and again split the season between AAA and the majors.  He was claimed by the Royals off of waivers in early November 2007 but released by them a month later.  He then signed a deal with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.

Lewis spent two seasons in Hiroshima.  He led the Central League in strikeouts both seasons and was named to the All Star team in both seasons as well (although he declined to participate in the 2008 games).  He went 15-8 with a 2.68 ERA in 2008 and 11-9 with a 2.96 ERA in 2009.

He resigned with the Rangers in time for the 2010 season and remained with them for the rest of his career.  He pitched in the World Series for Texas in both 2010 and 2011.  He apparently announced his retirement a few months back because his Wikipedia page says his new job is special assistant to Rangers general manager Jon Daniels and he was hired back in November.

2008 BBM 2nd Version #596

2008 BBM All Stars #A07

2009 BBM 1st Version #326

2009 Calbee "Opening Day Pitcher" #OP-10

2009 BBM Carp Promo #SP1

2010 BBM 1st Version #454

Monday, February 5, 2018

2018 BBM Time Travel 1989

BBM's first set labeled as a 2018 set was actually released in late December of 2017.  The set is entitled "Time Travel 1989" and is the second retro set BBM has issued highlighting a past season - the first was last year's "Time Travel 1975" set.

The underlying idea of the set is to look like a set actually issued in 1989 - the stats on the back of the player cards only include 1989 and previous seasons.  The photos on the cards all could have been taken that year as well.  The cards have a matte finish rather than BBM's standard glossy finish and the backs are monochrome rather than full color.

There are 99 cards in the set.  78 of these are the "regular" cards of players (but no managers) who were active in 1989.  This breaks down to six cards per team except for the two pennant winners - Kintetsu and Yomiuri - who have nine cards each.  There are some big names in the set - Koji Akiyama, Norihiro Komada, Hiromitsu Kadota, Masahiro Yamamoto, Takehiro Ikeyama, Tatsunori Hara, Hiromi Makihara and Masaki Saitoh - and a handful of gaijin - Boomer Wells, Larry Parrish and Ralph Bryant.  There are also "Rookie" cards of several players who's rookie season was 1989 - Kenjiro Nomura, Yasuaki Taihoh, Yukinaga Maeda, Terushi Nakajima, Tsutomu Sakai, Tomio Watanabe, Kenji Tomashino and Motonobu Tanishige.  Each of their cards has a "Rookie" icon on it.  There's also a couple cards of players who played in MLB later in their career - Masato Yoshii and Masumi Kuwata.

I felt like last year's set did a pretty good job representing 1975 with only a handful of "important" players left out.  Not so this year.  Central League MVP Warren Cromartie (who also lead the league in batting and made the Best 9 team) isn't in the set.  Choji Murata, Pacific League ERA leader, isn't in the set.  Central League Best 9 third baseman Hiromitsu Ochiai isn't in the set.  Actually these three aren't a big surprise as Cromartie's only been in four BBM sets since he returned to MLB in 1991; Murata hasn't appeared on a baseball card since 2009 and Ochiai hasn't been on a card since 2011.  But there's a whole bunch of gaijin who also don't appear in the set - Cecil Fielder, Jim Paciorek, Wade Rowdon, Carlos Ponce, Matt Keough, Tony Brewer, Mike Diaz, German Rivera, Willie Upshaw, Tony Bernazard and Mike Easler.  Additional Japanese players who are missing include Takayoshi Nakao (CL Best 9 and Golden Glove at catcher), Masahiro Kawai (CL Golden Glove winner at shortstop), Hiromi Matsunaga (PL Best 9 and Golden Glove at third base), Satoshi Nakajima (PL Golden Glove catcher), Atsuhiro Motonishi (PL Golden Glove outfielder), Tsutomo Itoh and Kazuhiro Kiyohara (although Kiyohara's legal issues have caused BBM to not include him in any sets for the past three years).

On the plus side though - the cards look really good:

#27

#15

#72

#30

#51

#17
Here's what the back of the cards looks like:

Back Of #64 (Makoto Sakaki)
The remaining 21 cards in the set are split into four subsets.  The first of these is the "1989 Retirement Players" subset that features six cards of players who retired at the end of that season - Kenji Awaguchi, Shigeru Kurihashi, Masayuki Matsunuma, Kiyoshi Nakahata, Takamasa Suzuki and Tsutomu Wakamatsu.  Here's the Nakahata card:

#79
There's a five card "1989 Highlights" subset.  After the 1988 season Nankai sold the Hawks to Daiei who moved them from Osaka to Fukuoka.  At the same time Hankyu sold the Braves to Orix.  The debut of the two teams are the first two cards in this subset.  The remaining three cards commemorate Sadaaki Yoshimura's return to the Giants lineup in early September after missing most of the season due to injury; Ralph Bryant's four home runs in four at bats in a double header on October 12th and the Giants comeback victory in the Nippon Series after being down 3-0.  Here's the card for Byrant:

#88
There's a four card "Pop Culture" subset featuring pop culture "things" from the year.  The four "things" are Mr Malick's "Super Magic" TV show(?), Nejime Shoichi winning the Naoki Prize (a literary award) for the novel Kōenji Junjō Shōtengai, the manga series Obatarian winning the Bungeishunjū Manga Award and Yoshiharu Habu winning a major shoji tournament at age 19.  Here's the Habu card:

#93
The final subset is the six card "Born In 1989" subset which features six current players who were born in 1989 (obviously).  The six players are Hikaru Itoh, Yuki Karakawa, Yoshihrio Maru, Tomoya Mikami, Akira Nakamura and Yoshinori Satoh.

#94
I like the set, even if I feel it left a lot of players out.  I'll be curious to see if and how BBM does future editions of this set.  Will they stick with years before they started to make cards (1991)?  I'd love to see a set for 1950 (first year of the two league system) but I doubt that would ever happen - they'd only be able to have maybe three OB players signing autographs.  Moving earlier than the late 70's will make it more difficult to have active players in a "Born In..." subset.  I guess we'll know in the fall.

You can see the entire set (including the insert sets) at Jambalaya and Ryan did a post back in December for the set as well.

I teased this the other day so I will tell the story about the obstacles I had getting this set.  The set came out right around Christmas and I kept searching Yahoo! Japan Auctions for complete sets but I kept not finding any.  Finally after about a week I realized that the search term I was using ("2018 1989") wasn't finding much because most of the sellers had the set listed as a 2017 set.  So once I changed the search terms I finally found a complete set.  But when I went to bid on the auction via Noppin I discovered that they had closed for about five days for New Years.  Since I already had the Fusion and Samurai Japan sets waiting for me with Noppin I didn't want to use JAUCE or kuboTEN to get it.  Luckily the set was still available when Noppin reopened a few days later and I was able to buy the set.  Now obviously before Noppin can ship the set to me, they have to receive the set from the seller.  Usually this only takes a couple days - this time it took a week.  Once they got it, I sent a packing request to them.  They got back to me a day later telling me how much it would cost to ship all three sets (Fusion, Samurai Japan and Time Travel 1989) and I immediately paid it.  Noppin promises that they will ship the next business day after you pay for it.  Of course I paid on a Friday so they didn't ship until Monday.  But finally it had been shipped and I should get it in a couple days, right?  Well, not quite.  Tracking showed that it reached customs in New York - and then the US government shutdown for three days.  I don't know if that actually had any impact on my shipment but it took a whole week to clear customs.  It finally arrived at my house about a week and half ago - 12 days after Noppin shipped it.  But all's well that ends well and these are all first world problems so enough whining.