Friday, April 27, 2018

Katsuya Nomura of the Lotte Orions?

Hall Of Famer Katsuya Nomura had a 26 year career in NPB*.  Most of time - from 1954 to the end of the 1977 season - he spent with the Nankai Hawks, including the last eight seasons as player-manager.  He was let go by Nankai as both a player and manager just before the end of the 1977 season due to some controversy surrounding his wife Sachiyo.  I've never quite understood everything that happened but there were/are accusations of her meddling with the team.  There was also the scandal of their relationship for several seasons before they got married to each other when they were both still married to other people.  He spent the 1978 season with the Lotte Orions.  He moved over to the Lions in 1979.  The Lions had just been bought by Seibu and moved from Fukuoka to Tokorozawa and I think they were looking for veteran leadership from him.  He spent two seasons with the Lions, retiring after the 1980 season.  (He made the All Star team that year and is the only player to appear in All Star games in four different decades.)

*Actually that's not quite right.  His professional career lasted 27 seasons - from 1954 to 1980.  But he spent the entire 1955 season with the Nankai Hawks' farm team.  So he "only" played 26 seasons at the ichi-gun level.

There are a lot of baseball cards of Nomura as a Nankai Hawk.  There are a fair number of baseball cards of Nomura as a Seibu Lion.  But are there any of him as Lotte Orion?  Until a couple weeks ago, I would have said there weren't.

There are a number of factors that contributed to there not being any cards of Nomura with Lotte.  The biggest is that Calbee, who was the main manufacturer of baseball cards in 1978, did almost no cards of Lotte players until 1985 because Lotte was a competitor of theirs in the snack food market.  So there was no Calbee card of him in 1978.  NST did a large set but it was all Giants players so no NST card.  Yamakatsu had several card sets that year but I believed that for some reason they never had a card of Nomura in any of their sets so I didn't think there was a card of him from that year.  And none of the OB sets that BBM has done over the years has included a card of him with the Orions.  The one that would have made the most sense to include him - the 2008 Lotte 40th Anniversary set - came out when Nomura was managing the Eagles and appeared in very few OB sets.

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I discovered that someone was selling a card of Katsuya Nomura with Lotte on Ebay.  I was even further surprised when I realized that it was Yamakatsu card after all.  It was from the set of postcard sized cards called "JY10" in Engel.  As far as I can tell, this is the only card Yamakatsu ever did of Nomura.  I had just never realized that he was in that set.  I bid an unreasonably large sum of money on the card but luckily it only took about half of what I bid to get it.  It showed up at my house yesterday:

I'm kind of expecting BBM to do a set this celebrating Lotte's 50th Anniversary of buying the Orions so I'm hoping that maybe they'll have a card of him in a Lotte uniform in that set.  But at least now I finally have one.


SumoMenkoMan said...

That is a pretty interesting logo on the hat. Congrats on the pick up!

Sean said...

Nice find, I didn't know there was a care out there of him with Lotte (now added to my want list!)