Monday, July 15, 2019

2019 BBM Farewell Set

Among the cards that Ryan had waiting for me in Japan was BBM's annual box set entitled something like "Regret At Parting Baseball Player" or "Farewell" as I inaccurately refer to it.  This set has been released each January since 2011 and features the many of the players who announced their retirement the previous year. 

The base set for this year's edition contains 40 cards which makes it the second largest one of these sets ever, behind the 2013 set which had 41 cards.  Since every player in this year's set has only one card it actually has the most players represented ever - the 2013 set had four players with multiple cards so it only represented 37 players.  The big names in this year's set include Takahiro Arai, Hitoki Iwase, Kazuo Matsui, Masahiro Araki, Toshiya Sugiuchi, Shuichi Murata and Takuya Asao.  About half the cards feature photos from the player's retirement ceremony including several who are receiving their do-age from their teammates.  All the players are depicted in their most recent NPB uniform, even if they spent most of their career with another team like Hiroyasu Tanaka who played for the Swallows from 2005 to 2016 but is shown with DeNA who he spent the last two seasons with or Kenji Ohtonari who's shown with the Marines who he spent one season with after 11 years with the Hawks.  Murata had spent 2018 with the Tochigi Golden Braves of the independent Baseball Challenge League and so is shown with the Giants, his team in 2017.  Here's a couple example cards:

#03

#24

#01

#13
I should mention that as usual Ryan got me an opened set.  The unopened sets include an autographed card in addition to the base set.

This is another one of BBM's sets that pretty much is the same from year to year.  I can't say it's a great set but for some reason I like getting it each year.

You can see all the cards (as usual) over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Card Of The Week July 14

Yesterday Hanshin Tigers outfielder Koji Chikamoto became just the second player ever to hit for the cycle in an NPB All Star game.  Chikamoto went 5 for 5 in all with two doubles, a triple and a home run, scoring three runs and knocking in two in the Central League's 11-3 pounding of the Pacific League at Koshien Stadium.  Atsuya Furuta is the only other player to perform this feat, having done it in one of the games in 1992.  Here's a promo card of Chikamoto from the 2019 Epoch NPB set (#427):


Epoch's NPB set came out in late May while I was in Japan.  I was able to get one at Mint Urawa (doing a post on the set is on my to-do list along with a ton of other stuff).  Many of the card shops were giving away promo packs for the set that contained a single promo card.  I ended up being given 10 promo packs in total - one at Mint Sendai, one at Coletre, two at Mint Odawara, two at Mint Ponyland, one at Mint Hiroshima, two at Mint Hakata and one at Mint Urawa.  (Actually I think I got four at Mint Odawara but I gave two to Ryan.)   All 10 cards I got were different so Ryan and I think pretty much every card in the set is available in promo form.  Ryan suggested it would be possible (although very difficult) to put together the complete 432 card set using only promo cards - I guess I'm only 422 cards away now!

Saturday, July 13, 2019

RIP Glenn Mickens

Former Kintetsu Buffaloes pitcher Glenn Mickens passed away last week at age 88.  Mickens spent 9 years in the Dodgers organization from 1950 to 1958 (including getting into four games with Brooklyn in 1953) before joining the Buffaloes in the spring of 1959.  He was among the first former MLB players to play in Japan.  He spent the next five seasons in Osaka, going 45-51 with an ERA of 2.55 for a very bad Kintetsu team (the Buffaloes went 249-427 during his time with them, finishing last every season except 1963).  He made the All Star team in both 1960 and 1961 and got the win in the third All Star game in 1960.

According to his Japanese Wikipedia page, he's apparently responsible for something called Micken's Rule that looks like it's something to do with how earned runs are charged to a pitcher.  I think the rule change brought NPB more in line with how MLB handled earned/unearned runs.

There are 11 cataloged cards for Mickens in the most recent Engel guide, five of which are "tobacco" menko cards.  I only have one card of him, from the "JCM 43e: 1960 Marusan Simple Back
Black & White Menko" set:


As far as I know he did not have any modern cards from either BBM or Epoch.  It is somewhat baffling to me that BBM has done very few cards featuring the foreign players of the 1950's and 1960's.  It's not like Mickens dropped off the face of the earth - Rob Fitts interviewed him in the early 00's for "Remembering Japanese Baseball:  An Oral History Of The Game".

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Trip Overview Part 4 - Day 6 - Osaka

Thursday May 30th started with another Shinkansen ride west, this time from Nagoya to Osaka.  I arrived at the Shin-Osaka station around 9:30 and made a quick stop at my hotel to drop off my suitcase.  My hotel was just north of Umeda Station and the Hankyu Sanbangai shopping center so I took a walk over and made a quick stop at the Mint Umeda card shop which had just opened.  I then caught a train to go to the Namba Parks Mall.

Namba Parks was built on the site of Osaka Stadium, home of the Nankai Hawks from 1950 to 1988.  To get there, I had to cut through a building with a familiar name - Nankai Nanba Station.


Actually I saw a couple familiar names on the way to Namba Parks:



Nanba Parks has markers on the pavement for where home plate and the pitchers mound had been (although these markers are probably a good 20 to 30 feet above where the playing field actually had been:




If you're wondering about the dates on the plaques, the ballpark didn't get torn down until 1998, 10 years after the Hawks departed for Fukuoka.

The markers aren't the only Hawks related thing at Nanba Parks - up on the ninth floor there's a small "museum" for the Hawks.  It's a small room adjacent to some vending machine and an elevator with a couple display cases:








One other thing I noticed in the mall were these small plaques that were scattered around the gardens in the top couple levels.  Each plaque showed a handprint and a signature.  I found about 16 of them in all - I don't know for sure because I haven't tried to identify every plaque but I think they are all for Nankai Hawks players.  Here's the plaque for Hiromitsu Kadota:


After having my fill of Nankai Hawks history, I went to play tourist.  I headed north a couple blocks to Dotonbori, one of the biggest tourist areas in Osaka.  I went over to Ebisu bridge to get the obligatory shot of the Glico Running Man billboard:


This was of course another baseball connection - Ebisu Bridge is where the celebration that resulted in the "Curse Of The Colonel" occurred.  I saw a sign there that I think is just for Hanshin Tiger fans:


I walked around the area for a little bit, stopping to get some takoyaki (octopus balls) and kushikatsu (basically fried meat on a stick) for lunch.  Here's some pictures from the area:





At this point I briefly considered heading over the the Fujiidera Stadium site but I decided that the time it would take me to get there wasn't really worth the effort, especially since all that's there is a statue.  It's a shame the ballpark is gone because it had a very interesting exterior behind home plate that almost looked like a castle with two turrets:

1992 BBM #109
Instead I headed back to my hotel to rest up for a bit.  I then headed out for my next NPB game - the Yomiuri Giants against the Hanshin Tigers at Koshien Stadium.  I was eagerly looking forward to this game - not because I liked either team a whole lot but because I have wanted to go to Koshien Stadium since I first got interested in Japanese baseball.  But I had a detour I wanted to make on the way.

From 1937 to 1990 the Hankyu/Orix Braves had played at Nishinomiya Stadium, just a few miles to the north of Koshien Stadium.  The ballpark was torn down in the mid 00's and a mall called Nishinomiya Gardens was build on the site:


I had seen from the mall's Japanese Wikipedia page that there apparently was some sort of display for the Hankyu Braves at the mall but I wasn't sure where it was.  I wandered around a little and eventually found it in the Hankyu Nishinomiya Gallery on the fifth floor next to the movie theatre:


The display was roughly the same size as the Hawks "museum" at Namba Parks but it had a large model of the ballpark as a centerpiece:



In one corner they had duplicates of the Hall Of Fame plaques for all the players and executives associated with Hankyu that had been inducted:



There was a display case with a bunch of Braves memorabilia:




Hmm, I think I've seen that 1975 Nippon Champions pennant somewhere before although from the other side:

1975/76 Calbee #285


After finishing up at the mall, I headed south to Koshien.  I wanted to get there a little early so I'd have time to walk around and see some of the plaques and monuments outside the ballpark.  I saw plaques for the three players who have their numbers retired by the Tigers (#23 for Yoshio Yoshida, #11 for Minoru Murayama and #10 for Fumio Fujimura - I guess you need to have an alliterative name to get your number retired by Hanshin which explains why Masayuki Kakefu's number is not retired); a plaque for Babe Ruth's appearance at the Stadium during the 1934 All Star tour on November 24th and 25th; a monument for the Tigers 50th Anniversary in 1985; and a plaque celebrating Tomoaki Kanemoto's consecutive game and consecutive innings played streaks:







After walking around a little bit I headed into the ballpark.  My seat was just barely not obstructed view.  The nice thing about this is that I didn't have anyone sitting to my left.  There was a middle aged couple with the elderly father of one of them (I think the woman) sitting in the seats to my right with the father sitting right next to me.  He and I spoke a little during the game and he offered me a jet ballon for "Lucky 7".


On to the game itself - the Tigers took an early lead on a three run home run in the bottom of the first from Yusuke Ohyama.  The Giants tried to make it interesting by scoring a pair of runs on a two run home run from Takumi Ohshiro but Tigers starter Haruto Takahashi pretty much shut them down, going seven innings and only giving up four hits and two walks while striking out nine.  Meanwhile the Tigers padded their lead with single runs in the fifth and seventh innings.  Pierce Johnson pitched a perfect eight and Rafael Dolis came on to notch his 12th save in the ninth despite giving up a hit.  The final score was 5-2 in favor of the Tigers.  Apparently this was Takahashi's first win in over a year so the event was immortalized on an Epoch One card.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

DigiCube

One of my goals in card shopping in Japan was to locate some examples of a couple card sets that I was sort of aware of but hadn't really seen at all - the 2000 and 2001 DigiCube Chunichi Dragons sets.  I had discovered these sets existed when I saw unopened boxes for them on sale on Yahoo! Japan Auctions but the only cards from the set I had ever seen were one that Ryan had found a few years back and an OB card Zippy Zappy had gotten last winter.

These cards aren't listed in Engel but they were listed in Sports Card Magazine when they listed the non-BBM baseball card sets in the July issue every year (or at least every year that I was getting SCM regularly).  The 2000 set had a base set of 109 cards - cards 1 to 108 plus an unnumbered checklist.  There are an additional 36 cards that I'm guessing are short printed - a nine cards subset devoted to Senichi Hoshino (cards 109 to 117), a "Millennium Best 9" subset (cards 118 to 126) and another 18 card subset that I can't translate.  Zippy Zappy's card is from the "Millenium Best 9" subset.  The 2001 set had a base set of 90 cards - cards 1 to 88 plus two unnumbered checklists.  There are 20 more cards that are short prints - I'm not sure what the subset is called but it looks like it contains 2001 Dragons players.  There apparently is also one or more parallel versions of these 20 cards.

I was ultimately successful in finding some of these cards.  I got two cards from each set.  Surprisingly I didn't find them in Nagoya although I suspect I would have if I'd looked harder at any of the three stores I was in there.  I picked them up at Wrappers in Tokyo.

Here are the 2000 cards:

#021

#017
Here's what one of the backs looks like - despite the fronts having somewhat different designs the backs look the same:

#021 (Kuji)
Here are the 2001 cards - not to knock Kuji (the 1992 Central League Rookie Of The Year and 2 time All Star) and Nakamura (an 8 time All Star) but I was a little happier with these two cards:

#001

#052
Here's what the back of the Yamasaki card looks like:

#052
Now that I've seen these I wouldn't mind getting some more.  I did a quick look on Yahoo! Japan Auctions but there currently aren't any unopened boxes.  I'll have to keep my eyes open.