Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Mandarake Mail Day

I recently placed another vintage baseball card order with Mandarake, the Japanese chain of antique toy stores that will ship to the US.  I got the cards today so I thought I'd do a quick post on them.

I didn't have many Calbee cards from the 1977 and 1978 sets - about 8 from each - so I thought I'd take the opportunity to see what I could find from those years.  I ended up picking up five cards, three from 1977 and two from 1978.

The first 1977 card is of Koji Yamamoto.  It's from the "Path To Stardom" subset - the black and white photo is probably from Yamamoto's rookie year of 1969 (he wore #27 in 1969 and 1970).  I have a bunch of similar cards from the monster 1975/76 Calbee set but I didn't even know Calbee had done them in the 1977 set as well until Sean posted about them earlier this year.  This card was 300 yen.

1977 Calbee "Grey Back" #90
This card of Yasunori Oshima was just 200 yen.  They describe it as being in "good condition" - I think it's in great shape considering how old it is.  Really the only issue I see is a bit of a crease in the card on the lower right edge (which isn't visible in the scan).

1977 Calbee "Grey Back" #170
I really like this card of Masayuki Kakefu, especially with the car in the background.  It was a steal at only 100 yen(!).  Mandarake described its condition as "below average" but I don't think it's that bad.  It's a bit dinged up (especially compared to the Oshima card) but I've paid more for 70's Calbee cards that didn't look as good as this one.

1977 Calbee "Grey Back" 185
This 1978 card of Yasushi Tao shows him making a play in the outfield against the Hanshin Tigers on April 16th, 1978.  This card is in outstanding condition (Mandarake called it "above average") and at 600 yen cost just a little more than the previous cards.

1978 Calbee Yasushi Tao
The 1978 Calbee set is split up into 10 different series, none of which have card numbers.  Most of the cards I have (including the above Tao card) are from the "Regular Type I" series.  One of the other series is called "Swallows V1" and commemorates the Swallows winning either their first ever Central League pennant or their first ever Nippon Series championship.  I picked up this card of Charlie Manuel from that Series.  It was a bit more pricey than the other cards - 1500 yen - but I think that the Series is kind of rare.

1978 Calbee "VI Swallows" Charlie Manuel
In addition to those five cards I also picked up this card of Taira Fujita from the 1975/76 Calbee set.  It shows Fujita being greeted after scoring (not sure if he homered) by Koich Tabuchi (#22) and Hal Breeden (#44).  Mandarake didn't list a condition for the card although it looks great.  I'm not really looking for any more cards from that set but at 200 yen I couldn't resist this.

1975/76 Calbee #593
The last card I got isn't from Calbee.  Nippon-Ham issued two sets of cards in the 1970's - one in 1975 and 1976 and the other in 1977 through 1979.  I don't see these cards very often and the ones I have aren't in great shape (there's magic marker writing on the back of a bunch of them) so I had been happy that Mandarake had a bunch of them.  They were pricier than the Calbee cards and it took me a little bit of time to narrow it down to a card of a player I liked that had an interesting photo and wasn't expensive.  I finally settled on this 1975/76 card of Tsutomu Wakamatsu for 1000 yen.  Mandarake called its condition "average" but I think it's in great shape.  And there's no magic marker on the back!

1975/76 Nippon-Ham Tsutomu Wakamatsu
My total cost for all the cards was 3900 yen, although 2500 of that was the Manuel and Wakamatsu cards.  Shipping via SAL was 690 yen so my total was 4590 yen or about $44.  I placed the order on November 20th and got the cards today, December 10th (although the post office attempted to deliver them yesterday) so it took just under three weeks to get the cards.  I'm sure I'll be doing this again sometime.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Card Of The Week December 8

I recently picked up these two promo cards from BBM Giants team set this year:

I originally thought these cards were giveaways at Giants games on the days indicated on the front of the cards but it turns out that the Giants were playing the Dragons in Nagoya on August 20th and 21st.  I'm not sure what the event was that these were given out at.  The backs of the cards have no clues - they are the same as the backs of the original cards from the Giants set (except that the numbers have been changed to #PR1 for the Sakamoto card and #PR2 for the Maru one).

Friday, December 6, 2019

2019 Konami Baseball Collection

One of my regrets from my trip to Japan earlier this year was that I didn't think to look for any 2019 Konami Baseball Collection cards when I took a quick look in the gaming card store next to Mint Ikebukuro.  Luckily I discovered that there were some for sale (along with some 2018 cards) on COMC a few weeks back and I picked a couple up.

The Konami Baseball Collection cards are used in an arcade game - I think you get them as rewards for playing the game but I don't know how you get the initial ones.  There are four varieties of cards -"P" (Premium?), "SR" (Super Rare?), "R" (Rare?) and "N" (Normal?).  There are 76 cards for each team (so a total of 912 for the whole set) - 3 "P", 13 "SR", 30 "R" and 30 "N".  It looks like there's only 30 players per team but each player has 2 to 4 cards.

The cards I got were all Buffaloes players:



It's probably obvious but I'll point it out anyway that the Wakatsuki card is an "N" card while the other two are "R" cards.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Last Minute Items

Some recent announcements of a couple expensive new sets being released this month:

- Epoch issued their first baseball card set about 10 years ago with a box set celebrating the 15th Anniversary of the All Japan Baseball Foundation (which is now called the Japan Baseball Promotion Association) and they issued a couple of sets in 2014 celebrating the organization's 20th Anniversary so it's not much of a surprise that they're putting out a set for the 25th Anniversary this year.  The set is called "OB Club 25th Anniversary" and will be released on December 14th.  Like all of the recent collaborations between Epoch and the OB Club (as the JBPA is also known as), this is one of Epoch "ultra high end" sets.  Each box retails for 16,500 yen (~$151) and contains just six cards, although two of those six are autographed.  The base set contains 41 cards and there's three different "holospectra" parallels of each base card - ruby, gold and black (which is 1-of-1).  There are eight different varieties of autographed cards - all of which are serially numbered although I don't know what the print run is for most of them - three of them are 1-of-1s.  The most interesting ones to me are the "booklet" cards that feature two signatures.  I've seen a couple of these on Epoch's Twitter feed and they're pretty cool, especially the one that features both Shigeo Nagashima and Katsuya Nomura.  Of course, each these booklets (there are eight in all) are 1-of-1s so unless I decide to skip a mortgage payment I don't think I'll be picking any of them up.

- Epoch is also issuing another of their ultra high end combination active/OB player team sets called "Stars & Legends" - this one is for the Dragons.  There's four cards in a box and each box goes for 16,500 yen (although Discount Niki has it for about 10% off).  I think that each box contains two autographed cards.  The base set has 43 cards - 28 active players (including manager Tsuyoshi Yoda) and 15 OB players.  There are two varieties of GEM insert cards (serially numbered of course) and four different flavors of autograph cards (which I think have parallel 1-of-1 versions).  The set will be out on December 21st.

- Not to be left out, BBM is issuing their annual ultra high end set - Glory - in late December (Card Fanatic's schedule says December 20th).  Each six card box retails for 15,000 yen (~$138) and I believe is guaranteed to have a memorabilia card AND an autographed card in it.  The base set is 36 cards - which I assume is split evening among the 12 NPB teams but I don't know for sure (and the base set's not really the point of this set anyway).  There's some sort of parallel version or versions available for the base set and two insert sets - "Miyabi" (36 cards) and "Glorious 3-D".  There are (obviously) autographed cards available with this product along with a variety of different memorabilia cards.  There are apparently 11 different cards featuring player jerseys, including what I think are the first Japanese jersey cards for Carter Stewart of the Hawks (I don't think Stewart has an autographed card).  There are 10 different "super patch" cards and one "grip end" card.  There are several different combination memorabilia cards - 12 that feature two players, 3 that feature three players and one that features four players (2018 1st round draft picks Akira Neo, Kyota Fujiwara, Kosei Yoshida and Kaito Kozono).  I assume all of these cards are serially numbered but I don't know what the print run of any of them are.

- I thought I would mention that Shining Venus, BBM's annual set for female athletes, will be released in late January.  The 99 card set includes three cards each for 31 different athletes from a multitude of different fields (there's also six subset cards in the set if you're wondering how the math works out).  It looks like there are two baseball players included in the set - Meguna Furuya and Minami (Takatsuka) of Saitama Astraia.  This will be Furuya's second appearance in the Shining Venus set (she was in the 2018 set) and Minami's third appearance (she was in the 2019 set as well as the 2015 Real Venus set).

- I also wanted to mention that Calbee snuck something out with their new Samurai Japan set.  There apparently is an eight card "limited box set" that I believe is available as a lucky card redemption.  The cards highlight actual games that Samurai Japan played in over the past two years, including the Asian Championship in 2017.  Calbee added the cards to their on-line checklist of the Samurai Japan set and Jambalaya has all eight cards viewable on their website.  As I've mentioned many times, I'm a sucker for National Team sets so I went spelunking through Yahoo! Japan Auctions yesterday looking for a set.  I got one, but it wasn't cheap - 4800 yen which with Noppin's proxy fees ended up being about $58.  I'm going to view it as an early Christmas present to myself.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Toshiaki Imae

Eagles third baseman Toshiaki Imae announced his retirement in late October.  Imae was originally drafted out of high school baseball powerhouse PL Gakuen by the Chiba Lotte Marines in the third round of the 2001 draft.  Imae made his ichi-gun debut in April of 2002 but spent most of his first three seasons with the Marines playing for their farm team in Urawa.  In 2005 though he became the Marines starting third baseman, a role he would not relinquish for another 10 seasons.  He left the Marines as a free agent following the 2015 season and signed with the Eagles.  He missed a lot of time in his first two seasons in Sendai due to injury but he played a full season in 2018.  He suffered an eye injury in training camp in 2019 and only got into 26 games with the ichi-gun team this past season.  He will be a coach for the Eagles starting next season.

Imae was named to the Best 9 team in 2005 and won Golden Glove awards four times (2005-08).  He was selected for the All Star team three times (2006, 2013, 2018).  He played in for Team Japan in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.

I've always found it remarkable that the Marines won the Nippon Series twice while Imae was with them (2005 & 2010) and he was voted MVP both times.

His first baseball card was #326 in BBM's 2002 1st Version set.  His first Calbee card was in the "Jump Up To The Star" subset in the 2003 set but his first "regular" Calbee card wasn't until #096 in the 2005 set.  Here's a bunch of his cards:

2002 BBM 1st Version #326

2003 Calbee #J-10

2005 BBM Nippon Series #16

2006 BBM 1st Version #GG5

2006 Upper Deck World Baseball Classic #31

2007 Marines Team Issue

2008 BBM Lotte 40th Anniversary #94

2010 BBM Nippon Series #S66

2011 BBM Marines 20th Anniversary #28

2015 BBM Marines #M46

2016 BBM Classic #035

2019 BBM 1st Version #149

Card Of The Week December 1

Lots of interesting news stories in the past week regarding player comings and goings but probably the most interesting story is that former Hanshin Tiger, New York Met, San Francisco Giant and Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighter outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjyo is going to try to make a comeback.  Shinjyo is 47 and last played for Nippon-Ham in 2006 before retiring.  He was still property of the Fighters but they have officially released him so he's now a free agent.

It will be interesting to see what happens.  I'm not sure I see him signing on with an NPB team but it wouldn't be out of the question for him to end up on one the indy league teams.  Tuffy Rhodes spent a season as a player-coach for the Toyama GRN Thunderbirds of the Baseball Challenge (BC) league in 2015 when he was around the same age as Shinjyo.  He hit .315 with 5 home runs in 44 games.  Julio Franco was player-manager of the Ishikawa Million Stars of the BC League in 2015 at age 56 and hit .312 in 77 at bats.  So it wouldn't be unprecedented for Shinjyo to play in the indy leagues.

Shinjyo of course spent three years playing in MLB for the Mets (2001), Giants (2002) and Mets again (2003).  But that wasn't the only time he played in the US.  He spent the 1996-97 off season in Hawaii playing for the Hilo Stars of the Hawaiian Winter League.  This league existed for five seasons in the 1990's (from the 1992-93 offseason until the 1997-98 offseason) and attracted players from MLB, NPB and KBO organizations.  The most famous alumni of the league is Ichiro Suzuki, who played for Hilo in the league's first season.  Despite what you might hear, the 1996-97 season is the ONLY season that there were baseball cards for the league (at least until its second incarnation in the mid to late 00's) and Shinjyo is featured in the Hilo Stars set:

Thursday, November 28, 2019

2019 Award Winners

NPB announced most of their major awards this past week.  Tomoya Mori of the Lions and Hayato Sakamoto of the Yomiuri Giants were the Pacific League and Central League MVPs respectively.

2019 BBM 1st Version #012

2019 BBM 1st Version #232
Speaking of Sakamoto I want to direct your attention to an article about him by Jason Coskrey in the Japan Times this past week.  In it Jason points out something I've been thinking for a while (and I think brought up with the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast a while back) - since Sakamoto is unlikely to go to MLB and he will likely become the youngest player to reach 2000 hits as 31 year of age next season, it's possible that Sakamoto could take a run at Isao Harimoto's record for career hits in NPB - 3085.  Harimoto is the only NPB player to ever reach 3000 hits - Sakamoto has a pretty good shot at becoming the second if he stays healthy.

Normally I post the Sawamura award winner here but there wasn't one this season.  The committee of five former pitchers that vote for the award didn't feel that any pitcher met the criteria for it this season.  This is the fifth time in the history of the award that this has happened - the last time was 2000.

The Rookies Of The Year were Rei Takahashi of the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks and Munetaka Murakami of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows:

2019 Calbee #155

2019 Calbee #120
The Best 9 teams were also announced this past week:

2019 Epoch NPB #049

2019 Epoch NPB #019

2019 Epoch NPB #022

2019 Epoch NPB #197

2019 Epoch NPB #025

2019 Epoch NPB #021

2019 Epoch NPB #029

2019 Epoch NPB #134

2019 Epoch NPB #168

2019 Epoch NPB #065

2019 Epoch NPB #290

2019 Epoch NPB #233

2019 Epoch NPB #385

2019 Epoch NPB #268

2019 Epoch NPB #380

2019 Epoch NPB #308

2019 Epoch NPB #240

2019 Epoch NPB #313

2019 Epoch NPB #348

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Kensuke Tanaka

We knew going into last season that it was going to be Kensuke Tanaka's final one as he had announced it last December when he signed his 2019 contract with Nippon-Ham.  Tanaka was the second round pick of the Fighters in the 1999 draft out of Higashi Fukuoka High School.  He spent most of the 2000 season with the farm team but made his debut with the ichi-gun team in September.  He spent most of the next five seasons bouncing between the farm team and the top team, missing time due to a broken leg in 2004.  He came into his own in 2006, taking over the starting second base job when new import Jose Macias didn't hit.  He kept the job for the next six seasons, although he missed time due to a broken finger and an ankle injury in 2011 and a broken arm in 2012.

In 2013 he decided to try his luck in MLB and signed with the San Francisco Giants.  He played most of the season at Triple A Fresno but he was able to get into 15 games with the Giants over about a three week span in July.  The timing of his stint with the major league team worked out perfectly for him as he was able to attend the White House ceremony honoring the 2012 World Series Champion Giants on July 29th - he was sent back to Fresno the next day.  He was released by the Giants a little over a month later but signed with the Texas Rangers for the 2014 season.  He spent all of that season at Triple-A Round Rock - well, all of it until he was released in July.

He returned to the Fighters in 2015 and pretty much resumed where he had left off, at least for the first two years.  His numbers started to decline in 2017 and his playing time started to fall off.  He considered retiring after 2018 but decided to stick around for another season.

He was named as the second baseman on the Best 9 team six times - 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2015) and won the Golden Glove award five consecutive years from 2006 to 2010.  He made the All Star team three times (2008, 2010 & 2012).  He played for the Fighters in threefour Nippon Series (2006, 2007, 2009 and 2016) but he missed the 2012 Series due to injury.

His rookie BBM card was #367 from the 2000 set.  His first Calbee card was #226 in 2006.  Here's some cards of his from across his career:

2000 BBM #367

2003 BBM Fighters #042

2006 BBM Nippon Series #S15

2008 Calbee #051

2009 Lawson Fighters

2010 BBM All Stars #A57

2011 BBM 1st Version #381

2011 Fighters Victory Card #021

2013 BBM 1st Version #373

2015 BBM Fighters #F81

2017 Epoch Pacific League #04

2019 BBM 2nd Version #344
I did a post for him back in early 2013 when he departed Japan for MLB.