Sunday, February 17, 2019

Card Of The Week February 17

The Fighters wrapped up the Arizona portion of their 2019 training camp last Tuesday.  I was not able to make it down there this year (I'm saving leave for another long vacation in May/June) but Deanna Rubin was there and she posted a lot of interesting photos to her Twitter feed.

One tweet in particular that caught my eye concerned Po-Jung Wang, the outfielder Nippon-Ham signed out of the CPBL via the posting system.  Deanna reported that Wang's translator was a former first round pick of the Hanshin Tigers - a pitcher named Ikketsu Shoh.

Actually (as Deanna mentions) his real name is Yi-Jie Hsiao.  According to this NPB Tracker post, Hsiao is from Taiwan originally and moved to Japan at 16 because he wanted to pitch in the Koshien tournament.  He attended Nichinan Gakuen High School and appeared in two tournaments - the 2003 summer one and the 2004 spring one.  He went onto Nara Sangyo University and was the top pick for the Tigers in the fall 2008 draft.

He remained property of the Tigers for the next four seasons although he did not appear with the ichi-gun team until August of 2011.  He got into two games that month, going 0-1 with a 2.16 ERA (and 4.32 R/9 innings).  Those would be the only NPB games he would appear in.  The Tigers released him after the 2012 season and the Hawks picked him up as an ikusei player for 2013.  He joined the EDA Rhinos of the CPBL in 2014 and appeared in 64 games with them over the next three seasons, going 6-9 with an ERA of 4.95.  He was still with the team (which was now the Fubon Guardians) in 2017-18 but he didn't make any appearances with the top-level team.  They released him at the end of last season.  He was hired last month to be Wang's interpreter.

He didn't have a whole lot of baseball cards, at least in Japan.  He was in the 2009 Rookie Edition and 1st Version sets from BBM and a 2009 Konami set but other than that all his cards were in BBM team sets - for the Tigers from 2009 to 2012 and for the Hawks in 2013.  He may have CPBL cards under his original name - on TradingCardDB.com I see some cards from the 2014 CPBL Player of the Year set listed for Yi-Chieh Hsiao which might be the same guy.

Here's his card from the 2009 BBM Tigers set (#T008):


Saturday, February 16, 2019

Happy New Year!

I know it's mid-February but to me the new year doesn't really start until the new baseball cards start coming out.  I know that here in the States the new Topps cards hit the streets a few weeks ago but the "flagship" cards in Japan won't be out until right around the start of the baseball season. But at least the card companies have made announcements about them so we know what to expect:

- Calbee's first of their three expected Series will be released around March 25th.   This set appears to be following their established pattern from the past few years.  The base set contains 98 cards - 72 player cards (six per team), 22 "Title Holder" cards and four checklist cards.  There are two premium subset/insert sets - a 10 "Legend" set for players who retired in 2017 and the standard 24 card "Star" set.  There's also a special box set called something like "Strike Card" which contains a card for the strikeout leader from each of the 12 NPB teams.  The checklist is available on-line here.

- The 2019 edition of BBM's 1st Version set will be released in early April.  Last year Epoch put out a flagship set that had more player cards in it than BBM's 1st Version set and I'd been curious to see how BBM would react to that challenge this year.  It turns out that they didn't really change a damn thing.  For the fifth year in row the base set will contain 372 cards - 324 player cards (27 per team), 12 team checklist cards and 36 "Cross Sunrise" subset cards - this last is a cross set subset that will be completed in 2nd Version in August.  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 a short printed  photo variation parallel.  There are four 12 card insert sets - "Japanism", "Beginning", "Dominator" and "3D Cross Sunrise" - this last one is limited to 25 of each card.  The usual autograph and memorabilia cards are available as well.

- BBM's first two "comprehensive" team sets have been announced as well.  The base set of both the Swallows and Marines sets are still 81 cards as has been standard for BBM since 2015.  However the Swallows set has 70 "regular" cards for the players and manager while the Marines set has 72 "regular" cards - these numbers are higher for this than they've been in the recent past so it's possible that BBM is now including the ikusei players for each team which they haven't done for a while so this might be a response to Epoch which had included ikusei players last year in their team sets.  The remainder of the cards in the base sets fall into a couple subsets.  Each set has a number of insert sets - there's a total of 30 insert cards for the Swallows set split among five sets including a 12 card "Phantom" set while there's a whopping 36 insert cards for the Marines set split among five sets including an 18 card "Phantom" set.  There are autograph cards available with each set and there's a special "Mysterious Fish" stamp card available with the Marines set.  Both sets will be out in early April.

- Hits is back for 2019.  They are doing a team set of "mini colored paper" for the Baystars.  There's 12 "cards" in the base set and each "card" has a gold facsimile signature parallel.  The set will be out on April 6th.

Friday, February 15, 2019

2018-19 Australian Baseball League Cards

I had heard that there were cards for the Australian Baseball League this season but I hadn't seen any until I got a package from Steve Smith the other day containing two cards from the set.  Steve sent me the cards of two players from the Sydney Blue Sox who had NPB experience - Alessandro Maestri (who played for Orix from 2012-15) and Shogo Nakashima (who played for the Swallows from 2015-17).  Here's the front and back of the cards:





Several things jump out about these cards.  First that they were made by Choice who's been making minor league cards in the US for over 20 years.  Second the photos of the players show them in their NPB uniforms instead of their Sydney uniforms.  I assume this is because of time constraints - the season started in mid-November and the set was released in mid to late December (I think).  Steve said that it was common in the set for players to be depicted wearing a non-ABL uniform - the examples he cited were Gift Ngoepe and Dwayne Kemp of Sydney being shown in Pirates and Netherlands WBC uniforms respectively; many of the Auckland players are shown wearing New Zealand WBC uniforms and Geelong manager Dae-Sung Koo is shown in a Sydney uniform.

The Australian Custom Baseball Cards blog had a post up about the set early last month.  The set is sold in 8 card packs and contains a base set of 79 cards (77 common cards plus 2 checklists) and a 10 card "foil card" insert set (numbered 78 to 87).  The cards include both current and former players - Ronald Acuna being probably the biggest name alumni player in the common cards with Acuna, Rhys Hopkins and Dave Nilsson being the biggest ones in the foil cards.  I was a little disappointed that none of the current NPB players who were in the league this winter (Shota Imanaga, Hayato Takagi, Taiga Hirasawa, etc) are in the set.  In fact I think the only one in the set other than Maestri and Nakashima to have any NPB experience is Koo (and I think Daryl George was an ikusei player for Orix a couple years ago but I could be mistaken).  None of the current CPBL or Korean players are included either.

I noticed something odd on the backs of Maestri and Nakashima's cards.  Maestri's stat line lists "Major Lg. Totals" consisting of a 16-13 record in 105 games.  Maestri has never actually played in MLB - those totals appear to be the compilation of his NPB and KBO stats (14-11 record with Orix and a 2-2 record with Hanwha in 2016).  But Nakashima's card back sums up his NPB stats as "Minor Lg. Totals" which seems inconsistent to me.

Steve asked me if I was interested in getting any more of these cards and I'm back and forth about whether I do or not.  I like them but I think I'd be much more interested in them if all the players were shown in their ABL uniforms and the NPB players were included in the set.  Still if I could possibly get a complete set at a reasonable price I might consider it.

Thanks to Steve for getting me these cards.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Fuji Film Photos?

I don't usually blog about things I don't actually own but I saw these oddball Sadaharu Oh items on Ebay recently and I decided I should write about them, even though they were priced higher than I was willing to pay for them.  Here they are:




All three items appear to be a Fujicolor snapshot print.  There's no indication in the auctions as to how big they are.  The top one is from 1977 (that's when Oh hit home run 756 and the photo is labeled "Fujicolor 77") while the other two are from 1980.  Based on the other photos in the auctions, the 1977 photo has a blank back while the two from 1980 just have the Fujicolor file markings.  Obviously the 1977 is being sold with a holder - I don't know if the 1980 cards were sold separately with holders or sold as part of a group.

The two photos from 1980 are from the Central League's East-West All Star game that was held after the season every year from 1979 to 1990 (except for 1989).  The East team was put together from the rosters of the Giants, Swallows and Whales while the West team was assembled from the Dragons, Carp and Tigers.  The teams wore special uniforms in 1979 and 1980 but after that they just wore their standard uniforms.

The 1980 games was played at Nagoya Stadium on November 8th.  Oh had announced his retirement four days earlier.  He had four hits in the game including a home run and was named the MVP.  (I don't know if the photo of him batting with Tatsuhiko Kimata of the Dragons catching is from the at bat he homered in).  They held a retirement ceremony for him and Morimichi Takagi of the Dragons after the game.  This was commemorated in a card in the 2009 BBM Sadaharu Oh Memorial set (#55):


Oddly enough this was not his final game - he played in an exhibition game against the Hanshin Tigers in Kumamoto on November 16th.  He homered in his final at bat.

The book History Of Uniform has a page for the uniforms worn in the 1979 and 1980 games:


One additional piece of trivia - the Pacific League did a similar East-West All Star game.  They played it in 1981 and 1982 and then from 1988 until 2006, skipping 2004.  Initially the East teams were the Orions (later Marines), the Fighters and the Lions while the West teams were the Hawks, the Buffaloes (Kintetsu) and Braves (later BlueWave).  After the Kintetsu-Orix "merger" and the addition of the Eagles following the 2004 season, the Lions moved into the West teams and the Eagles joined the East teams.

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Card Of The Week February 10

I've written in the past about the Japanese Collegiate All Star cards that were an insert in the 2008 Upper Deck USA Baseball box set.  There were several different varieties of memorabilia cards for the members of the Japanese team for the 2007 Japan-USA College Baseball Tournament - jersey, patch, letter, autograph and flag patch.  I have all 22 of the jersey cards but I didn't have any of the other cards until recently.  I picked up an autographed card of Shirou Mori for a very low price on Ebay a couple weeks back:


Mori never played in NPB - he attended Kinki University and played in the corporate leagues for Matsushita Electric/Panasonic* after graduating.  If this is to be believed (and is kept updated) he played for Panasonic from 2008 to 2014.

*Matsushita Electric changed their name to Panasonic as of October 1, 2008

Friday, February 8, 2019

Oddball Update

After seeing my post the other day about these three odd Teleca Korean cards from 2000 Dan reached out to Thomas St. John to ask about them.  Here's his reply:
They wanted a few cards in English, after some pressure from yours truly, and we made these.  These are normal Teleca issues, not made by me privately.  The card photos are mine though.
The Taiwanese card is of a guy who was crushing it in the US minors and was set to be the first Taiwanese player in the majors.  He had no national team card so I suggested it be made.  The Lee/Hong was made because the photo was great of the two big young stars in the KBO at the time.  Who knew that they both would be so awesome!  I believe these were the only three.  Hope that helps.
It does indeed.  Thanks for the reply Mr. St John and thanks to Dan for asking him the question, passing the answer along to me and getting permission for me to reprint it.

Thursday, February 7, 2019

1989 Mermaid Data Cards


In 1989 a candy company called Mermaid (at least that'd be my best guess here) issued a set of baseball cards.  The set featured 50 cards in total - 10 cards for each of the Central League teams except the Swallows.  Each pack (the wrapper of which is seen above) contained one card and one sticker along with a couple pieces of candy.

The cards were slightly smaller than the standard size - 2 3/8 inches by 3 3/8 inches.  The set contains most of the major stars of those teams - Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, Tatsunori Hara, Hiromi Makihara, Masumi Kuwata, Manabu Kitabeppu, Yutaka Ono, Akinobu Mayumi, Akinobu Okada, Masaru Uno, Norihiro Komada, Kozo SHoda, and Akio Saitoh.  Here's some example cards:

#2 (Genji Kaku)

#7 (Kiyoshi Nakahata)

#13 (Kazuhisa Kawaguchi)

#17 (Yutaka Takagi)

#21 (Akinobu Mayumi)
Here's what the card backs look like.  You can see why they're called "Data" cards:

#6 (Tatsunori Hara)
I noticed something odd about the checklist for the set.  The first five cards in the set are for the Dragons, the next five are for the Giants, the next five are for the Carp, the next five are for the Whales and the next five are for the Tigers.  That's the first half of the set.  The pattern then repeats itself for the second half of the set with five cards for the Dragons, five for the Giants, five for the Carp, five for the Whales and five for the Tigers.  The teams are ordered by their finish in 1988 (the Swallows finished fifth between the Whales and Tigers).  I've wondered if the cards were actually issued in two series - cards 1-25 followed later by cards 26-50.  One reason beyond the checklist that makes me wonder this is that while I have 20 cards from this set, I only have cards between 1 and 25.  Are the other 25 a separate series?  Engel doesn't say anything about it so probably not but it is odd that I only have cards from the first half of the set.

The accompanying "stickers" are much smaller - they're squares that are about two inches on a side - and are really decals rather than stickers.  They are essentially a parallel issue to the cards as they appear to have the same checklist - I say appear because Engel doesn't actually include the sticker checklist but the 19 I have match the numbers of the cards (and like the cards I only have stickers between 1 and 25).  The best part of the stickers is that instead of photos they have caricatures of the players instead.  Here's some examples:

#3 (Kazuyoshi Tatsunami)

#4 (Toshikatsu Hikono)

#10 (Katsuhito Mizuno)

#14 (Takehiko Kobayakawa)

#19 (Mitsunori Kakehata)

#22 (Akinobu Okada)
Here's what the sticker backs look like:

#9 (Masumi Kuwata)
The Mermaid Data cards were only issued that one year.  I don't know any more background on these - why they only did cards for those five teams, why they stopped making them, etc.  I don't even know if the company is still in business.  But they are a nice looking set of cards and an entertaining set of decals.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Oddball Teleca Cards From 2000


I recently picked up the above card from a seller on Ebay.  It commemorates Korea winning the 1999 Asian Games (a qualifier for the 2000 Olympics) in September of 1999.  The manufacturer is Teleca who published a handful of sets for the KBO during the 1990's - including pack based sets in 1999 and 2000.  This card is not from their 2000 set however.  It has a different design, it's unnumbered and most importantly the back is in English:


The "Thomas St. John" photo credit is interesting.  Thomas St. John is (or at least was in 2000) a journalist living in South Korea (he was Baseball America's correspondent for Korea).  I had bought another couple oddball cards from him on Ebay years ago:





The photo on the Lee/Oh card appears in the 2000 Teleca insert set for the 1999 Korea-Japan Super Games but this card is not from that set.  Chin-Feng Chen was a top prospect for the Dodgers in the late 90's - he was the first Taiwanese player to play in the majors when he debuted in 2002.  He played for the Taiwanese team in the 1999 Asian games so I assume that where this photo was taken.

I've no idea what the story is behind these cards.  I'm guessing that since they're in English St. John had them printed up for the US market but I've don't think I've ever seen any for sale here (Rob Fitts might have had the Lee/Oh card but I don't remember for sure).  And it probably goes without saying that I don't know if there are any additional cards like these that he did.  I've had some contact with him in the past but it's been a while since the last time I've gotten a reply from him.  Dan's had some contact with him more recently - maybe he can find out the story.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Card Of The Week February 3

The Heisei Period will be drawing to a close in a few months and I got curious about something.  One of the original prerequisites for a player joining the Meikyukai (or "Golden Players Club") is that the player was born during the Showa Period which ended in 1988 (although I think the Japanese wikipedia page for the club says that players born in the Heisei Period will now be eligible).  No one born in the Heisei Period had reached the milestones necessary for Meikyukai membership (2000 hits, 200 win or 250 saves) yet but I got curious about who was the closest.  I just looked at hitters and I did it very unscientifically - I basically guessed at who might be the right age and have the most hits.  The first batch of players I thought of (Yuki Yanagita, Shogo Akiyama, Hayato Sakamoto) all turned out to have been born during the Showa Period (Sakamoto was born about three weeks from the end of the Period).  I'm not positive but I think the right answer is Ryosuke Kikuchi of the Carp who has 974 hits.  Here's a card of Kikuchi from the 2012 Front Runner Carp Starting Lineup set (#16):


I don't know remember where I read this but I'm pretty sure the Showa Period birthday requirement was specifically instituted to exclude Tetshuharu Kawakami from being able to join.  Apparently club founder Masaichi Kaneda (the 400 game winner for the Swallows and Giants) didn't like Kawakami much and wanted to keep him out.