Monday, March 18, 2019

Wait...What?

Speaking of Tsuyoshi Nishioka...

Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times mentioned something interesting on this week's episode of the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast.  Podcast host John E. Gibson had interviewed former Chiba Lotte Marines manager Bobby Valentine for the episode and when John and Jason were discussing some of the players from Valentine's Nippon Series Championship team of 2005, Jason mentioned something I had never heard before - after the 2005 season Marines infielder Tsuyoshi Nishioka was selected to the Best 9 team and won a Golden Glove award.  This in itself is not unusual but Nishioka did it at two different positions - he was elected as the shortstop for the Best 9 team but was awarded the Golden Glove award for being a second baseman!

Nishioka split time between the two positions that season, getting into 91 games at second and 63 games at shortstop.  Now since the Marines only played 136 games that year (and Nishioka only appeared in 122) he obviously played both positions in the same game a number of times.  The Marines infield cleaned up on the Best 9 and Golden Glove awards that year as Kazuya Fukuura, Toshiaki Imae and Makoto Kosaka all won Golden Gloves (at first, third and shortstop respectively) while Koichi Hori and Imae made the Best 9 team (at second and third - Julio Zuleta of the Hawks beat out Fukuura at first).

This oddity was immortalized in the 2006 BBM 1st Version set.  BBM included insert cards that year for all the previous year's Best 9 and Golden Glove award winners.  I don't have all the cards from these sets but I do have both of Nishioka's cards:

2006 BBM 1st Version #BN6

2006 BBM 1st Version #GG4

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Card Of The Week March 17

Tsuyoshi Nishioka and the Hanshin Tigers parted ways after last season.  Nishioka attended the "12 Team Tryout" in November but he didn't get any offers.  He's not ready to hang up his spikes yet, however, as he signed on with the Tochigi Golden Braves of the Baseball Challenge League for the upcoming season.  Here's a card of Nishioka from his days with the Chiba Lotte Marines:

2005 Calbee #095

Friday, March 15, 2019

RIP Leroy Stanton

Sad news this week - former MLB and NPB outfielder Leroy Stanton died in a car crash at age 72.  Stanton originally came up in the Mets organization and was dealt to the Angels in the 1971-72 offseason in the same trade that sent Nolan Ryan to California.  He spent five years with the Angels before being taken by the Mariners in the 1976 expansion draft.  He had the best season of his career in Seattle's inaugural season of 1977, leading the team in hitting (.275) and home runs (27) and sharing the team lead in RBIs with Dan Meyer (90).  He didn't perform nearly as well in 1978 and the Mariners released him.  He signed on with the Hanshin Tigers for the 1979 season and hit 23 home runs but only hit .225 while striking out 136 times.  He spent 1980 with Puebla in the Mexican League before retiring.  He coached in the Blue Jays organization in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

As far as I can tell he had five baseball cards in Japan in 1979 - four Calbee cards along with a card in the TCMA set that year.  I only have the TCMA card:

1979 TCMA #86
3/16/19 UPDATE - I got a recent Ebay win of three unopened 1979 Calbee packs in the mail today and coincidentally one of the packs contained another card of Stanton:

1979 Calbee May's Best #32

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Chang-Yong Lim

Longtime KBO, NPB and MLB pitcher Chang-Yong Lim announced his retirement earlier this week.  Lim had begun his 24 year career with the Haitai Tigers of the KBO back in 1995.  After four seasons with Haitai he was traded to the Samsung Lions where he remained for another nine seasons.  He left Samsung after the 2007 season and signed with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows in Japan.  After five seasons in Japan he signed with the Chicago Cubs and spent 2013 in North American playing in the minors before making his MLB debut in September.  The Cubs released him in March of 2014 and he returned to Korea and the Lions.  He was released by Samsung after the 2015 season when it was discovered that he had participated in illegal gambling in Macao.  He signed with the Kia Tigers for the 2016 season but missed half the season due being suspended by the KBO for the illegal gambling.  Kia released him following last season and wanted to continue pitching at age 42 but no team was interested in him.

Lim was primarily used as a relief pitcher and he led the KBO in saves four times (1998, 1999, 2004 and 2015).  He finished up his career with 386 saves - 258 in the KBO and 128 in NPB.  He was a three time All Star in Japan (2009-11) and I assume made multiple All Star teams in Korea but I don't know how many.  The article I referenced above says he was part of six Korean Series winning teams but I count seven - Haitai in 1996 and 1997, Samsung in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2014 and Kia in 2017.  He played for the Korean National Team in the 2000 Olympics and the 2009 World Baseball Classic as well as several Asian tournaments. 

The earliest card I know of for Lim is from the 1998 Pro Baseball Stickers set (which I don't have).  He's also in the 1999 and 2000 Teleca sets.  He has many Japanese cards between 2008 and 2012 and has KBO cards in some of the 2014-15 Superstar Baseball sets and the 2017*-18 SCC sets.

*Issued in 2018

I did a post a few years back when Lim headed to the Cubs from the Swallows that showed some of his cards.  Here's some others:

1999 Teleca Premium Korean Dream Team #D-5

2000 Teleca #59

2008 BBM 2nd Version #611

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09R116

2010 Bandai Owners League 02 #031

2011 Calbee #139

2012 BBM 1st Version #192

2014 Superstar Baseball Season Three #SBC03-087

2017 SCC #SCC-01-KA02

2018 SCC KBO Collection 2 Black #SCCR-02B/001

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

March/April Releases

Here's a quick roundup of some sets that will be released over next six weeks or so:

- BBM's annual Icons box set will be released in late March.  The theme this year is "Teenage Memories" which sounds like it should be an OB set (and in fact there was one called "Brilliant Teenagers" a few years back) but it instead features active players who I think are all still in their teens (hard to tell since I haven't seen a checklist), including a couple of rookies.  Each box contains 37 cards which - you already know the drill on this - includes a 36 card base set plus one "special" card that could be a die-cut card, a printed autograph card or an actual autograph card.

- BBM announced their third "comprehensive" team set for 2019 - this one's for the Baystars.  As has been standard for the past 5 years, the set will have an 81 card base set that is split up into 70 "regular" cards for the players and manager and 11 subset cards split between "Limelight" (5 cards), "Lockdown" (3 cards) and "Hop Step Jump" (3 cards).  There will be 36 total insert cards split between four sets - "Catch The One" (9 cards), "Yokohama Pedigree" (5 cards), "Sail Away" (4 cards) and "Phantom" (18 cards).  There will also be autograph cards available in the packs.  The set will be released in mid-April.

- Speaking of "comprehensive" team sets, Epoch is returning to that realm again this year.  They've announced "Rookies & Stars" sets for Lions and Tigers.  I think that each set has a base set of 68 cards - it looks like Epoch is not doing multiple cards for players to pad their sets out to 90 cards like they did last year.  Each set has several associated insert sets but I'm not entirely sure what they are.  Both sets also feature various autograph cards.  The Lions set will be out on April 13 and the Tigers set will be out two weeks later on April 27.

- Epoch seems to have taken over doing the kind of Anniversary sets that BBM used to do.  Just last year Epoch did sets for the 40th Anniversary of the Whales moving to Yokohama, the 40th Anniversary of Seibu buying the Lions and moving them to Tokorozawa and the 15th Anniversary of the Fighters moving to Hokkaido.  Already this year Epoch had done a set for the 40th Anniversary of the Yakult Swallows' first Nippon Series Championship and now they're doing a set for the 50th Anniversary of Lotte buying the team that then was the Orions and now is the Marines.  Like the sets from last year, this is one of Epoch ultra high end sets - each box retails for 12,700 yen and only contains six cards although I think that two of those cards are autographed.  The base set has 32 cards and there's a parallel version of each one of them.  The set will be released on March 23.

- Hits has announced two more of their "mini colored paper" team sets.  The new ones are for the Hawks and the Carp.  The Hawks set has 12 "cards" in its base set while the Carp set has 16.  All the cards in each set have a gold facsimile signature parallel.  The Hawks set comes out on April 6 while the Carp set will be released on April 27.

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Card Of The Week March 10

After losing to Mexico 4-2 yesterday, Samurai Japan shutout the visiting Mexicans 6-0 today in the final game of the two game "friendly" series played in Osaka this weekend.  Masataka Yoshida of the Orix Buffaloes was the big star for Japan.  He knocked in one of their runs and scored the other one yesterday.  Today he came up in the bottom of the first inning with the bases loaded and proceeded to unload them:



He added a sacrifice fly later in the game so he ended the day with 5 RBIs.  He ultimately knocked in six of the eight runs Samurai Japan scored over the two games.

Here's a card of Yoshida from the 2016 BBM Classic set (#030):


2018 BBM Hawks History Cross Set Subset

BBM has done some sort of cross set subset, usually with at least the 1st and 2nd Version sets, almost every year since 2010.  These subsets contain active players and they have some theme like "Cross Wind" or "Cross Blast".  BBM's actually gotten kind of monotonous with them but they usually look nice.

Last year, however, they did what I found to be a more interesting cross set subset.  The Hawks were celebrating their 80th Anniversary and BBM did a 27 card "Hawks History" subset spread across three sets.  The first nine cards (covering 1938 to 1968) were in the Hawks 80th Anniversary set published in March.  The next nine cards (covering 1969 to 1988) were in the annual "comprehensive" Hawks team set that came out in June and the final nine cards (covering 1989 to 2017) were in the Hawks 80th Anniversary Celebration box set that came out in August.  I thought I'd do a post showing all 27 cards with a brief explanation of what each card shows (assuming I can figure it out):


Card #HH1 - The team was founded in Osaka by the Nankai company in 1938.  The team was known simply as Nankai until midway through the 1944 season when they changed their name to Kinki Nippon.


Card #HH2 -  The team won their first Japan Baseball League Championships in 1946 and 1948 under player-manager Kazuto Tsuruoka (who was known then as Kazuto Yamamoto).  I think that's him on the right. The team was called Kinki Great Ring from 1946 to midway through the 1947 season when they changed their name to Nankai.


Card #HH3 - The Hawks won three consecutive Pacific League pennants from 1951-53, powered by what I think was called the "Million Dollar Infield" which featured Tokuji Iida at first, Tsuruoka at second, Chusuke Kizuka at shortstop and Kazuo Kageyama at third.  I assume that all four of them are in the photo but I don't know who the other player is.  The Hawks were defeated by the Yomiuri Giants in each of the three Nippon Series between 1951 and 1953.


Card #HH4 - The Hawks won an NPB record 99 games in 1955 en route to their fourth Pacific League pennant in five years.  They again lost to the Giants in the Nippon Series though.  They won 96 games in 1956 but were edged out for the pennant by the Nishitetsu Lions who also won 96 games but lost one fewer game.


Card #HH5 - Behind their power hitting lineup that was dubbed the "400 foot batting line" the Hawks won their first Nippon Series championship in 1959 by defeating the Yomiuri Giants in four games.


Card #HH6 - The Hawks won the Pacific League again in 1961 but fell to the Giants in the Nippon Series.  The photo shows Joe Stanka (#6) and Katsuya Nomura (#19).


Card #HH7 - The Hawks won their second Nippon Series title in 1964 by defeating the Hanshin Tigers behind the pitching of Series (and Pacific League) MVP Stanka.


Card #HH8 - In 1965 Nomura won the first ever Triple Crown in NPB, leading the Pacific League with a .320 batting average, 42 home runs and 110 RBIs.  The Hawks won the Pacific League pennant that year but lost in the Nippon Series to the Giants (again).


Card #HH9 - The Hawks won another Pacific League title in 1966 but again lost to the Giants in the Series.   This photo shows Tsuruoka resigning as manager following the 1968 season.  Tsuruoka had managed the team for all 23 post-war seasons.


Card #HH10 - After Iida managed the team for the 1969 season, Nomura was named player-manager starting with the 1970 season.


Card #HH11 - Nomura won his fifth Pacific League MVP in 1973 and led the team back to the Nippon Series for the first time since 1966.  They lost yet again to the Giants.  This was the final pennant that the team would win while owned by Nankai.


Card #HH12 - Nomura managed the team until for another four years but failed to win any more pennants.  He stepped down as manager following the 1977 season and was released as a player.


Card #HH13 - Manager Yoshinori Hirose lead the team to two sixth place and one fifth place finish in his three years managing the team (1978-80).


#HH14 - Don Blasingame became the first American to manage two teams in Japan when he took over the Hawks in 1981 after spending two seasons running the Hanshin Tigers.  Blazer wasn't any more successful than Hirose, however, with the Hawks finishing fifth in 1981 and sixth in 1982.


#HH15 - Yoshio Anabuki became manager for the Hawks in 1983 and didn't fare any better than the two previous managers.  The Hawks finished fifth in 1983 and 1984 and dropped back to last in 1985.


#HH16 - Former Hawks pitching great Tadashi Sugiura was named manager for the 1986 season.  While the team again finished last that season they rose to fourth place in 1987, their best finish in ten seasons.


#HH17 - 1988 saw highs and lows for the Nankai Hawks.  One of the highs was that 40 year old Hiromitsu Kadota hit 44 home runs and drove in 125 runs and won the Pacific League MVP award.  One of the lows was that despite Kadota's performance the team again finished in fifth.


#HH18 - For much of the 1980's Nankai Electric Railroad's board of directors and their union leadership put pressure on Nankai president and team owner Den Kawakatsu to sell the team due to the team's declining performance and attendance.  Kawakatsu steadfastly refused to sell the team but he passed away in April of 1988 at age 87.  The board then sold the team to the Daiei supermarket chain who announced that they'd be moving the team to Fukuoka.  After 50 years, the Nankai Hawks were no more.  The card pictures a scene from the Hawks final game at Osaka Stadium on October 15th, 1988.


#HH19 - The newly renamed Fukuoka Daiei Hawks played their first game in Fukuoka on April 15th, 1989.  They played in Heiwadai Stadium, which had been home of the Nishitetsu/Taiheiyo Club/Crown Lighter Lions from 1951 to 1978.  The team finished in fourth place that year.


#HH20 - Sugiura (on the right in the photo) gave way as manager to Koichi Tabuchi (on the left) following the 1989 season.  Tabuchi managed the team for the next three seasons but failed to get them out of the second division, finishing fifth in 1990, fourth in 1991 and sixth in 1992.


#HH21 - The Hawks moved into Fukuoka Dome in 1993.  Fukuoka Dome was the second domed stadium in Japan and the first (and only) stadium to have a retractable roof.  Rikuo Nemoto took over as manager but the change of home and leadership didn't make much of a difference - the team finished last in 1993 and fourth in 1994.


#HH22 - Sadaharu Oh was named manager of the Hawks for the 1995 season.  Unlike the previous half dozen manager, Oh managed to keep his job despite once again the team not getting out of the second division during his first couple seasons.


#HH23 - The team's patience with Oh paid off in 1998 when the team finished in third, their highest finish since 1977 and even more so in 1999 when Oh led the team to its first Pacific League pennant since 1973 and its first Nippon Series championship since 1964 (and the first championship by a team in Fukuoka since 1958).


#HH24 - The Hawks repeated as Pacific League champions in 2000 and took on the Giants, who were managed by Oh's longtime teammate Shigeo Nagashima, in what was dubbed the "O-N" Series.  The Giants beat them in six games but the team remained successful over the following season, finishing in second in both 2001 and 2002.  In 2003 they again won the Pacific League pennant and defeated the Hanshin Tigers in the Nippon Series.  They finished in first place in 2004 but were defeated by the Lions in the inaugural Pacific League playoffs.


#HH25 - While the Hawks had a very successful first half of the 00's, their parent company Daiei did not.  They sold the team to Softbank following the 2004 season.  The team remained successful, finishing first in 2005 and third in each of 2006 and 2007 but were knocked out in the Pacific League Playoffs (which became the Climax Series in 2007) each season.  They dropped to last place in 2008, Oh's final season as manager.


#HH26 - Koji Akiyama took over as Hawks manager in 2009 and would lead the team for six seasons.  The Hawks made the playoffs five times over that period of time, finishing first three times over that stretch (2010, 2011 and 2014).  They won the Climax Series twice and won each of the two Nippon Series they played in, defeating the Dragons in 2011 and the Tigers in 2014.  Akiyama stepped down in 2014 after winning the Series.  I think this photo is from the celebration for the 2014 championship - looks like Yuki Yoshimura is in the foreground (#6) and he didn't join the Hawks until 2013.


#HH27 - Kimiyasu Kudoh became the manager in 2015 and the Hawks didn't skip a beat as they defeated the Swallows for their second straight Nippon Series championship.  A second place finish in 2016 led to them losing in the Climax Series to the Fighters in 2016 but they returned to first place and the Nippon Series in 2017, defeating the Baystars in six games that season.  I'm pretty sure the photo is of Kudoh during the 2017 celebration as he's in a home uniform (the Hawks wrapped up the 2015 Series on the road at Meiji Jingu Stadium). 

Since the cards were published the Hawks won yet another Series, this time against the Carp.  Kudoh has won the Nippon Series in three of the four years he's been manager.

The Hawks have played in 18 Nippon Series, the third highest total all time behind the Giants (34) and the Lions (21).  They are 9-9 overall.  What's interesting to me is that they have played the Giants in the Nippon Series 10 times and lost 9 of those Series.  They are undefeated against the rest of the Central League, having defeated the Tigers three times, the Dragons twice and the Swallows, Baystars and Carp once each.

I'd love to see BBM do more sets like this, either as a cross set subset or even as a stand alone set.