Swallows third baseman Munetaka Murakami hit his 35th home run of the season today against the Carp. It was also the 100th home run of his career. At the age of 21 years, seven months, Murakami is now the youngest player to reach that milestone. Here's his rookie card from the 2018 BBM Swallows set (#S54):
Sunday, September 19, 2021
Friday, September 17, 2021
Former Hiroshima Carp outfielder Satoshi "Fibber" Hirayama passed away earlier this week at age 91. Hirayama was born in Exeter, California to Japanese immigrant parents. He spent several years during World War II interred in the Poston War Relocation Center in Arizona. He was a star athlete at both football and baseball at Fresno State and signed with the St Louis Browns after graduating. He played one season with Stockton in the California League in 1952 before drafted into the Army. Upon discharge he signed with the Carp at the urging of legendary Japanese-American baseball figure Kenichi Zenimura.
Hirayama was one of the first of the nisei Japanese-Americans who played in NPB during the 1950's and early 1960's. He had a 10 year career with the Carp from 1955 to 1964 and made the All Star team twice (1956 and 1958). His career was cut short by injury - he suffered nerve damage after running into a wall that damaged the vision in his right eye. He coached for the Carp for one year after his playing days were over and later scouted for both the Angels and Carp. He also had a stint running the Carp's Dominican Academy.
There are no modern cards of Hirayama available - other than Wally Yonamine the nisei players from the 1950's have pretty much been ignored in BBM and Epoch's OB sets - but he had several menko, bromide and gum cards during his playing career. Here are the only two that I have:
|1958 "Who Am I?" menko (JCM 54)|
|1959 JBR 5|
Thursday, September 16, 2021
|1991 BBM #219|
|2007 BBM 1st Version #445|
1. Which Awards And Statistical Categories Were Included?
|2008 BBM 1st Version #436|
|2001 BBM #14|
|1993 BBM #13|
|2013 BBM 1st Version #349|
|1998 BBM #12|
|1998 BBM #13|
|2010 BBM 1st Version #459|
There was a similar but slightly more complicated issue with Holds. The Pacific League adopted Holds as an official statistic in 1996 but the Central League instead had an award called simply "Middle Relief". The PL shifted to the "Middle Relief" award in 2002 and both leagues shifted to "Hold Points" (HP) starting in 2006 (like "save points", "hold points" are calculated by adding up a player's holds and relief wins).
|2012 BBM 1st Version #356|
There are some oddball categories that I haven't quite figured out why BBM included them. Innings Pitched was included in one set (1993) and never again. There's some sort of relationship between the "MVPitcher" and "Pitcher Of The Year" awards and the "Winning Percentage" leaders that I don't fully understand. But the oddball one that really stands out is the "Rookie Special Award". I'm pretty sure this has been awarded a number of times - I think it's basically a consolation prize to an outstanding rookie that didn't win the Rookie Of The Year award - but it only shows up once as a Leader card (in 2012).
2. How Many Players Had Leader Cards And Who Had The Most?
|1995 BBM #10|
There are 270 players who had at least one Leader card. Ichiro Suzuki had the most with a somewhat astounding total of 24. I say "astounding" for two reasons. The first is that he only had Leader cards in seven sets (1995-2001) and the second is that those 24 cards are TEN more than the 14 cards Hideki Matsui, the player with the second most Leader cards, had. Nobuhiko Matsunaka and Hideo Nomo are tied for third with 13 cards each. Alex Ramirez is fifth with 12 cards and Daisuke Matsuzaka and Masaki Saitoh are tied for sixth with 11 each. Kazumi Saitoh and Koji Uehara are tied for eighth with 10 each and four players are tied for tenth with 9 cards - Norichika Aoki, Michihiro Ogasawara, Tuffy Rhodes and Toshiya Sugiuchi.
3. Who Had The Most Leader Cards In One Set?
|1996 BBM #2|
Ichiro again leads this list with seven Leader cards in the 1996 set. Hideo Nomo and Nobuhiko Matsunaka are tied for second on the list with six each. Nomo's six were in the 1991 set while Matsunaka's were in the 2005 set (and partially commemorated his Triple Crown season in 2004). Ten other players are tied for fourth with five cards - Shinji Sasakoka (1992), Ichiro (1995), Fumiya Nishiguchi (1998), Koji Uehara (2000), Hideki Matsui (2001), Kei Igawa (2004), Kazumi Saitoh (2007), Hisashi Iwakuma (2009), Kenta Maeda (2011) and Shinnosuke Abe (2013).
4. Which Leader Cards Are Missing?
5. Which Leader Card Are NOT Missing?
|2003 BBM #373|
The seven players mentioned above are not the only ones to have led the league in a category during their final season in Japan. I did some searches to look for players who had one or more Leader cards in a flagship set but not a "regular" card. I found nine players who had fourteen cards between them:
Monday, September 13, 2021
I'm a little late getting to this but on September 4th (one day after his 38th birthday) Takumi Kuriyama of the Lions became the latest NPB player to reach 2000 hits. Kuriyama was Seibu's fourth round pick in the 2001 draft out of Ikuei High School in Kobe (Takeya Nakamura was the team's second round pick that year). He spent most of his first three professional seasons on the farm team but by 2007 he was a regular with the ichi-gun Lions. He led the Central League in hits in 2008 and has won four Best 9 awards and one Golden Glove award. Oddly enough he has only been named to the All Star team once (in 2016). He's played in one Nippon Series, helping the Lions beat the Giants in 2008. He was the Lions captain from the end of 2012 (taking over from Hiroyuki Nakajima who had left for America) until 2020 when he ceded the role to Sosuke Genda.
Here's a bunch of Kuriyama's cards from over the years:
|2002 BBM 1st Version #269|
|2004 BBM Lions #71|
|2005 BBM Lions #L075|
|2006 Konami Baseball Heroes 2 White Edition #B06W045|
|2009 BBM 1st Version #445|
|2011 BBM 1st Version #046|
|2013 Calbee #122|
|2014 BBM Lions Classic - Impact Of Lionsblue #08|
|2015 Lions Fan Club #1|
|2016 BBM Fusion #062|
|2020 Epoch Lions Rookies & Stars #30|
|2021 Epoch NPB #098|
Sunday, September 12, 2021
The Buffaloes and Marines started last week in a virtual tie for first place in the Pacific League (although Lotte was technically in first since they had a slightly better winning percentage) and as luck would have it they played each other in a three game series in Kobe from Tuesday through Thursday. Each game was one of those tight, low scoring games that are always so much fun in a pennant race (especially if it's not one of your teams playing).
On Tuesday the Marines got out to an early 3-0 lead after two innings but the Buffaloes scored a run in bottom of the third. No more runs were scored until pinch hitter Seiichiro Ohshita led off the bottom of the eighth by doing this:
|2020 BBM Fusion #613|
|2020 Epoch One #505|
|2020 Calbee "AVG Leader" #AL-04|
Saturday, September 11, 2021
BBM issued the latest in their OB team set "History" series a few weeks ago. This one is called "Dragons History 1936-2021" and is the third is in the series following last year's "Carp History 1950-2020" and "Giants History 1934-2020". This set is basically celebrating the team's 85th Anniversary, making it the fourth Anniversary set for the team following the 70th in 2006, the 75th in 2011 and the 80th in 2016.
I really like this set. It helps that I'm a Dragons fan but the "History" sets have been really attractive and this one is no different. It especially helps to make up for the lousy 80th Anniversary set that BBM basically phoned in five years ago.
Like the two previous "History" set, the base set for this set has 90 cards that are split into three parts. The first is a six card "Dragons History" subset. Each card features a 12 to 17 year span of the team's history. The backs list the team's finish and who the manager was. Card #01 covers 1936-48, Card #02 covers 1949-64, Card #03 covers 1965-1977, Card #04 covers #1978-1991, Card #05 covers #1992-2003 and Card #06 covers 2004-2020. Here's the 1949-64 card showing the 1954 Nippon Series Champions:
The bulk of the set is reserved for the OB players. There are 72 cards representing former Dragons players. I'm pretty sure everyone included in the set is retired - I don't think any of the players are active but playing for other teams. As we've come to expect from this kind of set, most of the players included are from the 1970's and later. There's only three players from before 1960 in the set, the most significant being Shigeru Sugishita who turns 96 next week and autographed cards for the set. Some of the other players included are Morimichi Takagi, Seinchi Hoshino, Kenichi Yazawa, Eiji Bandoh, Hiroshi Gondoh, Yasushi Tao, Yasunori Ohshima, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, Genji Kaku, Motonobu Tanishige, Kenshin Kawakami and Masahiko Morino. The only foreign player included is Alzono Powell (who's currently a coach for the team).
There's a handful of players who aren't in the set. It really wasn't a surprise that Hiromitsu Ochiai's not in the set since he hasn't been on a baseball card in 10 years now (although if you squint you can almost make him out in the photo of the 2011 Central League champs on card #06) but I was surprised that both Shinichi Etoh and Michio Nishizawa were not in the set. Shunichi Amachi (manager of the 1954 champs), Toru Mori, Yasuaki Taihoh and Kaname "Wally" Yonamine were others that I was a little surprised to not see. There's a couple gaijin like Tyrone Woods, Gene Martin and Leo Gomez who were in the earlier Anniversary sets but not this one.
The cards themselves are beautiful. The design of the cards is very similar to the two previous "History" sets and BBM continues to dig up new and interesting photos for the players. Most of the photos are in color - there's only four cards in black and white. Here's a bunch of examples:
The photo on Iwase's card shows him celebrating the combined perfect game he and Daisuke Yamai threw against the Fighters in the 2007 Nippon Series. The combined perfect game that won the first Championship for the Dragons since 1954.
The remaining 12 cards in the base set feature members of the 2021 Dragons. The cards use the same design as the OB cards except that they have a blueish tint on their backgrounds. This subset includes pretty much who you'd expect including Yudai Ohno, Yota Kyota, Shuhei Ohshima, Shuhei Takahashi, Dayan Viciedo, Ryosuke Hirata and Kosuke Fukudome:
In addition to the base set, I also picked up two of the insert sets - "Dream Team" and "Team Records".
The 12 card "Dream Team" set features an All Time Great lineup for the Dragons, including both a right handed and left handed starting pitcher along with a relief pitcher and a manager. You can probably nitpick the choices at any of the positions - my biggest challenge would be Senichi Hoshino as manager. No offense to him, but Hiromitsu Ochiai is the best manager in Dragons history. But the insert set doesn't include anyone not in the base set. The set does include two active players - Yohei Ohshima and Kosuke Fukudome.
The "Team Records" set contains nine cards showing the Dragons career leaders in a number (well, nine, actually) of statistical categories. Actually that's not quite true. No player is shown more than once so there's four times when the second place player for a category is shown instead. For example, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami is the Dragons career leader in hits, games played and RBIs. He's on the card for most hits but the second place player for games played (Morimichi Takagi) and RBIs (Kenichi Yazawa) is shown instead. It's a little odd but the cards are good looking.
As always, you can see all the cards (including the inserts) over at Jambalaya.
If like me you like the "History" sets and want to see more of them, you're in luck. BBM is releasing one for the Marines next week and for the Tigers in October. I suspect there will be even more in the future.
Wednesday, September 8, 2021
2021 BBM 2nd Version Set Summary
Size: 318 cards (cards numbered 337-600, the 18 cards of "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset are separately numbered FP01-FP18and 36 cards for the "Cross Torrent" subset are separately numbered CT37-CT72)
Cards Per Team: 19 (team card + 18 players)
Team Card Theme: Early Season Candids
Number Of Leader Cards: N/A
Subsets: 1st Version Update (36), Ceremonial First Pitch (18), Cross Torrent (36)
Inserts: New Sensation (12), Show Man (12), Phantom (12, #'d to 25), Foil Picturesque (12, #'d to 15)
Memorabilia Cards: Jersey cards for Takahisa Hayakawa and Teruaki Satoh, both of which are #'d to 200 along with patch versions that are #'d to 20 each. There's also a combination jersey card featuring both Hayakawa and Satoh which is #'d to 10 along with a patch version of the combination card that is #'d to 5. There are autographed cards for players that use a landscape version of the "Cross Torrent" cards that have print runs between 5 and 60 cards and other autograph cards that are #'d to 5. There are also autographed "buy back" cards of Tomoya Mori. There are autographed versions of eight of the "Ceremonial First Pitch History" cards with print runs between 25 and 27 with a silver parallel autographed version that are #'d to 5. There are also 21 players with autograph cards using the format for the autograph cards in the player's team set - these are mostly for players who BBM was not able to include autograph cards in their team set due to COVID restrictions.
Parallels: 12 cards (one per team) have a "Secret" version which is a short printed photo variation. 12 other cards (also one per team) have an "Ultra Secret" version which is an even shorter printed photo variation. 70-ish of the player cards have four different facsimile autograph parallels - silver (unnumbered), gold (#'d to 100), hologram (#'d to 50), and red (#'d to 25) . Each "Cross Torrent" card has two parallels - one that's #'d to 100 and a "1 of 1" version. There are five different parallels for the "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards - holo (#'d to 300), silver (#'d to 200), gold (#'d to 100), silver holo (#'d to 50) and gold holo (#'d to 25). The "New Sensation" inserts have a parallel version that is numbered to 100 while the "Show Man" cards have one parallel numbered to 150.
Notable Rookies: Yukikazu Sano