Sunday, December 27, 2009

Card Of The Week December 27

For no reason other than it's a cool picture:

2009 BBM 1st Version #355

I wonder if he caught the ball.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Norihiro Akahoshi

I've gotten a little behind in the news the last couple of weeks with the holidays and all, but I'll try to catch up. Some sad news from earlier this month - Tigers outfielder Norihiro Akahoshi is retiring due to neck and back injuries. NPB Tracker has an appreciation of Akahoshi here, so I won't write much more, just show a couple cards.

Here's his rookie card from the 2001 BBM set (#385):

Akahoshi was a little old for a rookie - he turned 25 right around the beginning of the 2001 season. He'd played a few years in the industrial leagues before signing with the Tigers - he was a member of the 2000 Japanese Olympic team that was made up primarily of industrial league players. He won the 2001 Central League Rookie Of The Year Award, which was commemorated in this card from 2002 BBM 1st Version set (#401):

He made the All Star team three times (2003, 2005 and 2006) and played in two Nippon Series (2003 and 2005), both in losing efforts. Here's his 2003 Calbee All Star card (#AS-23):

2004 BBM 1st Version #212, facsimile autograph parallel:

Wearing one of the Tigers hideous inter-league play uniforms, 2007 BBM 2nd Version #622:

2009 BBM 2nd Version # 674:

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Card Of The Week December 20

After 20 inches of snow and five hours spent clearing my driveway, I'm very jealous of these two:

2006 BBM Tigers #T108

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Card Of The Week December 6

OK, way late this time. Been a crazy week.

In 2010, BBM will be celebrating their 20th year of producing baseball cards. I'm planning on doing a series of posts during the winter on the history of BBM cards. I probably won't get going on it until after Christmas, but I thought I could start with this card, card #1 from the first BBM set in 1991:

In 1973, when Calbee put out their first set, card #1 was of Shigeo Nagashima, the most popular player in Japan ever. For some reason, for the first card of their inaugural set, BBM chose a reasonably obscure pitcher for Lotte named Yasuji Ibe, who went 10-12 in 168 games (161 of which were in relief) in a 10 year career from 1983 to 1992. This is, in fact, half of the cards BBM ever printed featuring Ibe (the other being from the 1992 set). I would be very curious to know why BBM choose such an unlikely player to lead their first set.

As a point of comparison, here's the list of the players who were the first cards in the initial set of the major US card companies: Bob Elliott (1948 Bowman), Andy Pafko (1952 Topps), Ozzie Smith (1981 Donruss), Pete Rose (1981 Fleer), Don Mattingly (1988 Score), and Ken Griffey Jr (1989 Upper Deck). So that's a Hall Of Famer, a guy who will be a Hall Of Famer, a guy who would have been a Hall Of Famer if he hadn't broken the most fundamental rule of the game, the most popular player of the 1980's and a couple of guys who were very good players but perhaps not as well remembered as others from their era (Elliott was the 1947 NL MVP, and Pafko had been a four time All Star with the Cubs in the late 1940's).

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Card Of The Week November 29

I missed this, but NPB Tracker didn't - Friday of last week (November 20) was the 75th Anniversary of Eiji Sawamura's one hit game against a group of touring All Stars - a game in which he struck out future Hall Of Famers Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Jimmy Foxx in succession, although Gehrig got revenge later in the game by hitting a solo home run for the American's only hit and the winning run. Rob Fitts has the details here at his 1934 All American Asian Tour blog that he's using to promote his upcoming book on the tour.

Due to several stints in the military, Sawamura's professional career only consisted of the 1936, 1937, 1940, 1941 and 1943 seasons before his troop ship was sunk by an American submarine in 1944. The Sawamura award for best pitcher in NPB was first awarded in 1947 and he was among the initial inductees into the Japanese Baseball Hall Of Fame in 1959.

There aren't a whole lot of cards of Sawamura. There are no known cards of him from when he was an active player. The first card I'm aware of is from the 1978 NST set. BBM included cards of him in the "Nostalgic Player" subset from the 1992 set, the 2000 20th Century Best 9 set and the 2006 Nostalgic Baseball set as well as a couple of the Giants teams sets. Here's one of his cards from the 20th Century Best 9 set (#361):

Some of the afore mentioned cards use the same picture, so there's more cards of Sawamura than actual pictures!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Akira Etoh

Maybe it was just me, but it seemed that Akira Etoh's retirement didn't get a whole lot of press in the last days of the season. It could have been announced earlier and I just missed it. The Lions apparently gave him a send off at their fan fest yesterday.

I can't write a better biography of him than what's already at the Baseball Reference bullpen, so I'll just show a bunch of cards. Here's his rookie card (as a catcher!) from the 1991 BBM set (#283):

1992 BBM #437 with Tomonori Maeda:

1996 BBM All Stars #A8:

1999 BBM #360:

After the 1999 season, Etoh left the Carp for the Giants. Here's his 2000 BBM New Face insert card #NF2:

2001 BBM #275:

2002 BBM Nippon Series #S19:

2005 BBM Giants #G099 ("Shared Number Subset") - Shigeo Nagashima switched from uniform #33 back to #3 in 2000. I'm guessing he did this to accomodate Etoh, who had worn #33 as a Carp:

Following the 2005 season, Etoh was traded to the Lions as compensation for the Giants signing Kiyoshi Toyoda. 2006 BBM 1st Version #92:

2009 BBM 1st Version #021:

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Card Of The Week November 22

Buddy Carlye is returning to Japan to play for the Fighters. He had previously played for Hanshin back in 2001 and 2002. Here's his 2001 BBM Late Series card (#561):

2009 Award Winners

This past week Alex Ramirez of the Giants and Yu Darvish of the Fighters were named MVPs of the Central and Pacific Leagues respectively. This was Ramirez's second consecutive MVP. Here's their 2009 BBM 1st Version cards (#s 241 & 074):

In addition, the Rookie of the Year awards went to Tetsuya Matsumoto of the Giants and Tadashi Settsu of the Hawks. Here's Matsumoto's 2nd Version card (#659 - for the second year in a row, one of the Rookies Of The Year does not have a 1st Version card) and Settsu's 1st Version card (#214):

This also means that again BBM struck out with their "Rookie Of The Year Preview" subset in the 1st Version set - neither of the winners is in it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

2009 BBM Premium Malts

I also received the 2009 BBM Premium Malts set in the mail the other day. This set commemorates an old timer game that Suntory Brewery puts on every year. This year, the two teams were called "The Premium Malts" and "World Japan 2009". It's actually a pretty interesting group of players who were on the rosters, but not everyone who was on the roster appears in the set - I'm going to assume that the set only includes guys who actually appeared in the game, but I don't know that for sure. What I can say for sure is that Yutaka Enatsu, Choji Murata, Daiuske Motoki, Mitsuo Tatsukawa and Koichi Tabuchi appear on the rosters but not in the set. The set does include a wide variety of OB players including 77 year old Keiji Ohsawa, and 69 year olds Isao Harimoto and Eiji Bando, as well as a lot of guys who played a little more recently - Randy Bass, Osamu Higashio, Hiromichi Ishige, Hiroo Ishii, Tsutomu Itoh, Masayuki Kakefu, Masumi Kuwata, Hiromi Makihara, Yukihiro Nishizaki, Kenjiro Nomura, Yutaka Ohno, Akinobu Okada, Shigeki Sano, Shinji Sasaoka, Yukio Tanaka Yasushi Tao and both Koji Yamamoto's to name several of the more notable names.

The set itself is a 51 card box set (plus an insert/autograph card - as usual I got an opened box without the extra card) with 26 cards for "The Premium Malts" and 25 cards for "World Japan 2009". The cards are OK - the pictures are nice, but I'm not real impressed with the design. The design looks like some of the minor league card designs done in the late-90's. I don't know, maybe it's just I don't like the font.

Anyway, here's some examples so you can decide for yourself:

From the top, that's Yukio Tanaka (#43), Tsutomu Itoh (#38), Shinji Sasaoka (#24) and Isao Harimoto (#02).

I'm hoping that if this set does well, BBM will consider doing a set for the Masters League.

2009 BBM Tokyo Big 6 Autumn Version

Got my 2009 BBM Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version set in the mail the other day. This is a 36 card box set (plus one insert card - more about that in a minute) that came out a couple of months ago in conjunction with the Tokyo Big Six's fall season. The set features five player cards for each team plus a team picture. As Deanna mentioned here, the set contains one card of a player taken in October's NPB Player Draft (Rikkio's Kenji Tomura). Deanna also mentions that the insert cards are the spring season's Best 9 and feature at least a couple of players who are not in the rest of the set (she mentions Hiroshi Taki and Shingo Kamegai - I'm trying to find the spring Best 9 list on line and failing...) As usual, the cards have a nice simple design with beautiful photography.

Here's some examples:

From the top, that's the Waseda team card (#12), Junpei Komuro (#19) and Soichiro Tanaka (#29).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Card Of The Week November 15

I was looking up some stuff the other day regarding the beginning of the two league system in Japan in 1950 when I was reminded of a rather obscure piece of trivia - the team that is now the Saitama Seibu Lions began life in 1950 as the Nishitetsu Clippers. Before the 1951 season, the Clippers merged with the Nishi-Nippon Pirates and the new team was christened the Nishitetsu Lions. (I could be wrong here, but it looks like Nishi-Nippon Railroad actually owned both the Clippers and the Pirates - Nishitetsu IS Nishi-Nippon Railways.) Interestingly enough, the Pirates were a Central League team while the Clippers (like the Lions) were in the Pacific League.

Anyway, I found a card of a Clippers player (Tokuji Kawasaki) from the 2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball set (#076):

Friday, November 13, 2009

Two Years In

Today marks the second anniversary of my starting this blog. I think my second year went a little better than my first - this past year I didn't tell someone that his son DIDN'T have a card in the BBM 1st Version set when in fact he did and I didn't get confused about the first and last names of the Orix manager either. I think the worst mistake I made this year was forget that Kaz Tadano and Michael Nakamura had both pitched in the US before they pitched professionally in Japan.

To all of you who read this, thanks for another year of fun.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

News and Notes...

A couple items:

- Following the completion last Saturday of this year's Nippon Series (is it called the Fall Classic in Japan?), BBM has announced this year's Nippon Series set. Like the 18 previous ones (every year since 1991), this year's set is a box set featuring cards for every player who appeared in the Series plus the managers for both teams. There will also be a team victory card showing the Giants celebrating, and cards for each of the five award winners (MVP Shinnosuke Abe, "Fighting Spirit" Shinji Takahashi and the three "Outstanding Player" or "Awards Of Excellence" winners Yoshiyuki Kamei, Dicky Gonzalez
and Eiichi Koyano). It does not appear that there will be a card commemorating George W Bush throwing out the first pitch in Game Three. Since I prefer to avoid politics with my baseball, I'm going to refrain from commenting on whether that's a good thing or not. The set will be out in December and will pretty much wrap up the 2009 issues for BBM.

- The announcement of the Nippon Series set was no surprise. What was a surprise was the announcement of a Kintetsu Memorial set. I think this set is meant to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Kintetsu's entry into professional baseball in 1950 with a team known as the Pearls. (BBM had done a Kintetsu Memorial box set back in late 2004 when Kintetsu merged with Orix.) It's a 99 card pack based set that pretty much follows the pattern of the recent team anniversary sets. There's a six card "team history subset", 84 cards for former players (and obviously no current Kintetsu players) and a nine card "team record" subset. There's also the usual insert cards (Kintetsu Best 9), photo cards and autograph cards. What are the chances that Hideo Nomo will appear with the OB players? And I'd expect to see at least two Tuffy Rhodes cards in this set - as an OB player and as the team record holder for most home runs in a season (if not career). The set will be out in mid-December.

- Prestige Collectibles' latest auction began this week and will run until November 19th.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Card Of The Week November 8

As everyone knows by now, the Giants defeated the Fighters in six games to win this year's Nippon Series. This was the Giants first championship since 2002, and their 21st overall. Shinnosuke Abe was named Series MVP - he "only" hit .316 with two home runs, but one of those home runs won Game 5. Here's his 2001 BBM Preview Draft Pick card (#P10) (with Shigeo Nagashima):

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Series MVP Hideki Matsui

Lost in all the fuss about Hideki Matsui being the first Japanese player to win the World Series MVP is that fact that he is the first player to ever be the MVP in both the MLB World Series and the NPB Nippon Series, which he won in 2000 for the Giants. The card above commemorates that award in the 2000 BBM Nippon Series set (#S60).

2009 Sawamura Award

It was announced this week that Saitama Seibu Lions pitcher Hideaki Wakui won this year's Sawamura Award.

2009 BBM 1st Version #008

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Orix 20th Anniversary set

Well, I've been expecting it all year and it got announced today on BBM's website: a set commemorating the 20th Anniversary of Orix buying the Hankyu Braves. The team played as the Orix Braves in 1989 and 1990, then called themselves the Blue Wave from 1991 through 2004. Following the 2004 season, Orix merged with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes - well, absorbed is probably a better word than merged as Orix remained and Kintetsu got out. The new team was the Orix Buffaloes.

Instead of the usual 99 card pack-based sets that the other recent anniversary sets have been, this is a 55 card box set. There are 33 cards of former Orix players, 15 cards for current Orix players, a six card "Scenes" subset (showing important events in Orix history) and an insert card (which could potentially be an autograph or memorabilia card).

The set should hit the stores in December.

RIP Toshiyuki Mimura

Former Carp player and manager Toshiyuki Mimura passed away today at age 61. Here's his 1977 Calbee card (#64) as a player and his 1998 BBM All Star card (#A3) as Carp manager (and Central League All Star team coach):

Sunday, November 1, 2009

2010 NPB Draft

The 2010 NPB draft was held last week and it got a little more attention than normal due to one guy who was considering skipping NBP and heading straight to the majors. For the record - there currently are NO Yusei Kikuchi cards - if you see one on eBay, it's an "unlicensed collector's issue" (fake). Kikuchi's first card will most likely be with the BBM's Rookie Edition that will come out next February.

Several of the players drafted do already have cards from their college years. Here's the list (all card sets are from BBM)

Takahiro Araki, Kinki (Swallows #3)

2008 Collegiate National Team #CN18, #CN40 (shown)

Kazuhito Futagami, Hosei (Tigers, #1)

2008 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #31 (shown)
2009 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #30

Kenta Matsushita, Waseda (Lions #5)

2009 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #04 (shown)

Ryoji Nakata, Asia (Dragons #3)

2008 Collegiate National Team #CN14 (shown), #CN36

Hisashi Takeuchi, Hosei (Carp #3)

2008 Collegiate National Team #CN03, #CN25
2008 Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #26 (shown)
2009 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #29

Kenji Tomura, Rikkio (Eagles #1)

2008 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #39
2009 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version #38 (shown)
2009 Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version #25

(NOTE: I haven't gotten my 2009 Tokyo Big Six Autumn Version set yet. I suspect that the Futagami, Matsushita, Takeuchi and Tomura are in the set, but I don't know for sure.)
Deanna Rubin reports that Tomura is the only one of the drafted Tokyo Big Six players to appear in the 2009 Autumn Version set.

As usual, Deanna Rubin has all the information that you'd ever want to know about the draft and has a photo-post up already about the players that she's seen who were drafted by the Central League teams.

Card Of The Week November 1

Here's some trivia - who was the last Giants manager who ever played for a NPB team OTHER than the Giants? The answer is Hall Of Famer Haruyasu Nakajima, who managed them in two separate stints in the 1940's (1943, then the latter part of 1946 and the first part of 1947). Here's one of Nakajima's cards from the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set (#325):

Nakajima was player-manager with the Giants and later went on to play and manage for the Whales. The only other manager of the Giants who played for another team was Hideo Fujimoto, who managed the team between Nakajima's stints. Fujimoto played one year for Chunichi in the late 1940's. Note that none of these guys played for a team other than the Giants BEFORE they were Giants manager, only after. There has never been a Giants manager who played for any professional team other than the Giants prior to becoming Giants manager. In fact, the only guy who has managed the Giants without playing for them was the Giant's first manager, Sadayoshi Fujimoto.

One other neat thing about Nakajima - he was the first Giant to wear the number "3". He wore until after the 1942 season, switching to "30" when he became manager. In 1946, Shigeru Chiba took the number and kept it until 1956, when he retired (Actually, he wore it in 1957 as well as a coach). In 1958, the number was taken by Shigeo Nagashima, the last Giant to wear it. There's something symmetrical in three Hall Of Famers wearing the number "3". (What would make this perfect was if no one other than these three had worn the number, but someone named Mikio Tamura wore it for the 1944 season.)

I'd like to thank Japan Baseball Daily, Jim Albright's list of Japanese managers by team and the Player Number History web site for all their help with this post.

Monday, October 26, 2009

1949 San Francisco Seals Tour

According to Baseball Reference's Bullpen, today is the 60th Anniversary of the completion of the San Francisco Seal's Asian tour of 1949, which included five games in Japan (Robert Whiting says it was 7 in "You Gotta Have Wa"). The Seals were managed by Frank "Lefty" O'Doul who had a major impact on the development of professional baseball in Japan. The Giants take their name and uniform colors from the New York Giants because that's the team that O'Doul was playing for during his visits to Japan in the early 1930's. The Seals tour was the first visit by a US team to Japan following the war (and at the time, the Pacific Coast League was practically a third major league). According to Rob Fitts' biography of Wally Yonamine: "The Japanese interpreted [the Seals'] presence as a sign of respect, which helped reestablish baseball's popularity after the war". O'Doul's contributions to Japanese baseball were recognized in 2002 by his election to the Japanese Baseball Hall Of Fame.

The Seals' tour was commemorated by several sets of baseball cards - a bromide set called "Yakyu Shonen Sepia Bottom Line Strip" and at least eight menko sets. The bromide set and one of the menko sets had been up for auction in the last Prestige Collectibles auction, so you can still see the pages for them for now.

I don't have any cards from the Seals' sets, so I'll have to settle for the above 1991 Conlon Collection card of O'Doul (#165).

Sunday, October 25, 2009

2009 BBM 2nd Version

It's been out for about two months now and I've had my set for about a month, but I'm finally getting around to blogging about the 2009 BBM 2nd Version set. It's a 255 card set that is numbered as a continuation of this year's 1st Version set.

Like last year's set, this year's set has 180 player cards (15 per team). As usual, BBM has found some outstanding photographs for the cards. Here's a selection:

Card numbers: Kanemoto #673, Iguchi #608, Nakajima #562, Lee #655, Yoshinori #705, Oyama #682

There are 13 players who have "regular" (as opposed to 1st Version Update) cards in the 2nd Version set but did not appear in this year's 1st Version set. They are Atsushi Fujii (Dragons), Keiji Oyama (Dragons), Shinsuke Saitoh (Dragons), Yuya Hasegawa (Hawks), DJ Houlton (Hawks), Yasushi Kamiuchi (Hawks), Satoru Morimoto (Hawks), Atsushi Nohmi (Tigers), Tomoya Yagi (Fighters), Marcus Gwyn (Golden Eagles), Aaron Guiel (Swallows), Satoshi Fukuda (Giants) and Tetsuya Matsumoto (Giants).

One thing I noticed about the cards in this set - they have the player's name in English on the back of the cards. I think that's the first time I've seen that with BBM cards. Typically the name on the back will only be in Kanji for the Japanese players. (UPDATE - I guess I'm not very observant because this is the fourth year in a row that the 2nd Version cards have had the player's names on the back in English.)

In addition to the 13 previously mentioned cards, there's a 17 card "1st Version Update" subset. This subset contains cards that are in the style of this year's 1st Version set (although the text on the front does say "2nd Version"). I'm not quite sure what the difference between these 17 players and the 13 players listed above, but the update subset does contain players who signed later in the season (Craig Brazell), traded players (Ryuji Miyade and Yoshihiro Ichiba) and the BayStars interim manager Tomio Toshiro. But it also includes a card of Edgardo Alfonzo, who was NOT a late signing player.

Here's the list of the 1st Version Update players: Kentaro Hashimoto (Marines), Hiroshi Miyamoto (Marines), Juan Carlos Muniz (Marines), Yoshifumi Okada (Marines), Hayato Douue (Hawks), Jose Ortiz (Hawks), Craig Brazell (Tigers), Kai-Wen Cheng (Tigers), Yasutomo Kubo (Tigers), Scott McClain (Carp), Luis Jimenez (Fighters), Jobu (Golden Eagles), Ryuji Miyade (Golden Eagles), Yasuhiro Ichiba (Swallows), Yuki (Swallows), Tomio Toshiro (BayStars) and Edgardo Alfonzo (Giants). Here's the cards of Miyade (#777) and Toshiro (#787):

The set also contains three 12 card subsets, each featuring one player from each team. The subsets are "Team Specialities" which features one of the top stars from each team - Darvish, Ogasawara, Iwakuma, Kanemoto, etc (and yes, that title is misspelled - don't know if they were going for "Specialists" or "Specialties"); "Golden Age - Around 20" which features a promising early 20-something player like Masahiro Tanaka or Sho Nakata for each team (well, some are more promising than others...:-)); and the "Craftsmanship" subset which features a veteran for each team who's at least in their mid-30's if not older - Kudoh, Komiyama, Takuro Ishii, etc. Here's example cards from each subset:

Card numbers: Ogasawara #741, Maeda #756, Kosaka #763

There are 12 team checklist cards in the set. The pictures don't have any real theme - they are a combination of action shots, mascot interaction pictures and one or two just plain odd pictures. Here for examples are the Giants (#794) and BayStars (#799) cards:

Finally, there is a ten card "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset showing various Japanese celebrities throwing out the first pitch at a game. I was a little bummed (although not surprised) that there was no Tom Hanks card. Not living in Japan, it's usually hard for me to figure out who these people are - not all of them show up in Wikipedia. Here's the list: Hideo Higashikokubaru (Comedian), Sachi Jinno (Actress), Yumi Kobayashi (Model), Hidehiko Masuda (Comedian), Satoko Miyata (Model), Miyuki (?), Mari Motohashi (Curler), Tomoaki Ogura (Newscaster), Keisuke Okada (?), and Shosuke Tanihara (Actor). The only Keisuke Okada that comes up in a Wikipedia search was an Admiral in the Imperial Navy and Prime Minister of Japan in the mid 1930's. I don't think it's him.

I thought it was cool that there was an Olympic Curler in the bunch as my sister-in-law was a curling official at the 2002 Winter Olympics. So here's the card of Motohashi (#804):