Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Hide Koga

Last summer, I did a post on Japanese players appearing in minor league team sets during the 1980's and 90's. I included some information about the 1990 Salinas Spurs who had a working agreement with the Hawks which included them providing the team's manager, Hide Koga. Deanna Rubin pointed out in a comment that Koga was now a coach for the Marines.

I saw today that Bobby Valentine had done a post on his blog talking about Hide Koga and showing some pictures. Koga will be Valentine's senior advisor this year. So I thought this would be a good time to show this card again:

Monday, February 23, 2009

World Baseball Classic News

Some WBC news items of note:

- "Samurai Japan"'s final roster has been set. The opening games are a week from Thursday (March 5).

- Topps will be releasing a 55 card box set for World Baseball Classic on March 13 (at least that's what I think from what I see on eBay - Topps hasn't bothered mentioning the set on their website). From the player list that I found with the item listing in the Washington Nationals' shop (but oddly enough not in MLB's WBC shop - go figure), it looks like there are five Japanese players - Yu Darvish, Ichiro, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Akinori Iwamura and Kosuke Fukudome. So, there's five more cards total in Topps box set than there were in Upper Deck's crummy box set in 2006, but there's still only five Japanese players in the set. Damn, I wonder how few there'd be if they hadn't won the thing in 2006.

- I saw an article on that gave a preview of the 2009 Bowman set. There will be a 20 card WBC subset that will include Yu Darvish and Shinnosuke Abe. It's unclear to me if they will only be chrome or if there will be "normal" cards as well. So I guess my hope that Topps would do a better job than Upper Deck is not looking too good right now.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Card Of The Week February 22

The Yomiuri Giants won nine straight Nippon Series championships from 1965 to 1973. Five times during that stretch (1967-69, 1971-72), their opponent in the Series was the Hankyu Braves, managed by Yukio Nishimoto. In addition, Nishimoto and the Braves won the second half crown in 1973 (the first year the Pacific League used a split season), but lost in the playoffs to Katsuya Nomura and the Nankai Hawks. Following this loss, Nishimoto and the Braves parted company and he took over the Kintetsu Buffaloes, leading them pennants in 1979 and 1980. The Buffaloes were defeated in the Nippon Series both times by the Carp. In addition, prior to managing the Braves, Nishimoto led the Damai Orions to the Pacific League pennant in 1960, only to lose in the Series to the Taiyo Whales. So that's eight trips to the Series with no Championships.

Gary Engels and Rob Fitts describe him in "Japanese Baseball SuperStars" as the "Marv Levy of Japan". Here's his card from the 2009 BBM Hankyu Memorial set (#01):

(For the record, the V9 Giants other opponents were Kazuto Tsuruoka's Nankai Hawks in 1965-66, Wataru Nonin's Lotte Orions in 1970 and Nomura's Hawks in 1973.)

Friday, February 20, 2009

2009 BBM Hankyu Braves Memorial

Got the new 2009 BBM Hankyu Braves Memorial set in the mail today. As I mentioned before, Hankyu had owned the team from 1936 until they sold the team to Orix following the 1988 season.

As I've done previously, I got an opened set, so I didn't get any memorabilia cards, just the 48 regular cards. Unlike some of the other recent memorial and anniversary sets, this set doesn't have any subsets. Just 48 cards of former Hankyu players and managers. Pretty much every one you'd expect to be here is - Yutaka Fukumoto, Takao Kajimoto, Hiromi Matsunaga, Hisashi Yamada, Tetsuya Yoneda - along with more gaijin than I think I've seen in any other set of this type - Chico Barbon, Brad Lesley, Bobby Marcano, Daryl Spencer and Boomer Wells. The inclusion of Lesley is notable since he only played two seasons for the Braves.

The one thing about the player selection for the set - the earliest debut of any player pictured is 1954 (Takao Kajimoto). There's no picture that I know for sure is earlier than 1960-61 based on the uniforms (Yoshihiro Nakata, although the Kajimoto picture could be from 1954. That leaves a roughly 20 year stretch of the 53 seasons Hankyu owned the team not covered. There are some obscure Hall Of Famers from this time period who could have been included like Shinji Hamazaki, Saburo Miyatake, or Minoru Yamashita - none of whom have appeared in any of BBM's recent major historic sets like 2000's 20th Century Best 9 or 2006's Nostalgic Baseball. Another more well known player who could have been included was Jiro Noguchi.

Here are some sample cards:

That's Yoshihiro Nakata (#37), Koji Okamura (#17), Chico Barbon (#21) and Yasuo Fujii (and friend) (#47).

(I dug up the names of the obscure Hankyu Hall Of Famers from Gary Engel & Rob Fitts' book "Japanese Baseball SuperStars".)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Career Home Run Leaders #10 - Koichi Tabuchi

I apologize for getting a little behind in this countdown. We move into the Top 10 All Time Home Run Leaders with Koichi Tabuchi, who hit 474 home runs during his 16 year career for the Hanshin Tigers and Seibu Lions.

He was drafted by the Tigers in the first round of the 1969 draft (which occurred in 1968) (2007 BBM Draft Story #039):

He spent the next ten years with the Tigers (1976 Mitsuya Medium Disks):

1977 Yamakatsu Photo Wrapper (JY4):

He was traded to the Lions following the 1978 season in a six player deal that included Akinobu Mayumi going from the Lions to the Tigers. The Lions had just been bought by Seibu and he was acquired to show that the new ownership was committed to winning. (1981 Calbee #50):

Tabuchi retired following the 1984 season. He managed the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks from 1990 through 1992 (1991 BBM #43):

Most recently, he was a coach for the 2008 Japanese Olympic Baseball Team (2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN02):

(The card at the top of this post is 2002 BBM 2nd Version #832)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Card Of The Week February 15

Meet Shinya Sasaki. He played second base for the Unions and Orions for only four years. He was named to the Pacific League Best 9 team in 1956, his rookie season. I think that the records he set (which is why he's in a "Record Makers" set) was the most at bats (622) and plate appearances (671) in a season. He set both of these records in 1956.

Now this is the kind of thing that the "Historic Collection" cards should have more of. I'd never heard of this guy before. I don't know if he's ever had any other cards (ok - I looked real quick at Gary Engel's book and I found at least one menko card). I don't know why he retired after the 1959 season (although his batting average declined each season). While I always enjoy another Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima card, it's nice to occasionally get a card of someone unknown.

2006 BBM "Record Makers" #072. The picture is from 1957 when he was with the Daiei Unions.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

2009 BBM 1st Version

More updates to BBM's website! First, they updated the page for this year's Rookie Edition set with card samples. They look...OK. They're similar to last year's cards, but not quite as bright. In addition to the card samples, the web has also been updated to say that the cards will be in stores today.

The big news though is that the info for this year's 1st Version set is up. There are 553 regular cards in the set which (if I'm reading this Babel Fish translation right) breaks down to:

- 36 player/manager cards for each team (432 in all)
- 31 2008 League Leader cards
- 2 Rookie Of The Year candidate cards per team (24 in all)
- 1 "Record Breaker" card per team (12 in all)
- 9 cards for retiring players/managers
- 9 cards for players who switched teams
- an ace and a top position player for each team (24 cards)
- team checklists (12 in all)

The set also has the usual Best 9 and Golden Glove insert sets, along with a "top player" for each team insert set. There are also memorabilia cards inserts. There are the usual silver/gold/etc signature parallels as well.

The card samples look nice. The design is kind of the generic BBM design of the past few years - no borders with the player's name, position, team and number grouped together fairly unobtrusively. A little dull, but I think I'd still prefer them to the recent Topps sets.

The set will hit the shelves in the middle of April.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Kiyohara Memorial Set

I don't know why I wasn't expecting this. Info for a Kazuhiro Kiyohara Memorial Set appeared on BBM's website today. The 46 card box set apparently hit stores on January 31. The set has 18 cards covering his days with the Lions, another 18 cards for his time with the Giants, 9 more cards for his years with the Buffaloes (6 of which appear to deal with his retirement ceremonies) and one random memorabilia card.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Card Of The Week February 8

I read an article about the late Kazuhiro Yamauchi in the Daily Yomiuri that mentioned that he was the first player to reach 300 home runs in Japan. Obviously that means at some point he must have been the career home run leader. A Noboro Aota Fan's Notes had a post recently that had the "progressive" career leaders in home runs and sure enough, Yamauchi was the career home run leader at the end of the 1964 season with 293. At some point during 1965, he was overtaken by Katsuya Nomura, so his reign lasted less than two years.

Here's another card of Yamauchi, from the 1964 Marukami menko set:

Friday, February 6, 2009

RIP Kazuhiro Yamauchi

Hall Of Famer Kazuhiro Yamauchi passed away this past Monday at age 76. Yamauchi played for the Orions (Mainichi & Damai), the Tigers and the Carp in a career that lasted from 1952 to 1970. He also managed Lotte (1979-81) and Chunichi (1984-86).

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #038
2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #T-08
1979 TCMA #90

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2009 Calbee Series 1

Happened to check the Calbee website this morning and saw that a checklist for the first series of 2009 is up. Don't know when the cards will be in stores, but it shouldn't be long.

The series has 108 "regular" cards (9 per team). There are a number of insert sets or subsets as well (can we call them inserts when there's only 1 card to a pack?). I'm not sure about what all of the subsets are, but I can tell that there's one for the Climax Series (4 cards), the Nippon Series (4 cards) and the Best 9 winners (19 cards). I think there's also a commemorative card for Sadaharu Oh and a two card commemorative subset for Kazuhiro Kiyohara. There appears to be a 24 card "Top Player" subset with the top pitcher and batter for each team.

There are also 4 checklist cards.

There's a 2 card "LC" subset and a 21 card "T" subset that I can't figure out.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Card Of The Week February 1

I heard this week that Masumi Kuwata is planning on going back to school, or, more specifically, he's planning on attending the college he was going to go to (Waseda) before the Giants drafted him out of high school back in 1985. I thought this was as good an excuse as any to show this card from the 2007 BBM "Legend Of Masumi Kuwata" set:

I think this card (#MK33) shows him at Koshien, ready to take on the Tigers.

Career Home Run Leaders #11 - Masahiro Doi

Number 11 on the list of top career home run hitters is Masahiro Doi. Doi broke in with Kintetsu in 1962 at the age of 18. He played with the Buffaloes until he was traded to the then Taiheiyo Club Lions after the 1974 season. He remained with the Lions through the Crown Lighter and early Seibu years until he retired following the 1981 season. He finished with 465 home runs.

Some cards:

1964 Marukami menko:

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 "Combination" insert (#T-02):

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 (#221):

1979 TCMA (#15):

(The card at the top of the post is 2002 BBM 2nd Version #833)

2009 BBM Back To The 80's

The first offering for 2009 from BBM (actually released at the end of November) is this year's "Historic Collection" set - Back To The 80's. The set contains 144 cards - 72 cards for OB players who were stars in the 1980's and 72 cards for current players who were born in the 1980's. The selection of OB players contains some of the obvious - Hiromitsu Ochiai, Tatsunori Hara, Suguru Egawa, a bunch of stars from the great Lions teams of the 80's like Koji Akiyama, Hiromichi Ishige, Tsutomu Itoh and the recently retired Kazuhiro Kiyohara, but I felt that there were some players missing. Some of the missing are accounted for in the fact that none of the OB players in this set appeared in last year's "Historic Collection" set - Back To The 1970's. Hiromitsu Kadota, Yutaka Fukumoto, Sachio Kinugasa and Koji Yamamoto could have been in either set. But Choji Murata and Katsuya Nomura (again) are no shows in either set. And while I noticed that the new set has some significant gaijin - Warren Cromartie, Randy Bass and Boomer Wells - while the 70's set had none, I see that the Lee brothers have also been left out of both sets. (I keep thinking that Kimiyasu Kudoh should be in the set as well, even though he hasn't retired yet!)

The set itself is nice enough. Some of the pictures are pretty cool and BBM threw in the occasional horizontal card just to break it up a bit. As usual, I'd prefer more OB players instead of current players, but I'm not sure that will ever change. I got a good deal on the set so I'm not sorry I bought it, but I probably could have simply made do with a couple of packs.

Here's some sample cards:

From the top, that's the OB player cards of Takashi Nishimoto (#003) and Kaname Yashiki (#027) and the current player cards of Yuichi Honda (#125) and Hichori Michimoto (#113).