Sunday, May 31, 2009

Card Of The Week May 31

Tomo Ohka got called up by the Indians the other day. I actually hadn't realized that he was still pitching. He came in and pitched 5 innings in a mop-up role on Saturday against the Yankees, giving up only three runs after Fausto Carmona had been knocked out of the game. To my knowledge, Ohka has only two BBM cards from his days with the Yokohama BayStars - his 1994 rookie (#493) and a card from the 1997 set (#224). Here's the 1994 card:

Friday, May 29, 2009

2009 BBM Tokyo Big 6 Spring Version

Got my 2009 BBM Tokyo Big 6 Spring Version set in the mail today. Like last year's set, this is a 60 card box set which features nine player cards and a team card from each of the six universities in the Tokyo Big Six Collegiate Baseball League - Hosei, Keio, Meiji, Rikkio, Tokyo and Waseda. I don't know who many of these guys are, so I've been reading Deanna Rubin's posts on the Big 6 games she's been going to to try to learn who they are.

The cards are very nice again. Here's a couple examples - Hosei catcher (and team captain) Shuhei Ishikawa (#28), Meiji infielder (well, the card says he's an infielder although he played center in the Big 6 Championship game) Fumiya Araki (#24) and the Waseda team card (#55):

Final 2009 BBM Team Sets

BBM released information on their website today about the final three team sets for the year - the Lions, Hawks and Giants.

The Lions set contains 99 cards including 71 player and manager cards, a checklist, a six card "LIONHEART" subset (featuring cards of Hiroyuki Nakajima, Yasuyuki Kataoka, Takeya Nakamura, Takumi Kuriyama, Hideaki Wakui and Takayuki Kishi - I think), a six card "shared number" subset featuring OB and current players who have the same uniform numbers, a six card "title holder" subset and a nine card puzzle. There's also the ubiquitous nine card "Shining Star" insert set and the usual memorabilia/autograph cards. There's no release date listed on the site for the set.

The Hawks set will be released in July. It is also a 99 card set with 77 cards for players and managers, a checklist, a four card "Next Generation" subset, an eight card "Kyushu" subset (I'm guessing featuring Hawks players from Kyushu?) and a nine card puzzle. And as expected there's a nine card "Shining Star" insert set and an assortment of memorabilia and autograph cards.

At 126 cards, the Giants set is larger than all of the other team sets from this year. It has 78 cards for the players and manager, two "emblem" cards (maybe actually the mascots?), a checklist card, a 33 card "Giants Pride" subset, a three card "Giants Of Tomorrow" subset and a nine card "WONDERBOY" subset that appears to be devoted to Hayato Sakamoto. Along with the expected nine card "Shining Star" insert set there is a seven card "Giants Seventh" insert set and the usual memorabilia and autograph cards.

As always, I'm trying to figure this out from the Babel Fish translations, so I may have gotten things wrong. In addition, BBM sometimes changes things between when they first announce the set and when the set is actually released, so your mileage may vary.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

New WBC Cards

Topps has issued a couple new sets of World Baseball Classic cards in the last month. The first of these is a 20 card subset in the new Bowman set featuring WBC prospects. The subset includes two members of the Japanese team - Yu Darvish (#BW1) and Shinnosuke Abe (#BW6).

I have a couple of issues with this set. First of all, only six of the players in the set did not appear in the 55 card box set Topps put out earlier. But worst of all, of the 14 players that appear in both sets, seven of them (Abe, Phillippe Aumont of Canada, Tao Bu of China, Fu-Te Ni and Cheng-Min Peng of Taipei, Yulieski Gourriel of Cuba and Gift Ngoepe of South Africa) have the EXACT SAME PICTURE used in both sets. (You can see this with the Abe card in this post and here.) That's just plain lazy.

The second new set of WBC cards is a 25 card insert set for Topps 2. These cards remind me of the early 60's Fleer cards - the background of the photos has been replaced with just a blue backdrop. There are four cards in the set from the Japanese team - Darvish, Ichiro, Shuichi Murata (#BCS22) and Hiroyuki Nakajima (#BCS4).

I'm still not real happy with the player selection in the set - 19 of the 25 players appear in box set and one of the others appears in the Bowman set. Only five players only appear in this set. It'd have been nice to have seen cards for maybe someone like Hisashi Iwakuma or Kevin Youklis instead of yet another card of Derek Jeter or Ichiro.

The kind of cool item that Topps produced actually is not something new - Topps produced 8 card sheets that were give aways in Tokyo (Pool A) and Toronto (Pool C) for the first round. (I have not been able to find out if they produced sheets for Mexico City or San Juan.) The sheets feature two players from each of the four teams in the pool. The sheets are promotional items for the 55 card box set, so the cards on them have the same design. However, some of the cards on the sheet feature different photos than the box set or even different players. Here's the Pool A sheet from Tokyo:

While the cards of the Chinese and Japanese players (and Jin Young Lee of Korea) are identical to the cards in the box set, the two Taipei players and the other Korean player (Byung Hyun Kim) are not in the box set (probably because two of them didn't appear in the WBC). The Pool C sheet is even more dramatic in that none of the eight cards are actually in the set - it features four new players (Jeff Francis of Canada, Vincent Sinisi of Italy and Carlos Zambrano and Omar Vizquel of Venezuela) and four new pictures (Justin Morneau of Canada, Lenny DiNardo of Italy and Derek Jeter and Chipper Jones of the USA). (Of course, the reason none of those four players didn't make the set is that none of them actually played in the WBC!)

I expect that Topps is not done with World Baseball Classic cards yet. I'm still hoping for a set that actual covers events from the actual game - like the Upper Deck "World Baseball Classic" moments set did.

2009 Calbee Series 2

Calbee's website is now listing information for their second series of the year. The set includes 96 "regular" cards (8 per team), four checklist card and a 12 card "Hot Player" subset. There are also subsets labeled "OP", "S" and "V" and I have no clue what they might be.

I don't see a release date for the set, so I don't know when it will be out. Come to think of it, I don't know if Series 1 ever came out. I assume it was out in March or April.

Update: According to a comment from Deanna, the "OP" cards are "Opening Game" cards, the "S" subset are "Star" cards and the "V" subset are "Veteran" cards. Each subset is an even multiple of 12, so you can expect that each team will be evenly represented.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Card Of The Week May 24

There was a question the other day in the comments to the Kaz Tadano post about who the most famous player in Japan with the last name "Fujimoto" was. I'm going to go with Hideo Fujimoto, even though he's list in the Japanese Baseball Hall Of Fame as "Hideo Nakagami". He won 200 games in his career stretching from 1942 to 1955 - all with the Giants except for the 1947 season when he pitched for Chunichi. He threw the first perfect game in Japanese history in 1950.

I'm curious as to why he changed his name and why he pitched one season for the Dragons. I have no idea in either case.

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #125.

The other Hall Of Famer named Fujimoto was Sadayoshi Fujimoto, who managed six different teams between 1935 and 1968.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Kazuhito Tadano

I made a mistake in this post where I said that Makoto Suzuki was the only Japanese player to play in the States before he played in Japan. As Deanna Rubin pointed out, Kazuhito Tadano appeared in 15 games for the Indians in 2004 and 2005 before he ended up with the Fighters last year. Here's his 2008 BBM 2nd Version "Breaking Now" subset card (#746):

And I'm very amused at who the sponsor for Tadano's Baseball-Reference page is.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mac Suzuki

According to this post in NPB Tracker, the Long Beach Armada are not the only Golden Baseball League team to sign a former NPB & MLB player. The Calgary Vipers have signed Makoto "Mac" Suzuki, formerly of the Mariners, Royals, Rockies, Brewers and Orix Blue Wave. Suzuki is the first and so far only Japanese player to play in the majors before playing in NPB. He appeared in a couple games last season with the Vipers.

Here's some cards of him, starting with his first card when he was with the independent San Bernadino Spirit of the California League back in 1993 (1993 Classic Best Spirit team set #19):

After a couple of years of mediocre play in the US, he returned to Japan and was subject to the NPB draft in the fall of 2002. He was picked by the Orix Blue Wave. He remained in their organization through 2005. After Orix let him go, he kicked around with a couple different teams in Mexico and Taiwan along with a brief stint in the Cubs organization. Here's his 2003 Calbee card (#082) and his 2004 BBM 2nd Version card (#606):

On a side note - I noticed that the Calgary manager is Morgan Burkhart, who had a very interesting career in the independent Frontier League before signing with the Red Sox (after he was too old for the Frontier League). Burkhart played for Fukuoka in 2002. Here's his 2002 Calbee New Face subset card (#N-12):

Monday, May 18, 2009

Career Home Run Leaders #1 -Sadaharu Oh

Not that anyone doesn't already know this, but #1 on the list of career home run leaders is Sadaharu Oh with 868 home runs. Oh played his entire career from 1959 to 1980 with the Yomiuri Giants.

I've done a couple of tributes to Oh previously, both as a player and as a manager along with a post about the 2009 BBM Tribute set. I think I did a lousy job picking cards of him as a player, so I thought I give it another try - this time using only cards that came out while he was playing.

From the top of the post we've got his card from the 2002 BBM 2nd Version 400 Home Run Club subset (#824), a 1974 Calbee card (#140), a 1974/75 Calbee card (#431), a 1975/76 Calbee card (#1235), a 1978 NST card (not sure of the number, the scan's from an unnumbered parallel issue), a 1978 Yamakatsu card, his 1979 TCMA card (#1) and a 1980 Yamakatsu card.

Card Of The Week May 17

The Yokohama BayStars have replaced manager Akihiko Oya with their ni-gun team manager Tomio Tashiro. Officially Oya is being "rested" but that's probably just a face-saving statement. In-season firings of managers are pretty rare in Japan - I think the last one was in 2003 when Hiromichi Ishige was let go by the Orix Blue Wave. (Terry Collins was not fired last year - he resigned. On his own, I mean.)

Anyway, here's a 1985 Calbee card of Tashiro (#205):

Hideki Irabu

Old news now, but a couple of weeks ago the Long Beach Aramada of the independent Golden Baseball League announced that they had signed former Lotte and Hanshin pitcher Hideki Irabu to a contract. Irabu is now 39 and hasn't pitched since 2004, so it'll be interesting to see what happens. For his sake, I hope he's more successful than the last high profile player to attempt a comback with the Armada - Jose Canseco in 2006.

Anyway, in honor of his return to the States, I thought I'd do a quick run down of his cards. Irabu broke in with the (then) Lotte Orions in 1988. He has a card in the Takara Orions set for that year, but not the Calbee set. Curiously, it looks to me that he doesn't have a Calbee card until 1994. His first BBM card in in their initial set in 1991. (Which brings up a question - which of these should be considered his rookie card? I would think it would be only his 1988 Takara card. But by that reasoning, Hideo Nomo only has one rookie card - his 1990 Takara card, not the 1991 BBM and Calbee cards. And the 1994 Calbee cards of Ichiro Suzuki are not rookie cards. Does this make sense?) He's in BBM All Star sets in 1994-96 and 2003 along with the 2003 BBM Nippon Series set. He also appears in the 1990 Lotte Gum set, the 1991 Q Card set and both the 1993 and 1994 Tomy sets. And he shows up in last year's BBM Lotte 40th Anniversary set. (As always, these are just the highlights, not a comprehensive list.)

Here's some cards:

From the top, that's his 1990 Takara Orions cards, his 1991 BBM card (#277), his 1994 Calbee Hokkaido Version card (#C-13) and his 2003 BBM Victory Road Prologue box set card (#14).

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More BBM team sets

Last week, BBM released information about three more team sets - the Dragons, the Swallows and the Carp.

The Carp set will be out at the end of May. It's a 99 card set featuring 73 cards of players and the manager, 1 checklist card, 7 cards of OB players, 3 "Young Guns", 6 "Active Leaders" and a 9 card puzzle. The set also has the usual "Shining Star" insert set and the usual autograph/memorabilia cards.

The Swallows set comes out in the middle of June. I'm not quite sure what the Babel Fish translation is saying, but it looks like a 94 card set (which I bet gets 5 cards added to it by the time it gets released) with 75 player and manager cards, 1 checklist card, 3 cards for Swallows pitchers, 4 cards for Swallows batters a 2 card subset called "W-Kawashima" which I have no idea what is and a 9 card puzzle. Like the other team sets, it has the 9 card "Shining Star" insert set and the usual assortment of autograph/memorabilia cards.

I also still expect that there will be a Yakult 40th Anniversary set out at some point this year, but this isn't it.

The Dragons set will also be out in the middle of June. It has 99 cards (surprise!) that fall into the following subsets (again, based on the Babel Fish translation) - player and manager (75), checklist (1), breaking players (4), Aichi prefecture players(?) (8), "name combination players" (3) and puzzle (9). In addition to the ubiquitous nine card "Shining Star" insert set, there is also a six card "Active Leading Player" insert set along with autograph/memorabilia cards.

BBM also updated the web pages for the Bay Stars and Tigers team sets to include pictures of the cards.

With these three new team sets, BBM has now announced nine of the twelve team sets, leaving only the Hawks, Giants and Lions sets as yet unannounced.

Card Of The Week May 10

OK, getting behind again. Here's another Katsuya Nomura card from the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set. It's from the "Combination" insert set (#T-04) and shows him with TIgers pitcher Minoru Murayama:

This is one of the few BBM "Historic" sets that Nomura has appeared in. I mentioned last fall that he did not appear in the Nankai, Seibu or Lotte anniversary sets nor did he appear in BBM's "Back To The 70's" set a few years ago. Kind of weird.

Even weirder is that I realized that I had no Yamakatsu cards from the late 1970's of him. I figured out why - he only had a card in one of the sets. This would be like Topps only having one card of Jorge Posada or Joe Mauer in a five year stretch. He was in the Calbee and NST sets from around the same time, so it wasn't like he didn't want to be on cards. Very strange.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Career Home Run Leaders #2 - Katsuya Nomura

Almost finished and Tuffy Rhodes and Tomoaki Kanemoto haven't completely made this list obsolete yet. Number Two on the all time list is long time Nankai Hawk catcher/manager Katsuya Nomura with 657 home runs. According to A Noburu Aota Fan's Notes, Nomura was the career leader in home runs from 1965 until Sadaharu Oh passed him in 1974. Curiously, Oh and Nomura are the only players in the top 15 to ever be the career leader.

Nomura played briefly for Nankai in 1954, then was up for good in 1956. Here's his 1964 Marusan Menko card:

He became player/manager for the Hawks in 1970, leading them to the Nippon Series in 1973 (to be the final team to lose to the V9 Giants). This is a card from an unknown source that I think is from 1975:

1975/76 Calbee #1113:

Nomura was dismissed as Nankai manager following the 1977 season, apparently because his wife Sachiyo was somehow interfering with the running of the team. He played for Lotte in 1978, then joined Seibu in 1979 and played for them until his career ended in 1980. (Oddly enough, the 1979-80 Lions featured three of the players from this list - Nomura, Koichi Tabuchi and Masahiro Doi.) This is his 1979 TCMA card (#13):

Following his retirement in 1980, he was a TV commentator until the Yakult Swallows hired him as manager for the 1990 season. He remained with the Swallows through 1998, winning four Central League pennants and three Nippon Series championships. This is 1993 Tomy card #286:

He was let go by the Swallows following the 1998 season and hooked up with the Hanshin Tigers the following year. He remained manager of the Tigers through 2001, when his wife's tax evasion scandal became public and Hanshin let him go. This is his 2001 Upper Deck card (#102):

Following his depature from Hanshin, he managed an industrial league team for a few years. After the 2005 season, he was named the manager of Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, a position that he still holds. Here's his 2006 BBM Rookie Edition card (#133):

The card at the top of the post is #825 from the 2002 BBM 2nd Version set.