Sunday, August 30, 2009

Card Of The Week August 30

NPB Tracker had a post the other day featuring tidbits of information about 10 foreign players in Japan based on an issue of Shukan Baseball. One of the bits was on Dave Nilsson, the former Brewers catcher who signed with the Dragons in 2000 so that he could play for the Australian team in the Sydney Olympics that year. Nilsson registered in NPB as "Dingo" and that what was appeared on his uniform as well as his baseball cards. Here's his 2000 BBM card (#394):

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Card Of The Week August 23

OK, after the lack of success that I had last week tracking down Senichi Hoshino, I wanted to show that I did get an autograph from a former NPB player once. A couple years back, the Wilmington Blue Rocks had a coach named Ty Gainey who had played for the Orix Blue Wave in 1993 and 1994. I was able to get him to autograph this 1993 BBM card (#250):

He did mention that it wasn't a card he saw everyday.

New stuff

A couple of items have been announced in the last week or so:

- BBM listed on new set recently that completely stumped me. I can usually figure out what a set is from the url of the web page describing it and having some idea of what's going on baseball-wise in Japan. (The Lions Classic set from last year baffled me because I didn't know about the Lions Classic games.) If I can't figure it out from the url, I'll run the page through a translation and see if I can make sense out of what I get.

Well, this one stumped me. What does "2009_malts" mean? The translations didn't help much - in fact they said something about a "shoot-out" which made me wonder if it wasn't a soccer set and that BBM had put it in the baseball list by mistake. It doesn't help that BBM doesn't put sample cards on the web pages anymore (at least when the page goes up initially).

So, I asked Deanna Rubin for help. And, of course, she knew the answer. There's an old timers game sponsored by Suntory brewery called the Dream Match that gets played every year. The two teams this year were "World Japan 2009" and "The Premium Malts". Deanna gave me a link to a post on with more details.

The set itself is a box set with 56 cards - 26 cards for the players on "World Japan 2009", 29 cards for the players on "The Premium Malts" and a random insert card with the possibility of an autograph or memorabilia card. The rosters of the teams include Masumi Kuwata, Randy Bass, Masayuki Kakefu, Yutaka Enatsu, Koji Yamamoto and Shinji Sasaoka. The "World Japan 2009" team is managed by Koichi Tabuchi. The GM for the "Premium Malts" is Isao Harimoto. This might be fun to pick up. It will be in stores in September.

Thanks for the help, Deanna!

- Calbee put the checklist for this year's third series up last week. There are 96 "regular" cards (bring the total for all three series to 300) which are broken down to 8 cards per team. There are also four checklist cards, 24 "star" cards (a continuation of a Series 2 subset), and a 12 card "Iron Arm" subset. There's a two card All Star MVP subset (featuring Norichika Aoki and Nobuhiko Matsunaka) and a 20 card "HT" subset that I'm not sure what is.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Searching for Senichi Hoshino, Part Three

Japan followed up their victories last weekend with a 12-0 perfect game victory over Australia on Tuesday and a 12-1 victory over Korea on Wednesday. Japan finished pool play with a 4-0 record, tied with the Dominican Republic for the best record. Japan won the tie breaker based on runs against (4 vs. 19) so they ended up being the number one seed for the international bracket, which meant that they would play at 5 PM on Thursday in the international bracket semifinal against the fourth seed, which was Korea.

I was able to make this game after work, so I showed up once again with my camera and a couple of Hoshino cards, hoping that the third time would be a charm. Unfortunately, I discovered that he had returned to Japan that morning. So much for supporting the team. Perhaps he got spooked when he learned there was this strange person stalking him. (In defense of Hoshino, I learned today while watching my recording of today's game vs. Mexico that Hoshino not only was responsible for putting a Japanese team together for this tournament, he's been its principal financial backer as well. So he supports the team whether he actually appears at a game or not.)

Despite not finding Hoshino, I had a great time at these games. The semifinal game against Korea was a tight ballgame early, with Japan only leading by 2-0 until they blew the game open by scoring five runs in the bottom of the fifth. Must have been strange for Japan - it was the first game since Saturday that they'd had to play more than four innings. The final score was 7-0.

Here's some pictures. Here's one of the players running out during the introductions:

Lined up for the National Anthems:

One of the Japanese players read the Babe Ruth Baseball Code Of Conduct:

Japanese starter Akira Ouro:

Coming off the field after the top of the first:

The Oendan section was in force again:

A couple random player pictures:

The flags in center field:

I watched an inning or so from the berm in right field:

A couple more random player shots:

Mexico defeated the Dominican Republic team in the other semifinal Thursday, setting up a rematch of last Saturday's tournament opener for the international bracket final. Behind a great performance by their pitcher and a couple key baserunning mistakes by Japan (they'd made a couple similar mistakes against Korea, but it didn't cost them), Mexico squeaked out a 1-0 victory this afternoon to move into the final tomorrow against the US bracket champ from Montgomery County, Maryland. It turns out that Japan was fighting history today - since this tournament was first played in Aberdeen in 2003, Mexico has been the international bracket winner every year.

So better luck to both the Japanese team and me next year. Maybe they'll get a championship and I'll get a Senichi Hoshino autograph!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Whither Canada? Or Searching for Senichi Hoshino, Part Two

Continuing my quest to find Senichi Hoshino in Aberdeen, MD at the Cal Ripken World Series...

Sunday evening, Team Japan took on Team Canada at the Camden Yards replica known as Cal Senior's Yard. This is a beautiful little ballpark with real seats in the infield, a grassy berm in the outfield, outfield walls with padding and a hotel in right field that looks a little like the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards. I've been to minor league games at ballparks that weren't as nice as this.

Japan, of course, was coming off of their squeaker of a victory over Mexico on Saturday afternoon. Canada was reeling from being blown out by Korea at the same time. Unfortunately for Canada, this game was almost identical to their game against Korea.

It was obvious from the start of the game how it was going to go. The leadoff hitter for Japan, Atsushi Takahashi singled to center.

On the first pitch to the second batter, Kazumi Doi, Takahashi stole second without a throw.

On the second pitch to Doi, Takahashi stole third without a throw.

Doi took the third pitch for a strike. On the fourth pitch, the Canadian pitcher balked and Takahashi scored.

The final score of the game was Japan 16, Canada 0. And not to denigrate the Canadians, it wasn't even that close. The game was called after four innings due to the slaughter rule. The Canadians were no-hit, getting only two base runners on walks in the third and fourth innings. Nine of the twelve outs the Canadians made were strikeouts.

The Japanese team scored more runs (16) than the Canadians had plate appearances (14).

You have to feel bad for the Canadians. They are the champions of their country and they lost their first two games by a combined score of 33 to 0. (And as I write this, I see that they are losing to Australia by a score of 6 to 0).

While once again, I failed to find Hoshino, I did actually talk to a couple of the people from Japan watching the game and verified that he is actually around. Unfortunately, Japan's remaining games are scheduled for during the day this week and I won't be able to go. If they end up as the number one seed in the international bracket, they'll play Thursday at five and I should be able to make that. I'm hoping Hoshino will as well.

I took some more pictures. Here's one of the coaches hitting fly balls to the outfielders in the pregame fielding warmups:

The team lined up and bowed both to the field and to their fans before the game.

Both teams lined up for the National Anthems:

First pitch of the game:

The Oendan section:

Banner on the dugout roof:

Random player shots:

They had these between innings huddles that would always end with a cheer:

The lone Canadian base runner to get to second:

Final score:

Bowing to their fans after the game:

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Card Of The Week August 16

Hiroki Kuroda of the Dodgers took a line drive off his head last night and was rushed to the hospital. He's apparently OK and he was discharged from the hospital this morning. Here's his 1997 BBM rookie card (#496) from his days as a Carp:

Searching for Senichi Hoshino, Part One

This post is going to be a little different than most of my posts. I was reading the blog the other day and learned that former Dragons pitcher and manager, Tigers manager and 2008 Japanese Olympic baseball team manager Senichi Hoshino was heading to the US to support the Japanese team in the Cal Ripken World Series. Since the Cal Ripken World Series is played at the Ripken Sports Complex in Aberdeen, MD which is maybe five miles from my house, I thought that this might be an opportunity to see if I could get an autograph. (Note - I'm really not much of an autograph guy, but when an opportunity presents itself, I try to take advantage. And how often do I get an opportunity to get an autograph from an OB star from Japan?)

So yesterday afternoon, after digging up a couple of cards for him to autograph, I headed over to see the Japanese team take on the team from Mexico and hopefully find Hoshino.

The fields at the Ripken Sports Complex are modeled after classic Major League parks. There's a Fenway with a high left field wall, a Wrigley with ivy on the outfield wall, a Memorial Stadium replica, a Yankee stadium (that I didn't get a good look at) and a miniature Camden Yards. The Camden Yards replica has real seats and an electronic scoreboard - the rest of the fields are pretty low tech - I think only the Yankee Stadium replica has lights. The other fields also don't have seats, just grassy embankments.

The Japan/Mexico game was at the Memorial Stadium replica. There was a nice little crowd watching the game, but unfortunately, I didn't find Hoshino. I did, however, see an exciting little game. Japan took a 2 run lead in the bottom of the first. Mexico loaded the bases in the top of the second with nobody out, but failed to score. The score remained unchanged until the top of fourth, when Mexico got a three run home run. In the bottom of the fifth, Japan answered back with their own two run home run, a towering blast to center. In the top of the sixth (the final inning as they only play six inning games), Japan quickly retired the first two batters. The third batter hit a fly ball to center that the center fielder dropped. The next batter hit a liner to left that got by the left fielder and rolled to the wall. The runner on first was sent by the third base coach. The throw from the left fielder was relayed by the shortstop and just barely made it to the catcher in time. There was a nice collision at home plate, the catcher held onto the ball and Japan won 4-3.

I took a bunch of pictures during the game. The team had their own Oendan section (I'm assuming that these are family of the players, of course). I've got a video clip of them as well, but I'm not sure how to post it:

A couple random player shots:

I liked the kid watching the game over the outfield fence:

Hmm, I've seen this stance by a player wearing number one before somewhere...:

Manager Koji Okumura (I think) with the Oendan section behind him:

More random player shots. Look how much taller the Mexican player is than the first baseman. (The kids are all 11 and 12 I think):

Mobbing the player who hit the three run home run:

After the game, the team lined up and bowed to the crowd:

Final score on the "low tech" scoreboard:

While Japan was playing Mexico, the Korean team was clobbering the Canadian team over at the Wrigley field replica (note the ivy on the fence):

So tonight, the Japanese team plays the Canadian team over at the Camden Yards replica. I'll be heading over again to see if Hoshino shows up at this game.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Card Of The Week August 9

I'm confused.

The above is the 1989 Calbee card (#197) of Yasunori Oshima of the Nippon Ham Fighters. The article about him in Baseball Reference's Bullpen Wiki states that he was the oldest player in NPB History at the time of his retirement in 1994. Now I want to start off here by saying that the guy who's been writing the Japanese baseball player biographies for Baseball Reference is Mischa Gelman and he knows way more about Japanese baseball than I do. His primary source for the article is Gary Garland's fantastic Japan Baseball Daily and Gary Garland knows way more about Japanese baseball than I do also. So I'm a little uncomfortable here saying that I don't think this is right.

Yasunori Oshima (or Ohshima) was born on October 16, 1950. His last appearance at least for the ichi-gun team was in 1994. I'm going to make the assumption that that last game in 1994 was before his birthday (which is not unreasonable given that the Nippon Series that year started on October 22). That would make him 43 and at least a half at the time of last appearance. Gary Garland's bio claims that he was 46 at the time of his retirement. That could only be if he played a few years only at the ni-gun level. I don't think that happened as there are no cards of him as a player after 1994 and both Mischa and Gary Garland say (along with Gary Engel and Rob Fitts' "Japanese Baseball SuperStars") that he became an announcer for NHK from 1995 to 1999 (after which he was named Fighters manager). (To be completely accurate here, Engel & Fitts say he became an announcer, but don't give the time period and Gary Garland's article actually says 1985-89, which I assume is a typo.)

OK, so it looks like he was 43+ when he retired. Had there been any older players in NBP History before that? Well, yes. There's an odd Hall Of Famer named Shinji Namazaki (or Namasaki) who pitched in 1950 at the age of 48. (He's odd because he made his NPB debut in 1947 at age 45!)

OK, is it possible that Oshima is the oldest position player? I think the answer is no. Off the top of my head, Hiromitsu Kadota and Katsuya Nomura were both older when they retired. Nomura was born June 29, 1935 and played 52 games in his final season of 1980, making him somewhere between 44 and 45 years old at the time of his retirement. Hiromitsu Kadota was born on February 26, 1948 and played 65 games in his final season of 1992, making him 44+ years old. Of these two, Nomura most likely was the oldest at the time of retirement. Whether he was the oldest position player of all time at that time, I don't know.

In addition, Mischa says that Oshima's 26 years in pro ball (1969-1994 including the minors) is a record. I don't think that's right either as Nomura had 27 years (1954-1980 including 1955 in the minors).

So while I hesitate to say it, I think Mischa and Gary Garland are wrong.

Friday, August 7, 2009

New and New to me items

A couple new items and something I just learned about...

- I know it's time for Koshien, but BBM this week announced the Tokyo Big 6 Autumn Version set. This is a 37 card box set which features 5 player cards per team, 1 team card for each team and an insert card featuring a star from the Spring season. The set will be out in early September, around the time the Autumn season starts.

- Topps has issued yet another World Baseball Classic insert set. There's a whopping 100 card insert set for the new Topps Chrome set. Each card in the set has various serially number parallels, so there's a boatload of these cards out there on eBay. I think I've identified 17 cards from the Japanese team (this would be a hell of a lot easier if Topps actually published a checklist on their website in a timely manner - I guess I can't complain too much - BBM has never put a checklist on its website...). Anyway, here's the list I came up with:

  • W1 Yu Darvish

  • W4 Ichiro Suzuki

  • W22 Hisashi Iwakuma

  • W24 Daisuke Matsuzaka

  • W28 Michihiro Ogasawara

  • W31 Shunsuke Watanabe

  • W34 Tetsuya Yamaguchi

  • W37 Masahiro Tanaka

  • W39 Yoshiyuki Ishihara

  • W44 Shinnosuke Abe

  • W45 Shuichi Murata

  • W52 Kenji Johjima

  • W61 Kosuke Fukudome

  • W62 Hiroyuki Nakajima

  • W66 Seiichi Uchikawa

  • W78 Norichika Aoka

  • W89 Akinori Iwamura

The cards themselves have a similar design to the Topps 2 WBC inserts, except that most of the pictures actually have backgrounds. Some of the pictures are posed studio shots.

I'd like to know why Topps felt it was necessary to put Alex Rodriguez in the set. I understood his appearance in the box set since they didn't know before the tournament that he wasn't going to be able to play. I think it would have been nice for them to have put a card of someone who actually played in the Classic instead.

- I was reading some old posts on We Love Marines earlier this week and I noticed that the blogger mentioned in this post that he was given a "foil wrapped Hanshin card" at a Marines vs Tigers Interleague game at Koshien earlier this season. I had not previously heard of these cards. Deanna Rubin mentions in the comments for the post that she got a Lew Ford card last year at Koshien, so apparently for the last two years at least the Tigers have given away some sort of team set. I've never seen these sets either on eBay or in Gary Engel's catalogs.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Card Of The Week August 2

I went to the Red Sox - Orioles game today at Camden Yards where, due to the complete inability of Clay Buckholz to pitch effectively enough to win a ballgame that his offense scored 18 runs for him in, I got to several members of the Boston bullpen pitch, including Takashi Saitoh. Here's a card of his from his days pitching for the Yokohama Baystars - 2004 BBM BayStars card #YB02: