Sunday, January 31, 2010

2009 BBM Orix 20th Anniversary Set

Following the 1988 season, the Hankyu Corporation sold the Braves to a company called Orix. The team was called the Orix Braves for the 1989 and 1990 seasons, then renamed the Orix Blue Wave in 1991. Following the 2004 season, Orix and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes officially merged, although essentially what happened is that the Buffaloes were absorbed by Orix and Kintetsu stopped owning a baseball team. The resulting team was the Orix Buffaloes.

BBM has celebrated the 20th Anniversary of Orix buying the Hankyu Braves with a 55 card box set (as opposed to the usual 99 card pack-based sets for the rest of the recent Anniversary sets). Despite being smaller, the set follows the same pattern as the other Anniversary sets - there's a six card subset showing highlights in Orix History, 33 cards featuring former Orix players and 15 cards for the 2009 team. Each box set also contains an insert card which potentially could be some sort of memorabilia card.

The six events chosen to represent the high points of the past 20 years were Ichiro Suzuki's 200 hits in 1994, Koji Noda's 19 strikeout game in 1995, Yoshinori Satoh's nohitter in 1995 (he was the oldest pitcher to throw a nohitter until Masahiro Yamamoto threw one in 2005), the clinching of the Pacific League pennant in 1995, the Nippon Series championship in 1996 and the retirement of Kazuhiro Kiyohara in 2008. The last one strikes me as a bit of an odd choice, seeing as how Kiyohara didn't play for Orix very long and seeing how making the Climax Series in 2008 might have been more significant.

The 33 former Orix players include both retired players and those still playing elsewhere, both in NPB (Yoshitomo Tani, Arihito Muramatsu) and MLB (Ichiro, So Taguchi). (I think this is only the second appearance of Ichiro in a BBM set since he left Japan, but I could have missed one.) Retired players include Boomer Wells, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, and Koichi Ohshima. I don't see any glaring omissions, but it might have been cool to have had a card of Leon Lee, who was the first black manager in Japan when he managed the Blue Wave in 2003. Troy Neel had some good years with Orix in the mid-90's, but was probably left out due to his current legal issues.

I found it a bit odd that there isn't more variation in the uniforms shown in the photographs for the former players - no one is shown in an Orix Braves uniform and only Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Akira Ohgi are shown in Buffaloes uniforms - and there was no other option for Kiyohara. The picture they used for Ohgi was strange not simply because they must have had a million pictures of him in a Blue Wave uniform (since he managed the team from 1994 to 2001), but also that it's pretty much the same picture that was used for his 2005 BBM 1st Version card.

The 15 players chosen to represent the 2009 team include Tuffy Rhodes and Alex Cabrera, although it doesn't include the manager Daijiro Ohishi.

Here's a sample card from each of the three subsets:

That's Ichiro Suzuki (#18), Shogo Yamamoto (#37), and the card commemorating the clinching of the Pacific League pennant (#52).

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