Monday, December 27, 2010

Card Of The Week December 26

OK, minor mystery solved.

Once I got a copy of "The History Of Uniform" I went back through some of the OB sets I had and tried to identify the uniforms that players were wearing. When I reached this card of Jiro Noguchi (2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #124), I was a little puzzled. Obviously, the uniform was for the Mainichi Orions from 1950 to 1955, but Noguchi never played for Mainichi. He started his career with the Tokyo Senators in 1939 and continued playing for them through various name changes until 1943 when he went into the military. He resumed his career in 1946 with the Hankyu Braves and played until 1953. (And his other three cards in the 20th Century Best 9 set are either for the Senators or Braves.)

Turns out that according to his entry in Baseball Reference's Bullpen, he coached for Mainichi after his retirement. Not a shocking revelation, but it is odd that BBM chose a picture of him coaching rather than pitching for the set. It may be that there aren't many pictures of him available (and in fact the four cards from the 20th Century Best 9 set are the only four cards I have of him, so he didn't show up in any of the recent OB sets or in the "Nostalgic Baseball" set from 2006).

Friday, December 24, 2010

2010 BBM Lions 60th Anniversary set

Last summer, BBM celebrated the 60th Anniversary of the team that is now the Saitama Seibu Lions by issuing yet another 99 card anniversary set. The Lions began life in 1950 as the Nishitetsu Clippers in the newly created Pacific League and played their home games in Fukuoka. In 1951, they merged with a Central League team called the Nishi-Nippon Pirates (who had also begun play in 1950) and were renamed the Nishitetsu Lions. The Lions were very successful in the late 1950's, winning three straight championships from 1956-58, but became less successful as the 1960's wore on. Following the 1972 season, the team was sold to an organization called the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation who sold the naming rights for the team to a resort and golf course developer, resulting in the team being renamed the Taiheiyo Club Lions for the next four years. Crown Gas Lighter took over the naming rights in 1977 and 1978, causing the name to change again to the Crown Lighter Lions. Following 1978, the team was sold to the Seibu corporation and moved the team to Tokorozawa, Saitama. The newly renamed Seibu Lions became the dominant team in Japan from the early 80's until the mid 1990's, winning eight championships between 1982 and 1992 (and appearing in 13 between 1982 and 1998). In 2008, the team added their prefecture to their name, becoming the Saitama Seibu Lions.

This anniversary set is a little different than the others that BBM has done. Typically, the sets have three to four subsets - six or seven cards for team history, 50-70 cards for OB team members (either retired players or active former team players), and 18-27 cards for the current team. Sometimes there's an additional subset (between six and nine cards) showing team statistical leaders.

With this set, however, BBM decided to mix it up a little bit. There's still a six card "History Of Lions" subset (with one card devoted to each decade). Here's the card for the 1970's (#03):

Instead of a subset devoted exclusively to OB players, this set has a 54 card subset labelled "Lions 1950-2010" that includes a couple active Lions players in it (Takayuki Kishi, Takeya Nakamura and Hideaki Wakui). The player selection is very heavy on the Seibu era (including Daisuke Matsuzaka and Kazuo Matsui), but there are a decent number of players from the Nishitetsu years, with a couple even in color. As you might expect, there's some significant overlap between this set and the two Lions sets done in 2008. There's only one Crown Lighter Lion (Yoshiie Tachibana) included and I was somewhat disappointed that there were no Clippers or Pirates included. Here's a smattering of cards from this subset - Hiromi Wada (#17), Futoshi Nakanishi (#11), Yoshii Tachibana (#20), Koji Akiyama (#29) and Hideaki Wakui (#59):

I was confused when I first was first going through the set and saw that there were no cards for the Taiheiyo Club Lions and no card for Kazuhisa Inao in the previous subset. But then I hit the next subset where the first card was this one of Inao (#61) and all was made clear:

The set contains a 25 card subset devoted to the Taiheiyo Club Lion years (1973-1976)! This was totally unexpected to me (although it is exactly what BBM said they were doing - I just assumed that I knew better). BBM decided to have a card of Inao from his managing days (he managed the Lions from 1970 to 1974) rather than his playing days. Among the other players who appear in this subset are Masahiro Doi, Shinichi Etoh, Jinten Haku, Osamu Higashide, Don Buford and Frank Howard. Howard's an interesting choice for inclusion as his entire Japanese career consisted of one game that he went 0-2 with a walk - he'd injured his knee just before opening day. But it's fun to have a card for him (I think he has a Calbee card from 1974, but it's very rare and expensive). Here's the cards for Buford (#76), Howard (#79) and Takuji Ohta (#81):

The Taiheiyo Club Lions subset also includes four cards devoted to each of the seasons of the era. Here's the 1974 card (#83), showing how much Hondo towered over his teammates:

The final subset of the set contains 14 cards of the 2010 team wearing their Taiheiyo Club Lions uniforms from the "Lions Classic" games last season. None of the three 2010 players from the earlier subset appear in this one. Here's the cards of Dee Brown (#97) and Ming-Chieh Hsu (#87):

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BBM Late Series

I want to wrap up my posts on BBM History with a discussion of their occasion "Late Series" cards. In six of their "regular" sets between 1994 and 2001, BBM essentially did a second printing of the set in which they replaced all the cards of one or two teams with new cards with both new pictures and new numbers.

The first time they did this, 1994, BBM replaced the first 42 cards of the set (all the Yakult Swallows cards, including the team checklist) with cards numbered 567 to 608. The reason for them doing this apparently is that the Swallows changed their uniforms and hats between the 1993 and 1994 seasons. Here's the cards of Atsuya Furuta (#16 on the left and the "Late Series" #582 on the right):

If it isn't obvious, the difference in the uniforms is that the 1993 jersey had a red band at the end of the sleeve. You can't see his hat in the original card, so you can't see the old design. What's odd is that the backs of the two cards are identical except for the card number:

The head shot shows him wearing the new hat design in both cards.

In 1995, BBM replaced all the cards of the Chiba Lotte Marines with new ones due to the Marines changing their uniforms. In addition, they added cards of a couple late signing Americans (Kevin Mitchell, Terry Bross and Rich Monteleone) as well as "update" cards for two Japanese players (Masato Yoshii and Tatsuji Nishimura) who changed teams during the season. This would be the only time BBM would issue "Late Series" cards that were not part of a complete team or an update of an earlier card. Unfortunately, I can't show any before and after pairs of cards for 1995 (or 1996), but I can show what Norifumi Nishimura's "Late Series" card (#632) looks like:

For the 1996 season, the Carp changed their uniforms. BBM apparently didn't care though, because the "Late Series" cards that season instead focused on the Chunichi Dragons. The Dragons were celebrating their 60th Anniversary that season and BBM replaced all the Dragons cards with ones showing the players wearing the Anniversary patch on the sleeve of their jerseys. The cards also included the 60th Anniversary logo on the card itself. Here's Yoshiaki Kanemura's card as an example (#637):

BBM didn't issue any "Late Series" cards for either the 1997 or 1998 sets. However, in 1999 the Swallows made a major change to their uniforms for their 50th Anniversary and BBM decided it was time for a comeback. Here's the original (#107) and "Late Series" cards for Kazuya Tabata (#596): (As before, the backs of the cards are identical except for the card number - the picture shows the player in the old uniform)

I'm guessing that the return of the "Late Series" in 1999 was popular enough that BBM decided that more would be better in 2000. For that year's set, BBM decided to update the cards for two teams instead of only one. The Marines introduced a new alternate uniform that season, so they were one of the teams. Here's the cards of Atsushi Yoshida (#94 and #550):

The Tigers changed their home hats from white pinstripes to solid black. Despite the fact that some of the cards already showed this change, BBM decided to do them as well. Here's the cards of Osamu Hoshino (#495 and #613):

One thing the 2000 "Late Series" cards allowed BBM to do was correct a rare error. The original printing of the "Leader" cards were labelled "Reader" instead. Here's the original Strikeout Leader card of Kimiyasu Kudoh (#20) showing this error:

2001 would be the last year that BBM would do "Late Series" cards and they decided to go out with a bang. Once again, they updated two teams. The Tigers changed their away uniforms to ones without pinstripes so they once again were chosen as one of the teams. Here's Kazuhiko Shiotani's cards (#374 and #580):

The other team was the Orix Blue Wave, who changed both their home and away uniforms. Here's Shinichi Katoh's cards (#210 and #598):

BBM decided in 2001 to not only update the Hanshin and Orix team sets for the "Late Series" but also all the insert and memorabilia cards. I suspect but don't know for sure that that means there are two different versions of card #555 which was the special cards checklist - the one I have shows the "Late Series" cards. Here's the Best 9 insert cards for Atsuya Furuta (#B2 and #B2) and the Golden Glove insert cards for Kimiyasu Kudoh (#G1 and #G19):

The introduction of the 1st and 2nd Version sets for the 2002 and later seasons did away with the opportunity for BBM to issue "Late Series" cards - essentially the 2nd Version set became the "Late Series", especially starting in 2005 when that set started to include a "1st Version Update" subset.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Card Of The Week December 19

Former Giants pitcher Toru Murata signed a minor league deal with the Indians this past week. I thought about doing a "New Import" entry for him, but he doesn't have that many cards (and I only have one!). He's got a card in the 2008 BBM Rookie Edition set (#4) and his rookie card (and only "regular" BBM card) is #034 in the 2008 BBM 1st Version set (shown below). (Hmm, I guess he and not Nishioka is the first Japanese player who had a draft pick card in a Rookie Edition set to sign with a US team...) I expect he has cards in the BBM Giants sets from 2008 on, but I don't have a checklist for those sets.

Tsuyoshi Nishioka of the Minnesota Twins

Tsuyoshi Nishioka, formerly of the Chiba Lotte Marines, signed a three year deal with the Minnesota Twins last week. Nishioka is the first player that I'm aware of to sign with a US team that had a draft pick card in one of BBM's Rookie Edition sets - he was card #70 in the 2003 Rookie Edition set. His BBM rookie card was #304 in the 2003 1st Version set. His first Calbee card appears to be #019 from the 2005 set. He appears in the BBM All Star sets from 2005-2008 and 2010 and the 2005 and 2010 Nippon Series sets. He was a member of Japan's National Team for both the 2006 World Baseball Classic and the 2008 Olympics, so he appeared in at least one of Upper Deck's WBC sets in 2006 (Inaugural Images) as well as BBM's 2008 Olympic team set. As always, this is not meant to be a comprehensive list, merely some highlights.

Here's some cards:

From top to bottom, 2003 BBM Rookie Edition #70, 2006 BBM Marines #M44, 2007 Calbee #038, 2008 BBM Japan National Team #JPN21, 2009 BBM 1st Verion "Game Masters" #508.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

New items

A couple of new items coming soon (if not already out):

- BBM has announced a new box set for the Orix Buffaloes. The 28 card set is entitled "Go Ahead!" contains 27 "regular" cards and one autograph/memorabilia card. The "regular" cards are separated into 21 player/manager cards and six "Blue On Fire" cards. The set will be released on Christmas day.

- Epoch and the All Japan Baseball Foundation have teamed up for a third set. I'm not quite sure of the details, but it looks like a 52 card set (51 regular cards plus one autograph card) that celebrates the 1977 season. It will be interesting to see if the pictures in the set all come from the 1977 season or not. I think the set will be released on December 24.

UPDATE: 1977 is significant because it's the year that Sadaharu Oh passed Henry Aaron in home runs. The set contains players like Oh, Isao Harimoto, Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Koji Yamamoto, Senichi Hoshino and Sachio Kinugasa. (And this is yet another OB set that doesn't have a card of Katsuya Nomura in it - wonder why he doesn't want to appear in them.)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Card Of The Week December 12

Last week, Hisashi Iwakuma failed to come to terms with the A's, making him the first player to be posted to actually have been bid on by an MLB team but not sign with that team. He will return to the Eagles next season which means that his 2010 BBM 2nd Version card (#641) shown here is NOT his last regular card in Japan.

His last Japanese card will likely be in next year's 2nd Version set as he will have qualified to be an international free agent by next winter.

Friday, December 10, 2010

20 Years Of BBM Cards - Part 2

Example cards from the last 10 years of BBM. I decided to include both 1st and 2nd Version for 2002 on.

2001 Kosuke Fukudome #68

2002 1st Version Shinnosuke Abe #43

2002 2nd Version Shinji Sasaoka #534

2003 1st Version Tsutomo Itoh #200

2003 2nd Version Daisuke Miura #592

2004 1st Version Nobuhiko Matsunaka #14

2004 2nd Version Masato Yoshii #613

2005 1st Version Norichika Aoki #320

2005 2nd Version Tsuyoshi Nishioka #618

2006 1st Version Hisashi Iwakuma #185

2006 2nd Version Tomoaki Kanemoto #625

2007 1st Version Masa Yamamoto #228

2007 2nd Version Hiroki Kuroda #653

2008 1st Version Yu Darvish #218

2008 2nd Version Kazuhiro Kiyohara #709

2009 1st Version Kazumi Saitoh #197

2009 2nd Version Tuffy Rhodes #583

2010 1st Version Shuichi Murata #202

2010 2nd Version Hitoki Iwase #532