Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Historic BBM set

BBM recently added information on their website about a new historic set. It's called something like "Golden Legend Of The B's 2011 - 70's Revival". The set highlights both the 2011 Orix Buffaloes and the 1970's incarnation of the two teams that merged in 2005 to become the Orix Buffaloes - the Hankyu Braves (who in 2004 were the Orix Blue Wave) and the Kintetsu Buffaloes. The set has 99 "regular" cards - 19 for the current team, 30 for OB Braves players, 30 for OB Buffaloes players, 2 for a "Masaru Masaru scene" (according to Google Translate) subset, and a nine card subset for each team which I'm guessing are either team Best 9's or some sort of team leaders. There are two nine card insert sets - one for each team - and the possibility for autograph cards. The set will be out at the end of April.

Itsuki Shoda of the Boston Red Sox (briefly)

OK, I've gotten so far behind that this guy has actually been released already, but I still think I should do this post. Back in mid-February, just before spring training started, the Red Sox signed former Fighter and Tiger pitcher Itsuki Shoda to a minor league deal. Now, I've already given away the ending, but Shoda apparently is planning on remaining in the States and trying to sign with someone else.

Shoda was drafted by the Fighters in the 2000 (fall 1999) draft. He became a regular in 2002 and ended up winning the Pacific League Rookie Of The Year award. His effectiveness declined over the next couple years and he ended up being traded to Hanshin in 2007. He spent two years on the Tigers farm team before spending 2009-10 with the Sinon Bulls in Taiwan.

Shoda's first card is actually in the 2000 BBM Preview set's Draft Pick subset (#P125). This was the first time that BBM had done draft pick cards. His rookie card (if you define it as his first appearance in a "regular" set) was #366 in the 2000 BBM set. He doesn't have another BBM card until the 2003 1st Version set (meaning that yes, the 2002 PL Rookie of the Year does not have a 2002 card!). His first Calbee card is from the 2003 set (#077). (As always, this is not a comprehensive list, just a couple of the highlights.)

Here's his first Calbee card (2003 #077), 2004 BBM PL Playoff #P38 and 2007 BBM Tigers #T031:

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Card Of The Week March 27

In the comments to my tribute to Koichi Hori post the other day, Deanna and I have been discussing guys who spent their entire career with a single team, especially ones with 20+ year careers. My initial thought was that this was pretty rare in the days before free agency - at least for players with teams other than the Giants. I was looking at how I could do more research on this, so I took a look at the player record section of Japan Baseball Daily's Data Warehouse just to see how hard it would be to simply brute force look at every player record. Lo and behold, in the very first section, I found a guy who had spent 20+ years with the Hankyu Braves in the days before free agency - Mitsuhiro Adachi, who pitched for them from 1959-79. Here's his card from the 2009 BBM Hanyku Memorial set (#05):

So I'm thinking now that I'm wrong and that there are more guys than I thought. I'll have to see if I can find the time to do more research.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Kento Tsujimoto of the New York Mets

As usual, I'm late on writing about this, but a couple weeks ago the Mets signed former Hanshin Tiger pitcher Kento Tsujimoto to a minor league deal. Tsujimoto was drafted in the eighth round of the 2005 (fall 2004) draft by the Tigers and was on the ni-gun roster until 2009. Somehow, he managed to pitch less than 30 innings over those five seasons, although he sat out the 2006 season because Hanshin wanted him to build up his body and he missed the 2009 season due to injury. He spent last year playing for the Maui team in the Golden Baseball League. For some reason, the Mets looked at this body of work and felt they had to sign him, although in all fairness, Tsujimoto is only 22 years old. He was only 15 when he was drafted! (According to NPB Tracker, he was the youngest player ever drafted.)

As you might expect from what little of a career he's had, there aren't a lot of baseball cards of Tsujimoto. He appears in the 2005 BBM Rookie Edition set (#63) and his rookie card is #404 in the 2005 BBM 1st Version set, which is his only appearance in any of BBM "regular" sets. He also appears in the BBM Tigers sets in each season from 2005-2009 (ok, I'm assuming for 2008-09 without actually having seen the checklists). He doesn't appear to have had any Calbee cards. So it looks like just the seven BBM cards. (And as far as I can tell, there was no team set for Na Koa Ikaika Maui last season.)

Of those seven BBM cards, I only have these two - the 2005 BBM 1st Version #404 and 2006 BBM Tigers #041:

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Koichi Hori

Been meaning to get to this for a while: Koichi Hori of the Chiba Lotte Marines retired back in December. There was supposed to be a retirement game for him a few weeks ago, but it got postponed by the earthquake (I think).

Hori was drafted by Lotte in 1987 when they were still the Orions. If I'm not mistaken, he was the last Lotte Orion still active (and the last former teammate of Choji Murata). Hori made the All Star team twice in his career (1995-96) and was named to one Best 9 team (2005) (which cover the three years in his career that he hit over .300). He appeared in one Nippon Series in 2005 when the Marines defeated the Tigers.

Hori's been around so long that his first hit and his first home run were against teams (Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix Braves) that either don't exist or don't go by that name any more in stadiums (Kawasaki and Nishinomiya) that are no longer used.

Here's some cards:

I am fairly confident that this 1990 Takara card is his rookie card. This is definitely his first Takara card and I haven't found any Calbee cards for him from 1988-90:

1993 Tomy 245:

1996 BBM All Stars #A60:

2000 Field Of 9 #FON00T-319

2005 BBM Nippon Series #13:

2010 BBM 1st Version #382:

Monday, March 21, 2011

Card Of The Week March 20

I wanted to highlight a little of Sendai's baseball history this week and mention that the Lotte Orions played there in the mid-1970's, including their Nippon Series winning 1974 season. I was surprised, however, to discover that they did not play their home games in the Series in Sendai, but rather at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo. I suppose this was due to Korakuan seating more people than Miyagi Stadium but that still has to suck. And it's not like Korakuen hadn't just hosted the Series the previous nine years.

On the other hand, the Orions clinched the Series by winning Game Six in Nagoya anyway, so it wasn't like they would have been home anyway. They did complete their sweep of the Hankyu Braves in the Pacific League playoffs at home in Sendai. (The Pacific League played a split season from 1973-82, where the first half winner would play the second half winner in a best of 5 series.) The winning pitcher in the deciding game for both the Pacific League Championship and the Nippon Series was Choji Murata. Here's his 1990 Lotte card (#56):

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

All Yu-Chan All The Time

BBM has apparently decided that having an insert set for the 1st Version set called "Golden Age 88" featuring players (Yuki Saitoh plus 11 others) born in 1988 just isn't enough. On their website today, they've announced a whole new box set called "Platinum Age - Born in 1988". It's a 28 card box set featuring 21 cards of players born in 1988, six cards of "1988 mates" (maybe multi-player cards with two or more teammates who were born in 1988?) and one insert card. Looks like the insert cards include die cut or foil signature cards as well as possible autograph and jersey cards.

Still waiting to see if BBM just does a "Yuki Saitoh - the Waseda Years" box set. OK, I'm kidding. A little.

kuboTEN Status

About a week ago, I got an email from Craig Wesley who runs kuboTEN. He stated that kuboTEN had outgrown what he could currently handle and he was going to suspend operations of the site until June 1. If you're a current kuboTEN customer, then you already know this, but if you're thinking about signing up, you'll need to wait a couple months.

Here's the text of his letter:

Dear kuboTEN Friends,

Due to recent developments, kuboTEN has outgrown the capacity of the
original framework it was built on. This fact, coupled with some personal
circumstances the past several months, has caused the decision to suspend
the acceptance of new and incoming bids and orders starting from now until
June 1st, 2011. On June 1st, kuboTEN bidding and ordering will re-launch
with a new website and some important new policies and practices which will
enable us to handle much more traffic while eliminating the delays and
hiccups we have been experiencing of late. I sincerely apologize for the
delays and inconveniences any of our members may have encountered in the
past several months.

For those members who have items currently in storage or other outstanding
transactions, please rest assured I will be working through the backlog as
quickly as possible and that you will receive your shipping quotes and items
shortly. For those that have entered bids in the past 72 hours which have
not already lapsed and which have not yet been entered, I will enter them
and process the orders ASAP.

I feel very fortunate to have a membership base that has been extremely
patient and supportive of kuboTEN's endeavors, and this decision was made
because I felt kuboTEN was not living up to the promise of serving its
members in an efficient manner. It is still my mission and goal to help
others from around the world experience and explore the many fascinating
avenues of Japanese culture, and I hope you will join us when we have
restructured and will be better able to provide an exceptional standard of
service and the thriving community that I have envisioned from day one.

Any members that have questions, comments, or concerns about their kuboTEN
transactions or this announcement, please feel free to contact me at I am more than happy to correspond with my members
about their kuboTEN transactions as well as anything related to Japanese
culture or technology, and this change should allow me the ability to
respond in a much more timely matter.

Best Regards,
Craig Wesley
kuboTEN Founder

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Card Of The Week March 13

This is card #239 from last year's BBM 20th Anniversary set showing Eagles manager Yasushi Tao congratulating Hisashi Iwakuma following his complete game victory in the Eagles first ever game. I think this game was actually in Chiba, not Sendai.

Here's hoping that things get back to normal in Sendai very soon and that all anyone in the region needs to worry about is how well the Eagles play under Senichi Hoshino.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

How to help

If you're looking for a place to donate money to help the victims of the disaster in Japan, here's a round-up of the aid groups.

Monday, March 7, 2011

It's Real And It's Spectacular

Well it's real anyway. We'll see if it's spectacular in April.

BBM's website caught up with AmiAmi and Discount Niki today and released information about the new 2011 Tokyo Big Six Spring Version set. The set will be a boxed set containing 36 "regular" cards and two insert cards. The regular cards will be 30 player cards (five per team) and six team cards (which is pretty much the standard for the last couple Big Six sets).

For insert cards, there are 12 possible cards - six active players (one from each team) and six former players (also one from each team). I don't know who the active players are, but the former players (who are all active either in Japan or the US) are shown on the website. Deanna showed me how to identify them (the "view image" option will show their names) - on the top row, left to right is Tsuyoshi Wada (Waseda), Yoshinobu Takahashi (Keio), Atsunori Inaba (Hosei); bottom row is Kenshin Kawakami (Meiji), Daisuke Hayakawa (Rikkio) and Takahiro Matsuka (Tokyo).

I wonder if BBM will ever consider doing a set completely of Tokyo Big Six alum? They'd get the older fans with Shigeo Nagashima (Rikkio) and the younger ones with Yuki Saitoh.

Anyway, this set will be released in April.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Card Of The Week March 6

The Baseball Project released Volume 2: High And Inside, their second full length album last week. it includes an odd little ditty called "Ichiro Goes To The Moon" (which you can listen to at the above link). Here's Ichiro going to his left on a 1999 Calbee card (#128):

Friday, March 4, 2011

Is There Life After Yu-Chan?

I've found it a little odd that BBM's website is a little slower in listing new sets then some of the on-line stores like AmiAmi and Discount Niki. Usually I wait to see the information about a set on BBM's site before writing a post about it (unless I think they've been excessively slow in updating it), but I'm going to make an exception here.

I've mentioned before that I wondered if BBM was going to continue to do the Tokyo Big Six collegiate sets now that Yuki Saitoh was no longer with Waseda. After all, BBM has only done seven collegiate sets (Spring and Autumn Versions for Tokyo Big Six from 2008-10 and the 2008 collegiate National Team) and Saitoh has appeared in all but one of them. Deanna had talked to someone from Meiji who was lamenting the fact that a lot of the merchandising of the Tokyo Big Six - including the baseball cards - was being discontinued now that Saitoh was gone.

So I was a bit surprised the other day when checking out AmiAmi to find a listing for the 2011 BBM Tokyo Big Six Spring Version set. Apparently they are going to see if there's still a market for them. (I also found a listing for the set at Discount Niki.)

2011 BBM Marines

The latest set to be announced on BBM's website is the team set for the defending Nippon Series champs, the Chiba Lotte Marines. As is normal lately for BBM's team sets, this is a 99 card pack based set featuring a whopping 81 "regular" cards for players and (I assume) the coaching staff. There's also a three card subset titled "Playback 2010", a five card "Growing Up" subset, a nine card "Active Leading Player" subset and a checklist card. There's some sort of insert set labelled "Soul Of Marines" but I'm not sure how many cards are in it - I think there's something like three different versions of each card. There are also possible jersey and autograph cards. The set will be released in late March.

The web page shows three cards labelled "Young Guns" across all three cards (by which I mean the first card has "YOU", the second "NG G" and the third "UNS") that feature Yuta Omine, Yuki Karakawa and Yoshihisa Naruse. I'm kind of curious where they fit into the set, since there's no listing for a subset by that name.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

RIP Wally Yonamine

Hall Of Famer Kaname "Wally" Yonamine has passed away from prostate cancer at age 85. I've featured cards of his in posts a couple of times in the past. Here's the rest of the cards I have of him:

From the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set, cards 93, 213 and 333 plus Combination insert card T-14:

And two cards from when he coached for the Giants in the late 70's. First, card #140 from the 1978 NST set (with Shigeru Sugishita):

1979 TCMA #89:

For more information on Wally, read Rob Fitts' website for his excellent biography of Wally (and read the book as well) and Wally's biography in Baseball Reference's Bullpen.