Saturday, September 7, 2013

1979 TCMA

Someone asked me about one of the cards in 1979 TCMA set in a comment the other day and it made me think about the fact that I've been meaning to a post about that set ever since I started this blog.  So, here it is:

TCMA was a card company from upstate New York that existed from the early 1970's to the late 1980's.  The company name was formed from the initials of the two guys who started the company (Tom Collier and Mike Aronstein) although Aronstein bought Collier out very early in the company's history.  There was a decision made at some point however that TCMA would stand for The Card Memorabilia Associates.

TCMA is mostly known for three things - the minor league sets they did from the mid-1970's up to around 1985, the "collector" sets they would do for old teams and players and the challenge they made to Topps' monopoly in 1975 with a set marketed under the company name "SSPC".  But in 1979, they did a 90 card set for "Japanese Pro Baseball".

This set was marketed in the US in the same hobby publications that you could order other TCMA products.  It was never marketed in Japan (and has no Japanese printing on any of the cards) - I've been told by a couple of the "pioneers" of the Japanese baseball card collecting hobby that this is actually a great set to take to Japan to sell since the card stores over there don't see it very often.  Like the other TCMA sets it was only sold as a complete set, not as individual cards.

Player selection in the set is a little odd.  There are 15 Hall Of Famers in the set - Kaoru Betto (Whales manager), Isao Harimoto, Tatsuro Hirooka (Swallows manager), Sachio Kinugasa, Takeshi Koba (Carp manager), Shigeo Nagashima (Giants manager), Katsuya Nomura, Sadaharu Oh, Katsuo Ohsugi, Keishi Suzuki, Morimichi Takagi, Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Koji Yamamoto, Kazuhiro Yamuchi (Orions manager) and Wally Yonamine (Giants coach) and another 5 players who are in the Meikyukai but not the Hall Of Fame - Michiyo Arito, Masahiro Doi, Makoto Matsubara, Yasunori Ohshima and Isao Shibata.  Other Japanese stars include Yutaka Enatsu, Senichi Hoshino, Masanori Murakami, Yasushi Tao, Koichi Tabuchi and Masayuki Kakefu.  As you would expect for a set being sold only in the US, there is a large number of Westerners in the set - 27 in all, nearly a third of the set.  This includes Leron and Leon Lee, Bobby Marcano, John Sipin, Gene Martin, Charlie Manuel, Carlos May and Felix Millan.  It also includes Don Blasingame who was in his season as Tigers manager and Vernon Law who was a coach for the Lions from 1979 to 1981.

What's odd about the player selection is who's NOT in the set.  The Hankyu Braves are only represented in the set by two gaijin (Marcano and Bernie Williams - this Bernie Williams, not that Bernie Williams) so there's no Hisashi Yamada or Yutaka Fukumoto.  There's several other Hall Of Famers active at this time who aren't included - Osamu Higashio, Hiromitsu Kadota, Manabu Kitabeppu, Tsuneo Horiuchi, Choji Murata as well as Buffaloes manager Yukio Nishimoto.

I noticed something else a little odd about the set - the Whales had moved from Kawasaki to Yokohama before the previous season, changing their name from the Taiyo Whales to the Yokohama Taiyo Whales.  Three of the ten cards in the set for the Whales however (Makoto Matsubara, Masayuki Nakatsuka and Daisuke Yamashita) show their players in the Taiyo Whale uniform, not the Yokohama uniform - it's pretty obvious because the Taiyo uniforms were green and gold and the Yokohama uniforms were blue and white.  So there's a couple pictures used in the set that were a couple years old at the time.

#7 Yamashita  (left),  #52 Millan (right)
Odd though it may be, it's still a really cool little set.  1979 was the first year that Seibu owned the Lions and they brought in Tabuchi and Nomura for veteran leadership.  It's interesting to see those two in Lions uniforms rather than the Tigers and Hawks uniforms that they wore for most of the previous seasons.  The photography is all posed shots and some of the photos are quite good.  Here's some more sample cards:








This and the 1987 "Play Ball" set are probably the easiest and least expensive pre-BBM sets to get.  I think I've seen complete sets going for less than $50 on Ebay (although I have to admit that I don't pay a lot of attention to it anymore since I have one :-))

Some of the information about TCMA's history (other than my own recollections - I actually had bought this set in 1979 when I was in high school but sold it with the rest of my card collection when I was in college) came from this interview with Mike Aronstein.

You know, if I remember correctly, there was an MLB All Star tour of Japan following the 1979 season that was televised back in the US on HBO - games probably weren't live but with the lack of internet or ESPN it would have been hard to find the results of the games anywhere before they were televised.  I remember sitting in front of the TV with this set in hand, watching the games and figuring out who players were.  At the time, I didn't know who anyone was other than Oh and Murakami and some of the gaijin.

UPDATE - I realized that I had left Hiromitsu Kadota's name off the list of Hall Of Famers who were not included in the set.


Sean said...

Interesting set, I had no idea TCMA made a Japanese one (and I am a fan of their 1976 MLB set).

Sadly I just took a look on Ebay and the prices for these are ridiculous - somebody is asking 100$ just for the Oh card alone.

NPB Card Guy said...

Be patient. Cards and complete sets show up from time to time at reasonable prices.

Jason Presley said...

I suspect the Vern Law card may have been part of a sheet of reprints/samples TCMA issued in the late 1980s to be included with baseball card collecting kits from CMC. That one card seems to be the most common to find, and I know that is how I came by the copy I used to own.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the write-up on this set! I've had my set since the early 1980's, and while I was familiar with most of the gaijin, I didn't know much about most of the Japanese players.

For what it's worth, my 2008 Standard Catalog of Baseball Cards lists the set at $50, and Sadaharu Oh at $15. I wouldn't expect that the value has changed much over the past 5 years, but what do I know?

NPB Card Guy said...

@Jason - is there anyway to tell that the Law card is a reprint? Looking at it, I can't tell the difference between it and any other card in the set,

@shlabotnikreport - Engel lists the set at $100 and the Oh card at $30. I think the standard catalog numbers are closer to what it should be going for on Ebay.

Jason Presley said...

No, there's really no way to tell with that card. TCMA reprinted about 9 different cards from various sets (mostly 80s minor league cards). For the minor league cards, it's fairly easy because they either have white borders or were printed on white cardstock, whereas many of the earlier sets were printed on thicker, gray cardstock. However, since the Japanese was originally printed on the white stock, I'm not sure there is any real difference.

Jason Presley said...

Assuming the Vern Law was reprinted, these are the other eight cards most commonly seen from that run:

1979 Tacoma Tugs Ron Hassey
1980 Columbus Astros Matt Galante (white border)
1980 Waterbury Reds Tom Foley (white border)
1983 Salt Lake Gulls Spike Owen
1983 Redwood Pioneers Kirk McCaskill
1983 Albuquerque Dukes Jack Fimple
1984 Richmond Braves Rufino Linares (white border)
1985 Syracuse Chiefs Tom Filer (white border)

There are a handful of others that surface an awful lot like some of TCMA's 1950's and 1960's sets, a couple of their Playball issues and a bunch of the All-Time Greats cards for various teams with the red and blue design.