Friday, March 31, 2017

Kenshin Kawakami

Former Chunichi Dragons pitcher Kenshin Kawakami announced his retirement a few weeks back (although he apparently had also announced his retirement back in October of 2015 - I guess he reconsidered).  Kawakami was the first round pick of the Dragons in the fall 1997 draft out of Meiji University and immediately moved into the starting rotation in 1998 and was named Central League Rookie Of The Year after going 14-6 with a 2.57 ERA.  He was a mainstay of the Dragons rotation for much of the next ten seasons except when missing time for injuries.  He left the Dragons following the 2008 season for a couple seasons in the US in the Atlanta Braves organization but injuries limited his effectiveness with the Braves.  He returned to the Dragons in 2012 but injuries again limited the amount of time he spent with the ichi-gun team.  He was released by the Dragons following the 2015 season, a season that he spent entirely with the farm team.

In addition to the 1998 Rookie Of The Year Award, Kawakami won the Sawamura Award and Central League MVP in 2004, was named to the Best 9 team in 2004 and 2006 and won Golden Glove Awards in 2004, 2006 and 2007.  He lead the Central League in wins in 2004 and 2006 and strikeouts in 2006.  He made the All Star team six times - 1998, 2002, 2004-06, 2008 - and was named MVP of the 1st All Star game he ever played in (1998 Game 1).  He appeared in four Nippon Series (1999, 2004, 2006 and 2007) and won the "Fighting Spirit" Award in two of them (1999, 2006).  He also played for the 2008 Japanese Olympic baseball team.  He threw a no-hitter against the Giants in 2002.

I did a post for Kawakami back when he left for the US.  His rookie cards are #385 from the 1998 BBM set and #091 from the 1998 Calbee set and had a card in the the 1998 Takara Dragons set as well.

1998 BBM #385

1998 BBM #549

1999 BBM All Stars #A67

1999 BBM #34

2003 Chunichi Sports #11

2005 Calbee #B-02

2007 BBM Nippon Series #S02

2011 BBM Legend Of Tokyo Big Six #044

2012 BBM No-Hitters #77

2012 BBM 2nd Version "Cross Blaze" #CB058

2014 Calbee #OP-10

2015 BBM Dragons #D02

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Releases For April

BBM has announced a couple new sets that will be coming out in April -

- The next two of BBM's pack based team sets have been announced - the Tigers and the Marines.  Both sets will have 81 card base sets - the Tigers set has 69 cards for the players, manager and probably mascot, a 3 card "Newcomer" subset, a 3 card "Milestone" subset and an unidentified 6 six card subset while the Marines set also has 69 cards for the players, manager and mascots (likely) plus a 4 card "Seawall Quarter" subset, a 3 card "New Wave" subset and a 5 card "Award Winner '16" subset.  The Tigers set will have 36 insert cards split among six different sets - "Smart Starters" (5 cards), one for outfielders (maybe "Heart of Tigers") (4 cards), "Carry On", (3 cards), "Reputable Veterans" (3 cards), something called "reversal" (3 cards) and "Phantom" (18 cards).  The Marines set has 24 insert cards split among four sets - "Next Sensation" (6 cards), "Brand New Face" (3 cards), "Prime Choice" (9 cards) and "Phantom" (6 cards).  Both sets will also feature randomly inserted autograph cards.  The Tigers set will be out in mid April while the Marines set will be out in late April.

- As a followup to the "Fighters Premium" box set that will be out in the next day or so, BBM is issuing a similar set for the Fighters' opponent in last year's Nippon Series - the Carp.  The "Carp Premium" box set follows the same pattern of the Fighters' set - the box contains 29 cards - a 27 card base set plus one insert card and one autograph card.  The insert card is one of six featuring either one of the Carp who were named to the Central League Best 9 team last year (Yosuke Nomura, Yoshiyuki Ishihara, Takahiro Arai, Seiya Suzuki and Yoshiharu Maru) or CL MVP Arai (so Arai has two of the six possible cards).  The set will be out in late April and retails for 10,000 yen (roughly $100).

- One odd thing going on right now involves something that BBM has not mentioned - normally an issue of Sports Card Magazine is released around March 27th of every year but for some reason there's been no announcement for it.  BBM's website still lists the last issue (#121) that came out in January.  I don't see any announcement for it either at Discount Niki or at Amazon Japan.  I don't know what's going on with it - I would have expected if there was a delay that BBM would make an announcement about it but I don't see anything at their website or on any of their social media.  I've sent a message to BBM's Facebook page but I had to write it in English so it may be ignored.  Hopefully we'll find out what's going on soon.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Card Of The Week March 26

I mentioned earlier that Kodai Senga was named to the All-World Baseball Classic team.  Senga was tied with teammate Tomoyuki Sugano for the most strikeouts in the WBC with 16.  He only gave up one run in 11 innings spread over four outings - unfortunately that run was the game winner for the US in last Tuesday night's game.  His 0.82 ERA was second only to Josh Zeid of Israel's 0.00 ERA for pitchers who had more than 10 innings pitched.  It's not too much of a surprise that he had a good WBC as he was excellent for the Hawks last season - going 12-3 with a 2.61 ERA and 181 strikeouts in 169 innings.

I was surprised to discover when I went looking for Senga cards that he had originally been drafted as an ikusei player for the Hawks out of Gamagori High School in the fall 2010 draft.  He was registered to the Hawks 70 man roster in 2012 and made his NPB ichi-gun debut on April 30th that year.  So his first card was from the 2011 BBM Rookie Edition set but since ikusei players aren't included in the flagship set his first BBM flagship card wasn't until the 2nd Version set in 2012 (in the 1st Version Update subset):

2011 BBM Rookie Edition #009

2012 BBM 2nd Version #407
Senga's not the first or the last player to make it in NPB via this route but it is somewhat unusual.

Speaking of the WBC, I just wanted to mention a couple of things about my trip to Los Angeles last week to see the final round.  I was going to do a post about it but I decided I didn't really have a post's worth of stuff to say and I didn't get any particularly interesting photos.  I had a great time - Monday and Tuesday night's games were very exciting, even if neither had the outcome I was hoping for and Wednesday night was a bit of a blowout but it ended with the team I was pulling for winning and there was the excitement of a no-hitter until the seventh.  I got to hang out with Deanna and Dani,  met up with the guys from Graveyard Ball and even briefly met Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times (who's a friend of Deanna's).  It was a lot of fun and hopefully I'll do it again in 2021.

Topps Now World Baseball Classic Card Addendum

Now that the World Baseball Classic is completed Topps has finished issuing their Topps Now cards for it.  The total number of cards in the set is 64 although there are three cards with Spanish language versions so I've seen the total listed as 67 as well.  The complete checklist is up on TradingCardDB.

There ended up being seven cards featuring members of Samurai Japan.  The first six highlight each of Japan's six wins in the tournament.  The first card is for Japan's victory over Cuba on March 7th and shows Nobuhiro Matsuda (#W-6).  The next card shows Sho Nakata hitting a solo home run to beat Australia on March 8th (#W-9).  Samurai Japan's victory over China on the 9th is the subject of the third card which features both Nakata and Seiji Kobayashi (#W-14).  Nakata is again the featured player on the fourth card which is for Japan's nail biter of a win against the Netherlands on March 12th (#W-25).  The fifth card highlights Tetsuto Yamada's two home run performance against Cuba on March 14th (#W-35).  The sixth card shows Nobuhiro Matsuda again (although he's not identified on the card) and covers the victory over Israel on March 15th (#W-39).  The final card (#W-62) is for Kodai Senga being named to the All-World Baseball Classic Team.

So seven cards but only five different players.  Kind of disappointing that they chose to have Sho Nakata on three cards and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh on none.  At least the cards look nice.  I ordered the first Matsuda card from someone on Ebay a few weeks back and received it on Friday:

I ordered three of the others from the same seller on Ebay yesterday so I still need to track down the other three at a price I'm willing to pay.

Several other NPB players (both past and present) are also featured on cards in the set.  Wladimir Balentien of the Swallows has two cards - #W-38 showcasing his 2 home run game against Cuba on March 14th (helping the Netherlands knock Cuba out of the tournament for the second straight WBC) and #W-61 commemorating his being named to the All-WBC Team.  Brandon Laird of the Fighters shares card #W-31 with Esteban Quiroz - the card commemorates the two of them hitting three run home runs to help Mexico beat Venezuela on March 12th.  New Fukuoka Softbank Hawk Alfredo Despaigne is on #W-17 for his grand slam that beat Australia on March 10th - this card also has a Spanish language version.  Former Chiba Lotte Marine Tae Kyun Kim is the sole Korean player in the set - #W-12 covers his pinch hit two run home run to beat Taiwan on March 9th.

My hope is that with Team USA winning the WBC that Topps will do some WBC card sets that are reasonably priced (unlike the 2013 Topps Tribute WBC set) and not afterthoughts (unlike the 2013 Topps Series 2 WBC insert set) but I am not terribly optimistic.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Topps Now World Baseball Classic Cards

For the third straight tournament Topps has the license to produce baseball cards for the World Baseball Classic.  I don't know what plans they have for sets later this year (or if they have plans for sets later this year) but I was tipped off by Zippy Zappy a little while back that they were producing Topps Now cards for the tournament.

For those that don't know, Topps Now cards are cards that Topps sells directly on their website that commemorate a particular event.  Each card is usually available for only 24 hours.  Topps has issued roughly 50 for the tournament so far - currently the only ones you can buy from them are three dealing with the US beating the Dominican Republic last night.  Each card is $9.99 although there is usually a deal to buy all the cards issued for a day at a slight discount - for example you can buy all three cards they're selling today for $24.99.  The cards can usually be found slightly cheaper on Ebay - I bought a card for Japan's victory over Cuba on March 7th showing Nobuhiro Matsuda for only $6.50.  I'd love to pick up a complete run but even at $6.50 a card, a 50 card set is going to be $325.  I'll probably just settle for getting the Samurai Japan cards.

In addition to the "regular" WBC cards, Topps is also selling 10 card team sets for each of the four teams that have made it to the final round - Japan, The Netherlands, Puerto Rico and the US.  Each set is $34.99.  The 10 cards for each team are pretty much a batting lineup including DH plus a pitcher.  The preliminary set list for Japan is Tetsuto Yamada, Sho Nakata, Seiji Kobayashi, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, Hayato Sakamoto, Nobuhiro Matsuda, Shogo Akiyama, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Nori Aoki and Shintaro Fujinami.  Fujinami is kind of an odd choice for pitcher since he's only appeared in two innings in the tournament but maybe the actual set will have someone else.  Topps says that purchasers of the team sets will earn bonus cards if that particular team advances to the final game, especially if they win it.  The team sets can be bought now but will only remain available until 24 hours after the team has been eliminated or wins the WBC.

Topps had also been selling a six card "Throwback Thursday" WBC set a week or so ago but it is no longer available from them.  The six cards were in the 1988 Topps designed and showed a single player on each card.  Nori Aoki was the only member of Samurai Japan included in the set.  The sets are available on Ebay but unlike the Topps Now cards, they're much more expensive than they were on Topps website.

Card Of The Week March 19

Wladimir Balentien was named the MVP of Pool E of the World Baseball Classic this past week.  He went 8-13 in the three games in Tokyo with 3 home runs and 10 RBIs.  Overall for the tournament he's hitting .591, which leads all batters with more than 10 at bats.  He's leading in almost every other major offensive category - hits (13), runs (8), home runs (3 tied with five other players), RBIs (10), OBP (.654) and Slugging (1.000).  He'll get his next chance to shine tomorrow night against Puerto Rico in Los Angeles.

Here's a card of him from last year's BBM Swallows set (#S71) with Tetsuto Yamada, who also had a pretty good Pool E including two home runs against Cuba on Tuesday:

Yamada of course will next see action on this coming Tuesday against Team USA.  I will be at the games in Los Angeles - I'm flying out of Maryland early tomorrow so I'll be a zombie at the Netherlands-Puerto Rico game but I should be well rested for Tueday night's game.  If you're at the games, give me a holler on email or twitter (@npbcardguy) and say hello!

Saturday, March 18, 2017

2000 BBM O-N set

This is going to be kind of an odd story so bear with me for a minute.  I've been trying to make sense of something for a couple weeks and I think I finally figured it all out.

According to both Engel and Sports Card Magazine, BBM issued a high end box set in 2000 called "O-N" that was dedicated to Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh.  There were 2000 numbered sets issued that contained 54 cards each.  The 54 cards included a film card, a windbreaker card and a jersey card for each player - so each box had four memorabilia cards and two film cards in it.  I don't mean one of four possible memorabilia cards - each box had all four memorabilia cards in it.  As you might expect, the original price of the box was pretty high - 30,000 yen (which in 2000 would have been roughly $280).

There were two of these sets available on Ebay a few weeks back.  Both were being sold by the same seller.  One had a starting price of around $20 and the other had a starting price of around $50.  I didn't really notice any differences at the time in the two sets - they were both listed as complete sets - but I did think it was odd they were being listed at two different prices.  This wouldn't normally be something I'd be all that interested in but the idea of picking up some memorabilia cards of Oh and Nagashima fairly cheaply was quite appealing so I bid on the cheaper set and won it for $28 (plus $10 shipping).  The set showed up a few days later (actually the same day I got Ryan's last package so I was wading in cards that day) and I got very disappointed and confused.

The disappointment came first.  As I said, the set was supposed to have 54 cards in it.  The set I got had 55 cards in it, but only 51 unique ones.  I was missing cards 15, 52 and 54.  The last two were exceptionally disappointing as they were the jersey and windbreaker cards for Sadaharu Oh.  I contacted the seller and told them that the set was not complete and I wanted them to either supply the missing cards or give me a partial refund.  The seller's first reply was "This is a $300 set that sold for $28" and that I could return it for a full refund.  I then pointed out to them that first of all it wasn't a $300 set without the two Oh memorabilia cards and second of all that the "book value" of the set really didn't enter in to it - they were supposed to sell me a complete set and they didn't.  They backed down pretty quick and agreed to refund me the $5 I asked for.  I felt that even without the Oh cards I was getting a pretty good deal on two Nagashima memorabilia cards but I also felt there should be some consequence for them having an incorrect listing.  I gathered from the messages I had with them that they are basically a consignment outfit and don't really know much about what they're selling.

On to the confusion.  I mentioned that I got 55 cards.  Four of the cards were duplicates.  Or were they?  On closer examination, I realized there were some differences.  I had one version that had a red letter on the front and a card number of "ON XX" and another version that had a blue letter on the front and a card number of "ON-BXX".  Was there some sort of parallel version of the set as well?  There was no indication in either Engel or SCM of there being any sort of parallels.  As I looked through the rest of the set, I realized that I had a mix of versions.  Of the 55 total cards I had, 31 had card numbers in the form "ON XX" and 24 had card numbers in the form "ON-BXX".  Here's the front and back of one of the cards I had duplicates of (card #7):

Another source of confusion involved the 10 card subset that featured both players.  Engel lists all these cards are being gold bordered.  Only five of the ones I have have a gold border (and they all have card numbers like "ON XX" - the other five have silver borders on the top and bottom (which all have the "ON-BXX" card numbers.

I had mentioned before that there had been two of these sets on Ebay, the one I won and the one that had a starting price of $50-ish.  The other set did not sell so the seller relisted it starting at $10.  I took a look at the pictures of the auction and realized that there were multiple Oh jersey and windbreaker cards in the auction.  So maybe that's what happened to the Oh cards that were supposed to be in my set.  I sent a message to the seller asking about it and basically got blown off - they felt they had already spent enough time talking to me about it.  I bid on the second auction but ultimately lost out - the set sold for $42.  So I still don't have the Oh cards.

In looking at the photos for the other auction and actually paying attention to the description, I think I finally have figured out what's going on.  The box my set came in is black and says "ON 2000 BBM Limited Box".  The box for the set in the other auction was red and said "BBM 2000 BBM Basic Set".  There were two versions of the set!

ON 2000 BBM Limited Box

ON 2000 BBM Basic Set
The Limited set had 2000 numbered sets while the Basic had 3000.  The Basic set is not mentioned in either Engel or SCM (which is really surprising since BBM's the publisher of SCM).  The cards with the red letter and the "ON XX" number are from the Limited set while the cards with the blue letter and the "ON-BXX" number are from the Basic set.  The gold bordered cards are from the Limited set while the silver bordered cards are from the Basic set.  I took a look at all the cards I can see in the following picture and verified that I have the other version of each of them in the set I bought:

So what I think happened is pretty obvious - someone had one of each of these sets and the cards got mixed together at some point.  When the cards were put up for sale, someone did a fairly sloppy job of separating them into the two sets - in fairness the differences aren't entirely obvious, especially if you aren't familiar with card sets.  So I've ended up with a franken-set - an unholy hybrid of the two sets.  Which I wouldn't mind so much if I had the Oh cards - I'm pretty sure the two in the lower center of the above picture are the ones that should have been with my set.  I'm also pretty confident that whoever won the second auction is going to be confused by this as well - maybe they'll read this post and contact me!  Not that I expect to be able to get the Oh cards but maybe we can resolve some of the issues with the rest of the set - they won't have a complete set either.

OK, with all of that out of the way, let's talk about the set itself.  As I've said a couple times now, it's a 54 card set.  There's 20 cards for Nagashima, 20 cards for Oh and 10 cards featuring both of them with the remaining four cards being the windbreaker and jersey cards for them.

The 20 cards for each player pretty much parallel each other - the first five cards of each group feature the player's photo superimposed on a silver baseball. The next five cards feature the player batting - the first of these five cards are the film cards - a card with an actual piece of film embedded in it.  The next two cards are dedicated to fielding and the one after that is dedicated to base running.  The fourteenth card is for the player's retirement and the fifteenth is for the first Nippon Series the player won as manager (1994 for Nagashima and 1999 for Oh).  The sixteenth card is for their respective league championships in 2000 (Nagashima's Giants won the Central League that year while Oh's Hawks won the Pacific League) and is thicker stock than the rest of the cards.  Card 17 breaks the pattern - Nagashima's card is for "leisure time" while Oh's features his "batting style" - although both cards show the player with a samurai sword.  Card 18 shows the player with his wife while card 19 celebrates the player's playing career (17 years for Nagashima and 22 years for Oh).  Card 20 shows each of them during the 2000 Nippon Series - on his card Nagashima is getting tossed in the air while the Giants celebrated beating the Hawks.  Here's several of the cards from this part of the set:


#ON-B6 (film card)

#ON 12



#ON 21

#ON-B26 (film card)

#ON 32

#ON 36

#ON 38
The back of ON-B18 shows Nagashima playing Shogi with his son Kazushige who would grow up to play in NPB also:

The ten cards showing the two players together mostly span their careers together with the Giants.  There's one that was taken showing the two of them as opposing managers in the 2000 Nippon Series.  Here's a couple examples:



#ON 49
Finally, here's the front and back of the two Nagashima memorabilia cards.  The cards came in screwdown cases that don't allow a decent scan so I took pictures instead:

And when I say that the cards came in screwdown cases, I mean that BBM included them in the set in screwdown cases.

All in all this was a pretty attractive set.  BBM did a really good job picking out pictures for the set and I was pleased that there wasn't a lot of duplication between the photos of Oh in this set and the ones BBM used in their Oh tribute set eight years later.  I certainly wouldn't have paid $300 for the set but I don't regret spending the $33 I did ($28 winning bid plus $10 shipping minus the $5 I got the seller to refund me) on it.

One last note - I reassembled how I think the box was originally packaged and took a couple photos.  The packaging was pretty attractive as well - there was a cardboard sleeve over a felt covered box with a gold satin interior.  Engel says that it's like a jewelry box.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

2003 BBM Fighters

I've frequently mentioned (well, complained really) that there hasn't been an OB team set for the Fighters that covers their history before they moved to Hokkaido after 2003.  Recently I discovered that that's not completely true - their 2003 BBM team set had an OB section to it.

I'd bought a pack from the set back when it came out but I wanted to track down one particular card from it that shows the colorful uniforms of the 1973 Nittaku Home Flyers.  When researching the set in Engel, I realized that there were a bunch of OB cards in it.  So I tracked a complete set down on YJA and asked Ryan to pick it up for me.

This was the first time that BBM did a team set of any kind for the Fighters.  2003 was the last year that the Fighters played in Tokyo and was also the 30th Anniversary of Nippon-Ham buying the team.  I don't know if either of those played a factor in BBM deciding to do a team set for the Fighters that year - it wasn't until 2004 that they started doing pack based team sets for all 12 teams.

The base set contained 126 cards.  The first 78 cards are a traditional (or what has become a traditional) team set.  There's 66 "regular" cards for the players (and manager Trey Hillman and coach Kazuyuki Shirai) of the 2003 team and two six card subsets - "Top Prospects" and "Top Of Fighters" (team leaders from 2002).  Here's some example cards from this part of the set:






The remaining 48 cards in the set were split into seven different subsets.  One of these was a two card checklist subset but the remaining ones all dealt with the history of the Fighters.  I'll hit each one of these in order.

First up is a six card subset for great dates in Fighters history.  The six dates are 11/19/1973 (Nippon-Ham buys the team from Nittaku Home), 10/6/1977 (first time attendance reached one million), 10/13/1981 (winning the Pacific League pennant by beating Lotte in the playoffs), 9/28/1982 (clinching the second half of the 1982 season - they would lose to Seibu in the playoffs), 7/3/1998 (the "Big Bang Lineup" set a hitting record that I can't figure out), and 7/9/2002 (the team announces the move to Sapporo).

The two checklist cards actually do contain a little history themselves as the former mascot Gyorotan and the then-current mascot Fighty are shown in the background.  The front of each checklist uses a tinted picture while the back shows the untinted version.  Here's the back of checklist #1 (#085) and the front of checklist #2 (#086):

Next is a four card subset labelled "Uniform Story" that shows the different uniforms worn by the Fighters from 1974 to 2003.  The back of each card shows a drawing of the home and away versions of the uniform a la "The History Of Uniform".  Here's manager Futoshi Nakanishi modeling the uniform worn during the first half of 1974:


Back of #087
The next group of cards is a nine card "Team Records" subset.  As you'd expect from that name, this subset includes the career leaders in a number of categories for the Fighters - saves (88 by Yutaka Enatsu), RBI (683 by Hideo Furuya), home runs (167 by Junichi Kashiwabara), strikeouts (1454 by Yukihiro Nishizaki), managerial wins (631 by Keiji Ohsawa), stolen bases (351 by Makoto Shimada), pitching wins (95 by Naoki Takahashi), hits (1835 byYukio Tanaka) and games played (1435 by Fumio Tamura).  Tanaka was the only one of these players still active at the time.

That the Fighters existed before Nippon-Ham bought them is acknowledged in the next subset.  This is a three card subset that I do not know the title of.  The first card shows Hiroshi Ohshita in a Tokyo Senators uniform in 1946 (the franchise's first season).  The second card shows a group of Toei Flyers (including Isao Harimoto) from around 1959-60 and the final card shows the infamous Nittaku Home Flyers alternate uniforms from 1973.

The next three card subset is a summary of the Fighters' 30 seasons while owned by Nippon Ham.  Each card covers a decade (1974-83, 1984-93, 1994-2003) and the backs have a summary of how the team did each year and what the attendance was.


Back of #104
The next three cards feature Fighters players on Shukan Baseball covers over the years.  One shows Isamu Kida from 1980, one shows Yutaka Enatsu from 1983 and this one shows Yukio Tanaka from 1998:
The final subset is 18 cards devoted to the 1981 Pacific League Champion Fighters called "Legend Of Champions".  With the success that the Fighters have had since moving to Sapporo in 2004 it is easy to forget that at this point in their history the Fighters' franchise had only won a single Nippon Series and that was in 1962 when they were owned by Toei.  Their 1981 pennant was the only one that the team won between 1962 and 2006.  So it shouldn't be a major surprise that there's such a large subset devoted to that team.  What is kind of a surprise is that the subset includes Yoshinori Ohkoso, who was the team owner at the time (and I assume the head of the Nippon-Ham corporation).  The subset also includes manager Keiji Ohsawa, Yutaka Enatsu, foreign players Tommy Cruz and Tony Solaita, Hideo Furuya, Junichi Kashiwabara, Isamu Kida, Makoto Shimada and Kazumi Takahashi.



I mentioned earlier that I'd bought a pack for this set back when it originally came out.  Here's the wrapper:

The set also included two insert sets - "Fighting Spirit" (18 cards) and "Fighters Best 9" (12 cards - includes manager, relief pitcher and DH if you're wondering how they got to 12).  The "Fighting Spirit" cards only have active (at the time obviously) players while the "Best 9" cards include both active and OB.  I pulled a "Fighting Spirit" insert in the pack I opened:

On the whole I really liked this set.  It does a pretty good job covering the Fighters' post-1974 history.  Since the bulk of the OB players are from the 1981 team I think there's some significant players in the team's history that could have been included (Isao Harimoto in a Fighters uniform, Toshizo Sakamoto who was the first ever DH in NPB, Masanori Murakami who was on the 1981 team) but some OB Fighters are better than no OB Fighters.  I'd still like an OB team set that covered the pre-Nippon-Ham days.  I know that the 2004 BBM Fighters set also contains an OB player subset but I suspect that they are all Nippon-Ham players as well (Harimoto is in that subset though).

Oh, and I'm sure you'd all be disappointed if I didn't show off the card that made me look for this set in the first placed so here it is:


I'd like to acknowledge that I leaned a LOT on Engel while researching this set.  I'd also like to acknowledge that it was the now defunct "Fighters Collection" website for showing this card - that's where I learned it existed.