Sunday, July 30, 2017

Card Of The Week July 30

Last Wednesday the Chunichi Dragons were cruising along with a 10-0 lead over the Swallows going into the bottom of the seventh when all the wheels fell off.  The Swallows scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh on a two run home run by Yuhei Nakamura then exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game up.  They ended up winning 11-10 on a walk off home run by pinch hitter Shoitsu Ohmatsu in the bottom of the tenth.  Here's a video with the painful highlights (if you don't know, I am a Dragons fan) courtesy of NPB Reddit:

This is only the fourth time in Japanese professional baseball history that a team has come back from a ten run deficit and the first time in almost 20 years.   This was the second pinch hit walk off home run Ohmatsu had hit this year - he's now the fourth player in NPB history (and first in 40 years) to have two pinch hit walk off home runs in one season.

This is Ohmatsu's first season with the Swallows after 12 seasons with the Marines.  Lotte let him go at the end of last season while he was recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered with the farm team in late May.  The Swallows gave him a tryout during spring camp and ended up signing him to a contract.  The only cards I know of him in a Swallows uniform are from the BBM and Epoch Swallows sets, neither of which I have yet.  I did recently pick up a Konami card of him from when he was with the Marines in a lot of assorted cards I got on Ebay.  This is a "Special" card (I don't know enough about Konami's cards to know if that's the official name of the subset or not) from the 2008 Baseball Heroes Black Edition (#B08S032):

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Card Of The Week July 23

Japhet Amador of the Eagles has been having a good weekend.  Yesterday the big fellow became the first Eagle ever to hit home runs in three consecutive at bats:

Then in today's game, Amador lead off in the bottom of the ninth in a tied game and proceeded to untie it:

I was surprised to discover that Amador did not have a card in BBM's 1st Version set this year (obviously I missed this fact when I was looking at who was missing from the set a few weeks back).   His only cards so far this year are in BBM's Eagles team set (which I don't have yet) and a team-issued Eagles set.   I expect that he'll show up in BBM's 2nd Version set next month.

Here's a card of him from the "Newcomer" subset from last year's BBM Eagles team set (#E74):

Saturday, July 22, 2017

More New Stuff

Here's some information on some recently announced sets...

- BBM's annual high end set Genesis will be released in mid-September.  It has a 120 card base set - 108 player cards (9 per team) and 12 checklist cards.  There are a number of parallels for each of the player cards but the website doesn't have any details.  There are three 12 card insert sets - Elite Of Nine (which apparently are plastic), Star Burst (holo foil?) and Cross Squall (Holographic processing).  I think that each of the insert cards are serially numbered to 50.  The big thing for Genesis of course is the "premium" insert cards - of which there is one in every 12,000 yen (~$108) box.  These include autograph cards, memorabilia cards (jersey, patch, hat, etc) and "booklet" cards.  Some of the cards have multiple autographs or multiple pieces of memorabilia.

- Epoch has announced two more of its modestly priced team sets - this time for the Tigers and the Giants.  The base set for each of them will have 36 cards.  The sets appear to have the same features as the other six Epoch team sets - photo variants for all the cards, a parallel version of the primary base set, some sort of insert cards and scratch off cards that give you points that can be redeemed for autographed cards.  I'm not sure but I think that both of these sets will have multiple parallels for the base set cards.  The Tigers set will be out on August 19th and the Giants set will be released a week later on the 26th.  This brings the total number of team sets done by Epoch this year to eight - they've done the entire Central League but only the Lions and Hawks from the Pacific League.  I am curious about whether they'll do any or all of the remaining four teams - the Marines, Fighters, Buffaloes and Eagles.

- Epoch is releasing a set on the more expensive side of the ledger in honor of the 35th Anniversary of the Seibu Lions winning their first Nippon Series in 1982 (their first Series under Seibu that is).  The set is sold in boxes containing two packs of three cards each for 14,040 yen (~$126).  Each box is guaranteed to contain at least two autograph cards.  The base set has 44 cards, all of which have a parallel version.  There are what looks like six different types of autograph cards.  All the players in the set have autograph cards.  The 44 cards include Lions players who were not on the 1982 team like Fumiya Nishiguchi and Kiyoshi Toyoda.  The set will be released on August 26th.

- I'm not entirely sure about some of the details about this next release, including who made it and when it's getting released but there's a set coming out dedicated to former Baystars pitcher Daisuke Miura who retired at the end of last season.  Since the set is described of consisting of "trading mini color paper" I think that it's being released by Hits, who issued a couple sets of "trading mini color paper" for the Baystars, Carp, Hawks and Swallows back in April.  It looks like the set contains 16 "cards" - 12 "normal" ones and 4 "special" ones which have foil autographs.  There's also a parallel version of the "special" cards available.  (It's possible that this set was released last winter but for whatever reason just showed up in Discount Niki's card listings recently.)

- Topps recently released their Allen & Ginter set for this year and it (like their Museum Collection last month) features a handful of WBC relic cards.  There are seven cards for Samurai Japan members - "World Baseball Classic Relic" cards for Shintaro Fujinami, Takahiro Norimoto, Tomoyuki Sugano, Tetsuto Yamada and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh and "Mini World Baseball Classic Framed Relic" cards for Yamada and Tsutsugoh.  This is kind of disappointing as all five of the Japanese players with relics in this set had relics in the Museum Collection.  Still hoping for a decent WBC set but it's looking less likely with every release.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Georgia On My Mind

Back in 2010, BBM did some cards as a tie-in with Georgia Coffee, a coffee drink made by Coca-Cola in Japan that is sold in cans.  You would get two cards with each can you bought.  The cards were smaller than the standard card size.  Gen from YakyuBaka (which of course is now YakyuDB) did a post about the cards he got.  Apparently there were 60 possible cards which were issued in pairs - so for example the two cards that Gen got - Shohei Tateyama and Toshiya Sugiuchi - are always paired up together.  All 60 cards are for active players.

I never got any of these Georgia Coffee cards but I did get a couple cards from another set that they did.  Apparently they also did a "Legend" set containing all OB players.  I did a post on the pack that I had gotten back in 2010.  I picked up a couple more the other day in a lot of Japanese cards that I got on Ebay which made me look into these cards again.  The two new cards I got were for Yutaka Takagi and Kazuyoshi Tatsunami:

#L11 (Yutaka Takagi)

#L12 (Kazuyoshi Tatsunami)
The design of the cards is the same as the 2009 BBM Legends set, a set which I believe was distributed in a series of magazines (possibly Shukan Baseball).  I started wondering if BBM had done a miniature version of the Legends set for the Georgia Coffee cards but a little research quickly disabused me of this notion - first Takagi doesn't appear in the Legends set and second the cards in the Legend set use different photos:

2009 BBM Legends #073 (Tatsunami)
I really don't know much else about these cards.  There were at least 12 of them and I think that like the cards for the active players they were issued in set two card pairs since the pack I got in 2010 that contained Sadaharu Oh and Masayuki Kakefu also contained this little flyer:

I wonder if the pack that the Takagi and Tatsunami cards came out of had a little flyer with those two cards on it.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Card Of The Week July 16

Daichi Suzuki of the Marines had a pretty good game in yesterday's second All Star game (that's the second All Star game in 2017, not the second played yesterday) - he went 2-3 with a triple and a home run in the game played in his home stadium.  The Pacific League won the game 3-1 and Suzuki scored the second and third runs of the game for the PL which you would have thought would have been good enough for the MVP award for the game but the powers that be decided to give it to Alfredo Despainge of the Hawks instead who homered to provide the PL's first run.  Suzuki did get a "Fighting Spirit" award for the game along with Shogo Akiyama of the Lions (who doubled to drive Suzuki in for the second PL run and who won a "Fighting Spirit" award for the first game on Friday after leading off the game with a home run) and Seiji Kobayashi of the Giants (who homered for the CL's only run of the game - he homered on the first pitch of his first All Star at bat, becoming the fourth NPB player ever to do that).  Suzuki also lead the PL team in a on-field cheer after the game:

(H/T NPB Reddit)

Here's Suzuki's card from the 2013 BBM Marines set (#M50):

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Card Of The Week July 9

Friday night the Carp were down 8-3 going into the ninth inning against the Swallows at Jingu Stadium but it didn't stay that way for long.  Pinch hitter Xavier Batista lead off the inning with a home run, his sixth of the season (of those I think at least three of them were pinch hit homers).  After Kosuke Tanaka grounded out Ryosuke Kikuchi homered to make the score 8-3.  Yoshihiro Maru followed with a walk and scored two batters later when Ryuhei Matsuyama doubled.  Pinch hitter Ryoma Nishikawa then singled to put two on for pinch hitter Takahiro Arai.  Arai then launched a three run home run to put the Carp up 9-8 which was the final score.

Here's a video showing the three ninth inning home runs (H/T NPB Reddit):

To some degree lightning struck again today - the Swallows were up 3-2 going into the ninth but Arai came up as a pinch hitter again and this time hit a double to tie the game up.  Both ninth inning rallies were at the expense of Yasuhiro Ogawa whom it looks like the Swallows had been considering turning into a closer.  The ending was a little better for the Swallows - the game remained 303 after 12 innings and so goes into the books as a tie.

BBM's 2015 Carp team set had a two card subset called "Big Comeback" to commemorate Arai and Hiroki Kuroda returning to Hiroshima after having spent time with other teams.  It seems appropriate to share the Arai card (#C72) this week:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Study Abroad - Fall Instructional Leagues in the 1960's

Sometimes there's an odd path to discovering something. I was up early on Monday of this week and tuned into the Lions/Fighters game in time to see the first pitch ceremony (well actually it was a first pitch ceremony - they'd had a Star Wars themed one that I tuned in too late to see).  The ceremony featured Isao Harimoto in the same throwback Toei Flyers uniform that the Fighters were wearing for the game and another gentleman in a Hanshin Tigers uniform that I didn't immediately recognize.  For some reason I was thinking it was Masaaki Koyama but I wasn't really sure.  Then Pacific League TV sent out this tweet:

So OK, that's a clue.  I know Harimoto had 3085 hits but off hand I didn't know how many wins Koyama had.  So I did a quick search for Koyama on Baseball-Reference and did a double-take:

"Last played for DET"?  Wait...what?

Clicking on Koyama's page revealed (in addition to confirming that Koyama had 320 wins) that Koyama had pitched 3 innings in one game for the Detroit Tigers Florida Instructional League team in the fall of 1967.  A little more research revealed that there were three other Japanese players on that team as well.

Now I had known that there were Japanese players with a couple of the Giants Arizona Instructional League teams in the 1960's but I hadn't realized that there were other teams who hosted NPB players as well.  So I started going through all the teams that Baseball-Reference had data for in both Florida and Arizona and came up with a few more.  The Washington Senators hosted three Chunichi Dragons in the fall of 1965 with their Florida team.  In 1966 there were three teams with NPB players - the Dodgers in Arizona had three players from the Yomiuri Giants while in Florida the White Sox had two players from the Sankei Atoms and the Tigers had two players from Chunichi.  The Tigers hosted four players (including Koyama) from the Tokyo Orions in 1967 and four players from two different teams (the Orions and the Nishitetsu Lions) in 1968.

Here's a table with all the players

Year League Team Player NPB Teams Notes
1965 Florida Senators Tatsuhiko Kimata Chunichi 1964-82 All Star 1970-71, 1974-75, 1977-80; Best 9 1969-71, 1977, 1979
1965 Florida Senators Morimichi Takagi Chunichi 1960-80 CL Stolen Base Leader 1963, 1965, 1973; All Star 1966-67, 1973, 1979; Best 9 1963-67, 1974, 1977; Golden Glove 1974, 1977, 1979; HOF 2006; Meikyukai member, managed Chunichi 1986, 1992-95, 2012-13
1965 Florida Senators Tatsumi Yamanaka Chunichi 1962-70 CL Winning Percentage 1963, 1965; All Star 1966
1966 Arizona Dodgers Chiyosaku Hayashi Yomiuri 1966-69
1966 Arizona Dodgers Takeshi Ueda Yomiuri 1964-78
1966 Arizona Dodgers Takashi Yoshida Yomiuri 1964-84 All Star 1976-77
1966 Florida White Sox Tadakatsu Takayama Kokutetsu/Sankei/Yakult 1963-70, Hanshin 1971
1966 Florida White Sox Kunimitsu Yanoura Kintetsu 1960-65, Sankei 1966-67, Yomiuri 1968 All Star 1963-64, 1966; Played for Tokyo Dragons of the Global League in 1969
1966 Florida Tigers Isao Hirono Chunichi 1966-67, Nishitetsu 1968-70, Yomiuri 1971-73, Chunichi 1974 All Star 1969
1966 Florida Tigers Hiroshi Shintaku Chunichi 1966-78 All Star 1967
1967 Florida Tigers Reiji Iishi Tokyo/Lotte 1965-71, Hiroshima 1972-73 All Star 1966
1967 Florida Tigers Takenori Ikebe Daimai/Tokyo/Lotte 1962-1974, Hanshin 1975-78, Kintetsu 1979 All Star 1967, 1969-71; Golden Glove 1972, 1976
1967 Florida Tigers Masaaki Koyama Osaka/Hanshin 1953-63, Tokyo/Lotte 1964-72, Taiyo 1973 CL Leader Wins 1964, Winning Percentage 1962, Strikeouts 1962; All Star 1957-60, 1962-67, 1970; Sawamura Award 1962; HOF 2001, Meikyukai Member
1967 Florida Tigers Hiroyuki Yamazaki Tokyo/Lotte 1965-78, Seibu 1979-84 All Star 1969-70, 1972-77, 1980-81, 1983; Best 9 1969-71, 1974, 1980; Golden Glove 1977, 1980-81; Meikyukai member
1968 Florida Tigers Masayoshi Higashida Nishitetsu/Taiheiyo Club 1968-74, Nippon Ham 1975, Hanshin 1976-77 All Star 1971-72
1968 Florida Tigers Kazuto Kawabata Tokyo/Lotte 1967-70, Chunichi 1970, Hiroshima 1974-76, Hankyu 1977-78
1968 Florida Tigers Mitsuo Motoi Nishitetsu/Taiheiyo Club/Crown Lighter 1967-78, Taiyo 1979-84 All Star 1968, 1971-73, 1977, 1980; Best 9 1972, 1980; Golden Glove 1980
1968 Florida Tigers Yasuo Otsuka Tokyo/Lotte 1966-72 Listed in Baseball-Reference's page for the team as "Yashsheo Otsuka"

This is a pretty impressive list of players.  Out of 18 players, 13 were All Stars at least once.  There's also two Hall Of Famers and three Meikyukai members (which includes the two Hall Of Famers).

As you would probably guess there are no known baseball cards of any of these guys while they were with their respective Instructional League team.  Most of them have had baseball cards in Japan - I have cards of 12 of them:

1979 Calbee July Best #30 (Kimata)

1975/76 Calbee #446 (Takagi)

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #54 (Yamanaka)

1974 Calbee #359 (Ueda)

1973 Calbee #27 (Yoshida)

1960 Marusho 4 In 1 B&W (JBR6) (Yanoura)

2009 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation 15th Anniversary #15

2016 BBM Dragons 80th Anniversary #10

~1966 Mel Bailey Postcard (Koyama)

2010 Epoch 1977 #37

2011 BBM Lions Classic #50

1978 Yamakatsu JY6 (Motoi)
As far as I can tell Ikebe is the only one of the other six players who ever had a baseball card.  He has two cards in the 1974/75 Calbee set. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RIP Toshiharu Ueda

Hall Of Fame manager Toshiharu Ueda passed away last weekend.  He managed the Hankyu Braves from 1974-78 during which time the team won four Pacific League pennants and three Nippon Series Championships.  He came back and managed the team again from 1981 to 1990 - the last two years of which the team was known as the Orix Braves.  He also managed the Fighters from 1995-99.  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2003.

I'd write more about him but it would be better if you just read Jim Allen's appreciation of his friend who was laid to rest today in Yokohama.

2009 BBM Hankyu Memorial #02

2014 BBM Orix 25th Anniversary #62

1995 BBM #518

Calbee And The Hokkaido Potato Crisis Of 2017

I've been asking around lately about what's going on with Calbee and why Series Two didn't get released in June when expected.  Last week I sent a message to the company using the "Contact Us" page on their international website and was surprised last night to get this message from them:

Thank you for your contacting us about Calbee baseball chips.
We were sold the first of it from 27,March on this year.
After that it was paused production temporarily by reason of
shortage of potatoes what effect of typhoon to Hokkaido last year.
However we decided to resume selling of the first from mid July,
because harvest of potato is favorable from Kyusyu.
We regret to inform you that it isn't possible to inform you of time
to release of the second.
However we prepare for selling it.
We would like you to wait for informing release date at Calbee HP.
Sincerely yours,
Customer Service Center
Calbee, Inc.

It turns out that there is a potato shortage in Japan right now.  Calbee uses potatoes from Hokkaido and the Hokkaido potato crop was disrupted by a typhoon (or several typhoons - the news stories I've seen don't agree on the number) last summer.  Calbee's had to stop production temporarily of a number of their products and that includes the "Professional Baseball Card" brand.  It looks like there are potatoes back in the pipeline both from Kyushu (which is what I think they meant by "Kyusyu" in their email) and Hokkaido so hopefully there will be news soon on when the cards will be out.

I had seen some items on Calbee's website talking about the crisis but since I don't think about the cards in conjunction with the potato chips, I didn't realize that it would affect the release of the cards as well.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Missing From 2017 BBM 1st Version

A few months back when I did a post on BBM's new 1st Version set I had made my usual complaint that with each team only getting 27 cards to cover their manager and players and each team having ALL their non-ikusei rookies included that there were bound to be significant players left out of the set although at the time I couldn't come up with anyone.  I took a look at the All Star rosters that got announced last week and came up a list of 2017 All Stars who are missing from the 1st Version set - Alfredo Despaigne and Seiji Uebayashi of the Hawks, Takumi Akiyama and Ryutaro Umeno of the Tigers and Kazuki Yabuta of the Carp.  Now to be fair I probably shouldn't include Despaigne on this list as he didn't officially sign with the Hawks until February 15th and he didn't show up in training camp until late March since he was playing in the World Baseball Classic with Cuba.  But there's really no excuse for the others to have not been in the set and I would expect them to be included in BBM's 2nd Version set coming out in August - either in the "1st Version Update" or in the regular player cards.

There were a couple other guys I was a bit surprised to realize weren't in the set - Tomohisa Ohtani of the Marines and Luis Mendoza of the Fighters.  I was also surprised that Rafael Dolis of the Tigers was not in the set but he didn't sign with Hanshin until February 23rd which was probably after the cut off date to make the set.  I would expect all three of them to be in 2nd Version too.

A couple other names I expect to see in 2nd Version who signed too late to be in 1st Version are Munenori Kawasaki of the Hawks and Ramiro Pena of the Carp.  It's possible that Xavier Batista of the Carp and Chris Marrero of the Buffaloes may have signed in time to be in 2nd Version.  Batista was actually an ikusei player who didn't get registered onto the official roster until June 3 so he was around and BBM should have photos of him.  Marrero registered on June 1 but I'm not sure when he actually put on an Orix uniform for the first time.  Guys like Wily Mo Pena of the Marines and Stephen Fife of the Lions most likely registered after the deadline for 2nd Version.  Hopefully BBM will do the Fusion set again and include a "1st Version Update" subset for them and any other foreign players who have signed or will sign with a team between 2nd Version's cut off date and the end of July (the last date an NPB team can add a new player).

Card Of The Week July 2

The big news this past weekend was that Shohei Ohtani made his first pitching appearance of 2017 with the Fighters' farm team on Saturday.  As I'm sure everyone already knows, Ohtani's been out with an injury for the better part of the last three months - until he made a couple pinch hitting appearances last week he hadn't been in a game since April 8th.

Ohtani started the game and struck out the first two batters (Shohei Suzuki and Nien-Ting Wu) before facing Hotaka Yamakawa:

Ohtani then walked Ryo Sakata and hit Masato Kumshiro before getting out of the inning by getting Shogo Saitoh to fly out.  He ended up only pitching the one inning, throwing 27 pitches (I think).

Instead of talking more about Ohtani with this post however I thought I'd write a little bit about Yamakawa.  Hotaka Yamakawa was the second round pick of the Lions out of Fuji University in the fall 2013 draft (one round after the Lions took Tomoya Mori).  Yamakawa spent most of his time with the Lions farm team until last season when got a chance with the ichi-gun team and took it - hitting 14 home runs in 157 plate appearances in 49 games.  Among other things this earned him an appearance in BBM's 1st Version set this year (his first appearance in one of BBM's flagship sets since his rookie year of 2014) and his first ever Calbee card.  It doesn't appear to have actually earned him a permanent spot with the top team however as he's been back with the farm team for most of this season, hitting .323 with 10 home runs (including the one off Ohtani) in 36 games.

Here's Yamakawa's Calbee card from this year (#023):