Sunday, December 30, 2018

Card Of The Week - December 30

I picked up this bromide card off of Ebay recently.  It's of Masao Nishimura of the Hankyu Braves and I believe it's uncataloged.  It is similar in a lot of ways to a set Engel has called "JBR 109: 1947 Marui Decorative Small Image" although at 1 5/16" by 2 1/8" this card is smaller than those (which are 1 3/4” x 2 5/8”).  It is blank backed.

There's a couple clues to help try to narrow down when the card is from.  The uniform Nishimura is wearing was used by Hankyu between 1946 and 1949.  I don't know what the vertical text on the right side of the card says but I do understand all the rest of the text.  The kanji in the top left I think says "Hankyu" although it doesn't quite match "阪急".  The "ブレーブス" at the bottom is "Braves".  "西村 正夫" is Nishmura's full name.  The really useful piece of information is the "監督" under his photo - this says he was manager.  Nishimura actually had three separate stints as manager for Hankyu - 1943-mid 1947, 1954-56 and 1978 (as an interim manager when Toshiharu Ueda missed time with pneumonia).  Between that and the uniform I figure the card's from either 1946 or 1947.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

2001 BBM Tigers Box Break

I had yet another surgery recently (hip replacement this time) and I picked up an unopened box of BBM's Tigers team set from 2001 about a month or so earlier to give me something fun to open while I recovered.  I thought I'd do a quick post with a box break and a description of the set.

The 2001 BBM Tigers set had a base set of 99 cards that were broken down into several subsets.  There were 68 "regular" player cards (which included cards for manager Katsuya Nomura and coach Akinobu Okada), four "Best Result" cards (which appear to be team leaders from 2000 but with an odd selection of categories - wins, ERA, saves and triples), eight "Memorial" cards featuring milestones from the 2001 season (Nomura's 1200th managerial win, Takashi Yoshida's 1000th game, Keiichi Yabu, Shoji Tohyama and Tomochika Tsuboi making the All Star team), 1 card for the Tigers' 2001 rookie class (i.e. players taken in the 2000 draft), nine OB Tiger player cards (including Minoru Murayama, Koichi Tabuchi, Fumio Fujimura and Tadashi Wakabayashi), seven "New Wave" cards featuring young Tiger players and two checklist cards.  18 of the "regular" player cards have a purple facsimile autograph parallel.  Nine player cards have an "R. C." parallel which uses a different sepia tinged photo.  Six player cards have both types of parallel which means there are 12 that only have the facsimile signature parallel and three that only have the "R. C." parallel.  (And I don't know what "R. C." stands for although it wouldn't surprise me if it was "Rare Card".)

There were also two 9 card insert sets.  One of these was the "Specialist" set which highlights a skill of a player (Nobuyuki Hoshino's curveball, Shinobu Fukuhara's fastball, etc) and the other is a nine card set dedicated to Tigers legend Masayuki Kakefu.  There were two premium chase cards available as well - a Kakefu autographed card (numbered to 31) and a Keiichi Yabu Glove card (numbered to 50).

Each box contained 20 packs that contained 8 cards each, so there was a total of 180 cards available in a box.

I'll hit the highlight of the box first - I pulled a Yabu Glove card in the very first pack I opened:

The last guide Engel did that had values for BBM cards lists this as a $500 card.  However that guide was issued when Yabu was actually pitching in the US so that's a very inflated value.  The last Sports Card Magazine with a price guide for BBM cards (SCM #116) lists the card at 3000 yen and trending downward.

Here's how all 160 cards I got in the box panned out:

139 base - 88 unique, 51 doubles
3 Kakefu Special inserts
3 Specialist inserts
5 "R. C." parallels
9 Purple facsimile autograph parallels
1 Yabu Glove card

Not too bad - I got almost 90% of the base set in the box.  (Actually since I already had a handful of cards from the set I'm only about six cards from completing it.)  And obviously the Yabu card is a nice pull, even if it isn't worth $500.

Here's some sample cards.  First up Yabu's regular, purple facsimile autograph parallel and "R. C." parallel cards (all #T7):

Next up is a sample card from each subset.  I included both checklist cards because I liked how they went together:






#T98 & #T99
Here's cards from each insert set:


Here's what a pack looked like:

Each box also contained a poster:

Monday, December 24, 2018

Yoshifumi Okada

Yoshifumi Okada of the Marines announced his retirement at the end of the 2018 season.  Okada was the sixth pick for the Marines in ikusei portion of the 2008 draft from the All Ashikaga Club, a club team in Ashikaga in Okada's home prefecture of Tochigi.  He wasn't on the development squad for long however as he was registered to the 70-man roster at the end of training camp in 2009.  He spent 2009 and the first half of 2010 with the farm team before making his debut with the ichi-gun team on June 1, 2010 and becoming Lotte's starting center fielder.  He hit .320 against the Dragons in a winning effort in the Nippon Series that year.  He played in all 144 games for the Marines in 2011 which I believe was the first time a former ikusei player played in every one of a team's games in a season.  He won Golden Glove awards in 2011 and 2012.  He was a regular for the Marines through 2016 but his playing time on the top time dropped dramatically - after playing in 121 games in 2016 he only got in 31 games in 2017 and 55 in 2018.  I'm not sure of the reason - he didn't appear to be injured and his offensive numbers in 2016 seem in line if not better than the rest of his career.  He's going to be an outfield/base coach for the Tochigi Golden Braves of the Baseball Challenge League next season.

His first BBM card was #029 from the 2009 Rookie Edition set.  Since he was ikusei he didn't have a card in the 2009 1st Version set but since he moved to the 70-man roster in late March of that year his flagship rookie card was included in the later 2nd Version set.  His first Calbee card didn't come until 2011 (#93).

2009 BBM Rookie Edition #029

2009 BBM 2nd Version #774

2010 BBM Nippon Series #S32

2012 BBM 1st Version #383

2014 Calbee #105

2016 BBM Marines #M63

2018 Epoch NPB #210

Sunday, December 23, 2018

"Ando" Revisited

Recently Marc Brubaker who writes the Remember The Astrodome blog had an amazing find at an antique mall near him in Houston.  He was paying for an Ebay transaction in person with the seller who had a booth at the mall and noticed the seller had a stack of early 60's Japanese menko cards in a plastic box.  Marc ended up buying the entire stack for $10(!) and discovered it contained 84 cards - 14 1963 Marusho Flag Back (JCM 13c) cards, 30 1963 Marukami Bat On Right (JCM 14f) cards and 40 1964 Marukami Bat On Right (JCM 14g) cards.  You can read Marc's post about his find here - it was a truly amazing haul for the price.

Marc contacted me with a couple questions about the lot.  I was able to help him out some but one of his questions was about something I've been wondering about for a while - who is "Ando"?

Let me explain - there's an entry in the checklist for the JCM 14g set in Engel for a guy named "Ando" who wore uniform #23 on the Tokyo Orions.  The problem is that there is no one named "Ando" on the 1964 Tokyo Orions roster.  To further confuse the issue the player on the card is wearing a helmet with #8 on it.  So who is this?

I did a couple posts on this about 10 years ago - one that shows the front of the card and one that shows the back.  My conclusion at the time was that it was most likely Kazuhiro Ishiguro who wore #23 with the Orions that year although it was possible that it was Kazuyoshi Nishiyama who wore #8.  Once Marc asked me about it I decided that maybe it was time to revisit this issue and see if I could learn anything more definitive about the issue.

Here's scans of the front and the back of the card:

The text on the front of the card identifies the player as "Ando", his position as "infielder" and his team as "Tokyo Orions".  The kanji across the top of the back repeats the team name. Starting from the left, the columns indicate that he bats and throws right, his weight and height (don't know the values), his school (Keio University), his uniform number (23) and his position (infielder).

All of this information corresponds to Ishiguro.  In 1964 Ishiguro was a rookie shortstop for the Orions having just graduated from Keio University.  Nishiyama on the other hand was an outfielder who had just joined the Orions from the Hanshin Tigers who he had played for since graduating from Kansai University.  So the biographical information on the card clearly is for Ishiguro.  The only reason to question if the photo is Nishiyama is because of the #8 on the helmet.  But I noticed something in the photo while talking to Marc that I hadn't noticed before - the bat in the player's hands has "23" on the knob of it.  So either it's Nishiyama holding Ishiguro's bat or Ishiguro wearing Nishiyama's helmet.  I'm inclined to believe it's the latter.

But I still have no idea why the card is mislabeled "Ando".  I reached out to Larry Fuhrmann, a memorabilia dealer based in Kobe (who also was instrumental in the advent of the modern Japanese baseball card hobby).  Larry had a couple interesting things to say.

First he confirmed that it was probably Ishiguro - "Ishiguro was a 3x Best Nine shortstop in the Tokyo Big Six League for Keio so he was a well-known and highly regarded rookie in 1964. On the other hand, Nishiyama had just come over to the Orions after spending his first 5 years with the Hanshin Tigers where he was mainly used for his outfield defense. He was a lifetime .237 hitter and had over 200 at bats in a season only once in his career. So it was far more likely that the maker intended for Ishiguro to appear on the menko than Nishiyama."

Larry added some details about how the menko cards were made - "The production of menko was somewhat haphazard back then. Usually the makers just lifted photos from magazines. I am sure there are other old menko of lesser known players where the name and picture do not match.  Don't know if you are aware of this, but the most famous is the menko picturing Jackie Robinson but the name on the card is Barbon. The picture used of Jackie was lifted from Baseball Magazine and was taken during the Dodgers 1956 Japan Tour. His cap has the Brooklyn "B" on it. Chico Barbon (who is also black) played for the Braves.  Another one is a menko picturing Larry Raines (black player who played for Hankyu) but the name is also Barbon. "

Larry included a photo of the Barbon/Robinson card (from the 1958 Doyusha "Team Name Back" set - JCM 30a):

He also included photos of the magazine that the photo was lifted from (December 1956 Baseball Magazine):

This tendency to swipe photos from other sources continues to this day.  I have a cards from an uncataloged 70's menko set and a 1988 bromide set that reused images from Calbee cards.  Ryan from This Card Is Cool has told me that there are unlicensed bromide cards for J-Pop groups that use photos from magazines as well as the internet.

So to sum up - the card is most likely Ishiguro.  The menko card manufacturer identified the player as "Ando" for no reason probably other than that they were being sloppy.

I want to thank both Marc and Larry for their assistance with this post.  Marc's already updated the Trading Card Database listing for the JCM 14g set to acknowledge the card is really Ishiguro - it had previously identified the player as Junzo Ando who never played for the Orions.

Card Of The Week December 23

As I've previously mentioned Shota Imanaga of the Baystars is spending much of this offseason in Australia pitching for the Canberra Cavalry.  Yesterday he threw six perfect innings against Geelong-Korea while striking out seven in a game that Canberra won 6-0.  The Cavalry's pitching staff only gave up one hit the entire game - a single by Han-Gyeol Joh in the seventh inning off Imanaga's DeNA teammate Yuki Kuniyoshi.  You might be less impressed with Imanaga's outing if you knew that Geelong-Korea was having an absolutely miserable season - after today's loss they are now 4-20 on the season*.  However Imanaga is having an outstanding stint Down Under.  This start against Geelong-Korea was his fifth of the season and he actually had his fewest strikeouts in this game (his previous totals were 10, 10, 9 and 8).  He's 3-0 in those five starts, having struck out 44 batters in 29 innings.  He's only given up 13 hits, two earned runs and one walk in those 29 innings.

*The ABL added two new teams this year and the established teams have been feasting on them - the Auckland Tuatara, the other new team, is 7-16 but three of those wins came against Geelong-Korea.  The other six teams in the league are all over .500. 

Here's a card of Imanaga from the "First Draft Pick" subset of the 2017 BBM Baystars team set (#DB77).  The subset featured the Baystars top pick in the 2014-16 drafts - Yasuaki Yamasaki (2014), Imanaga (2015) and Haruhiro Hamaguchi (2016).

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Takuya Asao

Another player who retired at the end of the season was Chunichi Dragons pitcher Takuya Asao.  Asao was drafted out of Nihon Fukushi University by his home prefecture Dragons (he was born in Chita, Aichi) in the third round of the college/corporate league portion of the 2006 draft.  He debuted with the ichi-gun Dragons in 2007 but was hampered by shoulder injuries late in that season.  He bounced back the following season and was the Dragons Opening Day starter in 2009 before manager Hiromitsu Ochiai moved him into the middle relief role that he ended up excelling in.  He got into 72 games in 2010, going 12-3 with an ERA of 1.68 ERA.  He ended up being runner up to teammate Kazuhiro Wada for the Central League MVP award that year.  In 2011 he got into 79 games, going 7-2 with an ERA of 0.41.  He only gave up 4 earned runs all season in 87 1/3 innings while striking out 100 batters.  He won the CL MVP award that year. 

Unfortunately his career went into a tailspin after 2011 due to shoulder injuries.  He only got into between 22 and 36 games a year with the top team between 2012 and 2015 and spent all of 2016 on the farm team.  He was limited to just 4 ichi-gun games in 2017 and only 10 in 2018 (including his retirement game).  He'll be one of the Dragons' farm team's pitching coaches in 2019.

In addition to his MVP award, Asao also won a Golden Glove in 2011, becoming the first relief pitcher to ever win one.  He lead the Central League in "hold points" in both 2010 and 2011 and made the All Star team both of those seasons.  He pitched in two Nippon Series with the Dragons - 2010 against the Marines and 2011 against the Hawks.

His first BBM cards are #49 in the 2007 Rookie Edition set and #248 in that year's 1st Version set.  His first Calbee card was 2007's #276.

2007 BBM Rookie Edition #49

2007 BBM 1st Version #248

2010 BBM All Stars #A12

2011 BBM Nippon Series #S36

2012 BBM 1st Version #326

2013 Calbee #086

2015 Epoch Dragons X Mizuno #17

2016 BBM Classic #062

2018 Epoch NPB #372
I used Asao's biography at Baseball-Reference's Bullpen as one of my sources for this post.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Yuichi Honda

Yuichi Honda of the Hawks was another player who announced their retirement at the end of the season.  Honda was the fifth pick of the Hawks in the college/corporate league portion of the fall 2005 draft - he had been playing for Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Nagoya which is obviously a corporate league team, not a college.  An injury during spring training in 2006 (Kazuhisa Ishii of the Swallows broke his wrist with a pitch) delayed his debut with the Hawks for half a season but he rapidly won the job as the regular second baseman for Softbank which he did not relinquish until a hand injury in mid-2014 cost him the remainder of the season.  Various injuries cut into his playing time over the next few seasons and he finally decided to retire.  He will be the Hawks ichi-gun infield coach next season.

Honda led the Pacific League in steals twice (2010 and 2011) and had 342 for his career which is the 21st most in NPB history.  His best season was 2011 when he hit .305, made his only All Star team, won his first Golden Glove award (he'd win another in 2012) and was named to the Best 9 team.  The Hawks have played in five Nippon Series during Honda's career but I think he only actually played in two of them - 2011 and 2014 (mostly as a pinch hitter).  He was on the team's roster in 2015 and 2017 but didn't play and wasn't on the roster in 2018.  He played for the Japan National Team in the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

His earliest BBM cards are #16 from the 2006 Rookie Edition set and #72 from the 2006 1st Version set.  His first Calbee card is #132 from the 2007 set.

2006 BBM Rookie Edition #16

2006 BBM 1st Version #72

2008 BBM Hawks 70th Anniversary #97

2011 BBM 1st Version #335

2011 BBM All Stars #A24

2012 BBM 1st Version #380

2013 Topps Tribute #71

2011 BBM Hawks 75th Anniversary - Fukuoka Legacy #22

2015 Calbee #091

2018 BBM 2nd Version #386

Monday, December 17, 2018

2018 BBM Fusion

BBM's final baseball set of 2018 (well that has a cover date of 2018 anyway) is the Fusion set which was released about three weeks ago.  This is the third edition of this set and it's similar to the two previous ones - which is pretty much what you'd expect from BBM lately.

The 144 card Fusion set basically operates as a season summary set.  The players who are included in the "regular" cards are selected due to them achieving some notable feat during the 2018 season - I'll touch on this more in a moment.  There's also a 24 card subset highlighting the statistical leaders for the 2018 season.  There's also a 10 cards "1st Version Update" subset and a 14 card "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset.

There are 96 "regular" cards in the set.  Half of these (48 cards) highlight an achievement by a player this season.  The other 48 cards feature a player that has a relationship with those achievements.  Confused?  Let me attempt to explain with an example.  Kenta Uehara of the Fighters hit a home run on June 18 of last season. Uehara thus became the seventh pitcher to hit a home run in the 14 seasons of interleague play.  Uehara is card #037 in the set.  Card #038 is Tsutomu Iwamoto, a Fighters pitcher who homered during interleague play back in 2005.


Now normally I'd refer to the "other" 48 players as OB players but this time around BBM included players who are still active in these cards.  For example on June 29th of this year Hitoshi Masui of the Buffaloes notched a save against the Fighters, his old team.  He therefore became just the fourth pitcher in NPB history to record saves against all 12 teams.  The third player to have done that was Dennis Sarfate, who got the last save he needed (against the Carp) in 2014.  Despite missing much of this season with a hip injury, Sarfate is still an active player.  Other players active in 2018 who appear in these cards include Daisuke Matsuzaka, Takuya Asao, Hitoki Iwase, Yohei Ohshima and Tetsuya Yamaguchi.

As with the two previous sets it's not always entirely obvious to English speakers what the achievement being celebrated on each card is (although I know that Shun Yamaguchi's no-hitter is one of them).  One thing I need to point out is that the obvious milestones like Seiichi Uchikawa's 2000 hits are not covered here but rather in the "Great Record" insert set.  These cards only cover the regular season so Tomoyuki Sugano's no-hitter against the Swallows in the Climax Series is not included.  The cards are not evenly distributed per team - there's six cards each for the Tigers and Lions but only one Eagle.  Most of the big names are included - Yuki Yanagita, Shogo Akiyama, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh, Hayato Sakamoto, Yoshihiro Maru and Tetsuto Yamada.  The biggest omissions are Sugano, Takahiro Norimoto and Seiya Suzuki (although Sugano and Norimoto both show up in the Leader subset).  Norichika Aoki has two cards - one for something he did on May 3rd and the other for something on June 14th.  The sole Eagle is Kazuki Tanaka who was named PL Rookie Of The Year - Tanaka did not appear in either the 1st or 2nd Version set this year.

It seems that for the Fusion sets BBM departs a little more than normal from their standard "pitchers pitching, batters batting" photos so a lot of these cards have great photos.  Here's some good ones:





The "other" 48 cards include a number of NPB greats including Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Koji Akiyama, Keishi Suzuki, Nobuhiro Matsunaka, Manabu Kittabeppu, Michihro Ogasawara, Joe Stanka, Makoto Matsubara, Kihachi Enomoto Kazuhiro Sasaki, Tatsunori Hara and Hideki Matsui.  I'm always surprised when BBM pulls out a photo of Nagashima that I haven't seen them use before (considering that I have something like 200 different Nagashima cards) but this one is really nice, showing him (I think) as a 22 or 23 year old in his first or second season.  The Suzuki picture is pretty good as well and again one that I hadn't seen before considering Suzuki's been in about a billion OB sets over the past 15 years or so.  On the other hand the photo used for Oh's card is a pretty generic batting shot that's in black and white to boot.  Here's a couple of the better cards:




The "regular" player cards are numbered from #001 to #096.  Nine of the cards (all for the "2018" players) have "secret" versions.

The "Leader" subset features the 2018 statistical leaders for 12 categories for each league - Batting Average, Home Runs, RBIs, Hits, OBP, Stolen Bases, ERA, Winning Percentage, Wins, Saves, Hold Points and Strikeouts.  If a player led the league in multiple categories then he has multiple cards - for example Tomoyuki Sugano led the Central League in both ERA and Strikeouts and therefore has two cards in the subset.  However he tied for the league lead in victories with Daichi Ohsera of the Carp and so the two share a card.  The Leader cards are numbered #097 to #120.


The biggest change in this year's Fusion set compared to the previous two year's sets is that they reduced the number of "regular" player cards from 102 to 96 and increased the final two subsets ("1st Version Update" and "Ceremonial First Pitch") from 9 to 10 and 9 to 14 cards respectively. 

The numbers for the "1st Version Update" cards pick up where this year's 2nd Version set left off - they're numbered #601 to #610.  The cards use this year's 1st Version design.  The players include three players who were traded this season - Hiromi Oka who was traded from the Fighters to the Marines, Hikaru Itoh who was traded from the Buffaloes to the Baystars and Hiroyuki Shirasaki who was traded from the Baystars to the Buffaloes (for Itoh).  Itoh is the only one of the three who had a 1st Version card with his original team.  Two of the other players were foreign players who signed in July - Ariel Miranda of the Hawks and Kyle Martin of the Lions.  Four of the players were ikusei players who were registered to the 70-man roster and played for their ichi-gun team - Kotaro Ohtake of the Hawks, Geronimo Franzua of the Carp and Samuel Adames and CC Mercedes of the Giants.  That's nine of the ten players.  The tenth player I'm actually very annoyed at BBM for including.  It's Duente Heath of the Lions and the reason I'm annoyed about it is that BBM included a "1st Version Update" card for Heath in the 2nd Version set.  They could have included any number of other players - there was a large number (for NPB) of mid-season trades as well as a bunch of guys moving from the ikusei squad to the 70-man roster of various teams.  Hell they could have actually had a "1st Version Update" card of Kazuki Tanaka.  But for some reason they choose a second card of Heath.  Nothing against Heath - just don't know why they'd do an extra card for him.


The final subset is the 14 card continuation of the "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset from this year's 2nd Version set.  The cards are numbered #FP19 to #FP32 (since the 2nd Version ones were #FP01 to #FP18).  As always these cards feature a number of Japanese celebrities.  There are several Idols - Akari Suda (from SKE48), Yumiko Takino (from STU48), Ao Ueshita, Ruriko Kojima and all four of the current members of Momoiro Clover Z - Kanako Momota, Shiori Tamai, Ayaka Sasaki and Reni Takagi.  Five of the remaining celebrities are either actresses or models - honestly they may be considered Idols as well - Nao Matsushita, Rika Izumi, Asuka Hanamura, Misato Tsuboi and the ubiquitous Ami Inamura.  The final celebrity is professional darts player Mayuko Morita who will be included in BBM's upcoming Shining Venus set, their annual set dedicated to female athletes.  Kojima, Momota and (of course) Inamura have appeared on "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards before - this is the second time for Momota, the fourth time for Kojima and the fifth BBM set Inamura appears in although since she had a "secret" version in last year's 2nd Version set and six SCM bonus cards plus cards in the two Epoch JWBL sets this is her 14th card showing her throwing out a first pitch:

As usual you can see all the cards over at Jambalaya.