Thursday, August 30, 2018

2018 BBM 2nd Version Set

2018 BBM 2nd Version Set Summary

Size: 318 cards (cards numbered 337-600, then 18 cards of "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset are separately numbered FP01-FP18 and 36 cards for "Cross Universe" subset are separately numbered CU37-CU72)
Cards Per Team: 19 (team card + 18 players)
Team Card Theme: Mascots
Number Of Leader Cards: N/A
Checklists: 0
Subsets: 1st Version Update (36), Ceremonial First Pitch (18), Cross Universe (36)
Inserts: Real Deal, Phantom (each serially numbered to 25)
Memorabilia Cards: Jersey cards for Kotaro Kiyomiya and Shosei Nakamura along with a "Combination" jersey card with both of them.  The single jersey cards are numbered to 200 while the "Combination" card is numbered to 10 (I think).  There's a patch version of the Jersey cards that are numbered to 22 (not sure if there's a patch version of the combination card).  There are autograph cards of many players available as well as autographed version of many of the Ceremonial First Pitch cards.  (I'm a bit iffy on the numbering because I could only find a few auctions on Yahoo! Japan Auctions for the memorabilia cards.)
Parallels: 12 regular player cards have a "secret" alternate photo version.  10 of the 1st Version Update cards and 54 of the regular player cards have five different facsimile autograph parallels - silver (unnumbered), gold (numbered to 100), hologram (numbered to 50), red (numbered to 25) and green (numbered to 10).  There are two parallels for the "Cross Universe" cards - one is numbered to 100 and the other is a "1 of 1".  There are two parallels for the Ceremonial First Pitch cards one numbered to 200 and the other to 50.  I think there are two different parallels for the Real Deal insert cards - one numbered to 150 and the other numbered to 50.
Notable Rookies: None

I really am starting to run out of things to say about BBM's flagship sets.  This year's edition of 2nd Version follows the same pattern that BBM's been doing with it since 2015.  There's a total of 216 "regular" player cards (18 per team), a 36 card "1st Version Update" subset (3 cards per team), a 36 card "Cross Universe" subset (3 cards per team), 12 team cards featuring mascots and 18 "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards. 

The regular player cards are nice looking but have the usual issue of unimaginative poses.  Way too many shots of pitchers pitching and batters batting.  There are a handful of interesting shots though.  Here's a bunch of examples of both the dull and the interesting:







The backs of the cards have the stats through May 27th:

I believe there are 23 players who have regular cards in this set who did not appear in this year's 1st Version set - Yuki Ariyoshi and Taiga Hirasawa of the Marines; Junki Itoh and Daisuke Sobue of the Dragons; Yuichi Honda and Keizo Kawashima of the Hawks; Takayoshi Noma of the Carp; Taisho Tamai of the Carp; Kenya Wakatsuki of the Buffaloes; Shota Takekuma of the Lions; Hiroyuki Fukuyama of the Eagles; Takahiro Araki, Kazuki Kondoh, Hikaru Nakao, Naomichi Nishiura and Yoshinori Satoh of the Swallows; Tomoua Mikami, Hiroki Minei and Yoshiki Sunada of the Baystars and Hirokazu Sawamura, Seiji Tahara, Tetsuya Utsumi and Mitsuo Yoshikawa of the Giants.  With the 36 players in the "1st Version Update" subset there are 59 players who appear in 2nd Version who were not in 1st Version.

Oddly enough for the second year in a row one of the players who has a memorabilia card does not appear in the set.  Shosei Nakamura of the Carp does not have a card in the set.  Last year Seigi Tanaka of the Hawks had a memorabilia card but no "regular" card in the set.

The "1st Version Update" subset contains cards using this year's 1st Version set's design for players who for whatever reason didn't show up in the 1st Version set.  This includes late signing players like Koji Uehara, Duente Heath and Yurisbel Gracial as well as players that for whatever reason just didn't get included in the earlier set like Xavier Batista, Seiya Inoue, Oswaldo Arcia and Shingo Kawabata.


The team cards feature mascots yet again.  This is the ninth of the last ten years that either the 1st or 2nd Version set has featured mascots on the team cards - the only year it didn't happen was 2012.

2nd Version contains the second half of the "Cross Universe" subset that was started in 1st Version.  As usual it's features three cards per team for a total of 36 cards.  They are numbered separately from the rest of the set - #CU37 to #CU72.

The final subset is the "Ceremonial First Pitch" one which at 18 cards is I believe the largest the subset has ever been.  As usual it features a number of Japanese celebrities although for the first time in a few years it does not include Ami Inamura.  The Japanese Olympic speed skating team is well represented in the set as it includes Nao Kodaira along with Miho Takagi and her sister Nana Takagi.  Another Olympian in the subset is figure skater Wakaba Higuchi.  The other celebrities are Riho Asaka (model), Nanako Fujita (jockey), Ami Hachiya (model/actress), Rena Hasegawa (singer from NGT48), Norie Ichihashi (Miss Japan), Maria Makino (singer from Morning Musume), Hideki Matsuyama (golfer), Shizuka Nakamura (actress), Kazumasa Oda (singer), Haruhi Ryoga (actress), Shinobu Sakagami (actor), Yu Serizawa (singer with iRis), Ryuhei Ueshima (actor) and Azusa Uesugi (Talent).  The cards in the subset are numbered #FP01 to #FP18.

As always you can see all the cards (including inserts and parallels) over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Card Of The Week August 26

The Fukuoka Softbank Hawks are on a roll.  They've won their last nine straight and have vaulted into second place in the Pacific League, just five games behind the first place Lions, who they swept this weekend.

Yuki Yanagita had four home runs against the Lions including two today but the big hit for the Hawks today came off the bat of Yurisbel Gracial.  Gracial had signed with the Hawks in February but for a variety of reasons he didn't really start playing regularly with the team until recently (after fellow Cuban Alfredo Despaigne was taken off the roster with a knee issue).  He hit his first home run for the Hawks last Tuesday (and was quoted as saying "That was my 1st home run. It won't be my last." which was prescient as he would hit two more the next day).  He came up today with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 12th and promptly unloaded them:

Like Despaigne, Gracial appears to be a Cuban baseball player who's allowed to play overseas without having defected.  He spent the last two seasons playing for Quebec in the independent Cam-Am League.  He's played baseball in Japan before as he was part of the Cuban team for the 2017 World Baseball Classic.

Gracial appears in BBM's Hawks team set this year but his first flagship card wasn't until their 2nd Version set came out a few weeks ago.  He's in the 1st Version Update subset (#339):

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Samurai Japan Women's Team and the Women's Baseball World Cup

The Women's Baseball World Cup is going on right now in Viera, Florida.  The women's Samurai Japan team is currently the number one ranked team in the world, having won the last five tournaments (2008,2010,2012,2014 and 2016).  They haven't lost a game since the 2012 Cup.  They are 4-0 in the current tournament, having just defeated Cuba 4-1 about an hour ago.  That win pretty much clinched them a spot in the super round which will be their first opportunity to play Team USA, who is the only other team at 4-0 in the tournament.

Several of the players on this year's roster play in the Japan Woman's Baseball League which is currently the only professional women's baseball league in the world.  Epoch did a set for this league a couple years ago and I thought it'd be interesting to see who from the team had a card in the set.  It turns out there's only five players on the roster who appear in the set:

2016 Epoch JWBL #23

2016 Epoch JWBL #22

2016 Epoch JWBL #01

2016 Epoch JWBL #43

2016 Epoch JWBL #34
In addition both Kawabata and Miura have had cards in a couple of BBM's "Real Venus" and "Shining Venus" sets - these are BBM's annual-ish sets devoted to female athletes.  Ryan has discovered other JWBL sets - at a minimum Kawabata, Miura and Sato all appear in those sets.

The Opening Round of the Cup will end with a couple make-up games on Monday while the Super Round kicks off on Tuesday.  The championship game will be on Friday.  So in less than a week we'll know if Japan can win a sixth straight Women's Baseball World Cup.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

"2017" Vittum Foreign Attack and Home Run King sets

Today I received my "2017" KBO sets that Dan Skrezyna has self published under the "Vittum" label.  There are two sets - the "Foreign Attack" set which features all the Western players in the KBO last season and the "Home Run Kings" set which features the top 10 home run hitters in the KBO last season (including Korean players).

There are 39 cards in the "Foreign Attack" set - 37 players (well 36 players plus one manager), a "Leader" card and a checklist.  The player cards use what is essentially a copy of the 1984 Fleer design.  Here's the front and back of Nick Evans' card (#2):

Dan had 25 sets made up - all the cards have the handwritten number on the back.

The cards look really good - here's a bunch of other examples:






I like the "Foreign Attack" set but I LOVE the "Home Run Kings" set.  This is an 11 card set that includes the ten afore-mentioned home run leaders plus a checklist card.  The fronts AND backs feature full bleed photos.  It may be difficult to see in my scans but the cards also feature rounded corners and I don't mean slightly rounded corners like Calbee does - there are BIG rounded corners.  It just helps make the cards very distinctive and attractive.  Here's the front and back of Dae-Ho Lee's card (#5):

You can see that these also are numbered to 25 - which makes sense because there's no way to order one set and not the other.  Here's a couple more examples from the set:


Like his set from last year, Dan's created a couple very attractive sets.  If you're interested in one, contact Dan via his blog or Twitter.  I'm not sure how many he still has available.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Card Of The Week August 19

Wednesday will be the 20th Anniversary of the championship game of the 1998 Summer Koshien Tournament.  Yokohama defeated Kyoto Seiji 3-0 behind the pitching of Daisuke Matsuzaka who threw a no-hittter, only the second one ever in a Koshien champsionship game.  Matsuzaka had pitched an outstanding tournament, throwing 250 pitches in Yokohama's 17 inning defeat of PL Gakuen in the quarterfinals and he came in to pitch one inning the next day in his team's unlikely comeback victory against Ming-Juku in the semifinals.  Yokohama was down 6-0 going into the bottom of the eighth but rallied to score four in the bottom of the eighth and three in the bottom of the ninth to make it to the final game.

I found the highlights of his no-hitter on YouTube.  Highlights of some of the other games he pitched in can be found in this search.

Matsuzaka became something of a sensation due to his performance.  He was selected by three teams (Nippon-Ham, Seibu and Yokohama) in the first round of the draft that November and signed with the Lions after they won the lottery for him.  He immediately went into the Lions' starting rotation and made his NPB debut on April 7th, 1999 and defeated the Fighters.  He started one of the All Star games that season and struck out Takuro Ishii and Takanori Suzuki.  He went 16-5 that season and won the Pacific League Rookie Of The Year award.

The rest of Matsuzaka's story is well known.  He remained with the Lions until he left for MLB after the 2006 season.  He joined the Red Sox in 2007 for a then record $51 million posting fee.  He spent seven seasons in MLB - five with the Red Sox and two with the Mets - before returning to Japan in 2015, signing with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks.  Injuries limited him to only one appearance with the top team in the three years he spent in Kyushu and the Hawks released him after last season.  He joined the Dragons this season and has had a decent year - he's 5-3 with an ERA of 2.79 in nine starts.  He was elected as a starter for the Central League All Star team this year - mostly in tribute to his overall career rather than his performance this year - and he was rocked in his start - giving up five runs in one inning, including a solo home run from Shogo Akiyama and a three run shot from Tomoya Mori.

Matsuzaka's professional career has been interrupted frequently due to injuries and it's hard to not to make a connection between the number of pitches he threw during the 1998 Koshien Tournament to those injuries.  The phrase "Flags Fly Forever" that comes to mind though and I wonder if Matsuzaka himself thinks that the championship was worth the over-use he suffered in 1998.  Keep in mind that Matsuzaka was also part of two World Baseball Classic champion teams and is one of just eleven players to have won both a Nippon Series (2004 with Seibu) and a World Series (2007 with Boston).  While his career hasn't been what it could have been, it's still been pretty good.

Here's his card from the 2007 BBM Draft Story set (#086):

Friday, August 17, 2018

Late Summer Releases

Here's information on some new sets that will be released in the next month or so:

- The Hawks are celebrating their 80th Anniversary this year.  BBM commemorated this with a 90 card Hawks Anniversary set back in late March.  That set contained a nine card "Hawks History" subset.  I was kind of baffled that the subset only covered from 1938 to 1968.  A few months later BBM released their annual Hawks team set which contained a nine card continuation of the "Hawks History" subset.  This one covered 1968 to 1988 which made me wonder if they were only covering the Nankai years.  Now BBM has announced a box set for the Hawks entitled "Hawks 80th Anniversary" that features a 27 card base set including the final (I assume) "Hawks History" subset.  It looks like the nine "Hawks History" cards covers the years since 1989.  The other 18 cards feature players from the 2018 Hawks team wearing the 80th Anniversary commemorative uniforms.  The boxes also include either a memorabilia card or an autograph card - possible autographs include people who aren't in the base set - including Hawks president Sadaharu Oh.  The set will be released in late August.

- BBM is releasing a third "Premium" team box set.  This one is for the Hanshin Tigers and is called "Marvelous".  Like the two previous ones ("Invincible" for the Carp and "Ambitious" for the Fighters) each box contains 29 cards - a 27 card base set plus 1 serially numbered "TRUSTWORTHY" insert card and 1 autographed card.  It will out in early September.  And like "Ambitious" the set's name reminds me of a music video from the mid-1980's:

- Epoch is releasing two more team based ultra high end "Stars & Legends" sets - one for the Dragons (out on August 25th) and the Buffaloes (September 8th).  The boxes for the Dragons set retail for 13,600 yen while the Buffaloes boxes are 12,600 yen.  The boxes only contain six cards but at least two of them are guaranteed to be autographed cards.  The Dragons set has a base set of 39 cards - 29 active players and 10 retired players - while the Buffaloes set has a base set of somewhere between 30 and 34 cards - 26 active and 4-8 OB players.  Both sets have a wide variety of autograph cards available.

- After being limited to only two Series last year due to a potato shortage, Calbee is returning to three Series this season.  Series Three will be released around September 17th and will feature 88 cards in its base set, just like Series One and Two did.  There will be 72 "regular" player cards (6 per team), a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset and the ubiquitous four checklist cards.  In addition there will be the usual 24 "Star" insert/premium subset cards and a 12 card "Lucky Card" redemption set (called something like "Team Killing" cards which Google Translate is probably not quite translating correctly).  As usual the checklist for the set is available on-line.

- The Baystars are putting out a team issued set in late September.  It's a pack based set that has an 81 card base set that apparently only features 15 players (including manager Alex Ramirez).  There will be a variety of autograph cards available and I think there will also be memorabilia cards.  The set will be out on September 22nd.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

What Is This?

I picked up an interesting card recently off of Ebay that I thought was a menko card but it's not.  I'm not really sure what it is to be honest.  Here's the front of it which was the image I saw on the auction listing:

That's Tetsuharu Kawakami of the Giants on the right and Fumio Fujimura of the Tigers on the left.  I'm guessing that since there's a guy in a Swallows uniform in the background that this is from an All Star game.  I'm pretty sure that the photo is from 1953 as that was the only year that the Giants wore that insignia on their hat and the Tigers started wearing that style uniform in 1953.  If it is from 1953 then the Swallows player is Masaichi Kaneda as he was the only Kokutetsu player to make the CL All Star team that year.

The first thing that told me that this wasn't a menko card was that it's larger than a typical menko card from the 1950's - it's almost "standard" card size.  It's also on much thinner stock than most menko cards are.  The last thing was what the back looked like:

Needless to say this is not a typical menko card back.  This photo shows Noboru Akiyama (standing) and Kiyoshi Doi (squatting) of the Taiyo Whales.  The Whales wore these uniforms in 1955 and 1956 but neither player debuted with the team until 1956 so that narrows it down. 

So I'm guessing that this is some sort of bromide card instead of a menko but I've never seen another bromide that has photos on both sides.  It's also really weird that the photos are from three years apart although I guess it's not unheard of card makers from that era reusing older photos.  I was able to digitally search the latest Vintage Guide from Engel but I didn't find a card meeting this description.  I'm basically stumped on this one.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Card Of The Week August 12

There were two very impressive home runs last Thursday.  Yoshio Itoi of the Tigers hit the back wall of the Tokyo Dome during their game against the Giants (H/T NPB Reddit for the link to the video):

Masataka Yoshida of the Buffaloes launched an impressive shot into the center field seats for a grand slam at the Osaka Dome (not using corporate names until I get a check) against the Lions:

While it looks like Itoi's went further, according to Dingers This Week it was actually Yoshida's home run that was hit further - 435 to 420 feet.  (Surprisingly Zealous Wheeler of the Eagles actually had the second longest home run of Thursday with a 422 foot shot - Itoi's was third longest on the day.) 

Here's are BBM team set cards for both Itoi and Yoshida.  Both of these are from "Newcomer" subsets - Yoshida's is from his rookie year of 2016 (card #Bs72) while Itoi's is from last year (#T72) - his first year (obviously) with Hanshin after four years with Orix.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Lodi T-Shirt

Ebbets Field Flannels unveiled several new T-shirts this week and one of them had a Japanese baseball connection - they included a shirt for the 1972 Lodi Orions which was owned by Lotte Orions Nagayoshi Nakamura and had four players from Lotte on their roster during the year.  Nakamura bought into the Nishitetsu Lions the following year but kept the Lodi franchise, redubbing it the Lions.  He had six Lions players on the roster that year including Akinobu Mayumi.  While I'd rather have a Lions shirt than an Orions shirt I think I'll be ordering one of these for myself.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Yasutomo Kubo of the Sugar Land Skeeters

I had somehow missed this story a few months back but former Marines, Tigers and Baystars pitcher Yasutomo Kubo came to the US a few months back.  He had originally signed with the Gary SouthShore Railcats of the American Association back in April.  The team released him in mid-May but resigned him in late June just before they traded him to the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League for future considerations.  His manager with the Skeeters is former Chiba Lotte Marine Pete Incavilgia. 

Kubo was drafted in the "free frame" by Lotte in the 2004 draft from Matsushita Electric of the corporate leagues (who he had joined after graduating from Kansaidai Number One High School).  He won his first seven decisions that year and ended up going 10-3 for the eventual Nippon Series champions.  He didn't get into the Series though (the Marines swept the Tigers in four games so I'm guessing he would have started Game Five if it had gone that far) but he did win the Pacific League MVP award.  He was Lotte's Opening Day starter in 2006 but had a poor season, going 7-13.  He missed some time the following year due to a broken finger and his numbers suffered. 

Following the 2008 season Lotte traded him to the Hanshin Tigers for Kentaro Hashimoto.  He went 14-5 in 2010, leading the Central League in Winning Percentage and making the All Star team for the only time in his career.  After being a starter for most of his career the Tigers moved him into a relief role after Kyuji Fujikawa went to the US in 2013.  He left the Tigers for the Baystars as a free agent after that year and he went back to starting role, going 12-6 in 2014.  His playing time decreased over the next three years - last year he only started seven games with the ichi-gun Baystars, going 4-2 with an ERA of 5.35.  The Baystars released him in early October.

His BBM rookie cards are #20 from the 2005 Rookie Edition set and #159 from the 2005 1st Version set.  He's had cards in every 1st Version set from 2005 until 2016.  His first Calbee card was in the Title Holders subset (#T-03) from the 2006 set.  His first "regular" Calbee card was not until 2009 (card #171).  Check out his card list at for a more comprehensive list.

Here's a bunch of his cards:

2005 BBM Rookie Edition #20

2005 BBM 1st Version #159

2006 BBM 1st Version #435

2008 BBM Lotte 40th Anniversary #84

2009 BBM 2nd Version #781

2010 BBM All Stars #A14

2014 Calbee #159

2017 BBM Baystars #DB15
The Skeeters were playing the Lancaster Barnstormers this past weekend.  Since Lancaster, Pennsylvania is only about an hour from my home I went up last Friday night to see if I could get an autograph from him.  Kubo never made an appearance before the game - one of the pitchers in the bullpen told me he usually is stretching under the stands before the game but I might be able to catch him after the game - he said they'd tell him that someone was looking for him.  Unfortunately just after I finished this conversation the skies opened up.  After I waited for about an hour for them to be able to start the game I decided there wasn't much chance of them getting the game in and I wanted to beat the rush to leave.  Sure enough on my way home I discovered that the game had been rained out.  I wasn't able to get back up there on either Saturday or Sunday but the Skeeters are coming back to Lancaster next weekend (the 17th to the 19th) and hopefully I'll be able to try again then.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Card Of The Week August 5

The 100th edition of the National High School Baseball Championship - better known as Koshien - kicked off today.  Jason Coskrey of the Japan Times had an interview last week with Yuki Saitoh of the Fighters where they discussed Saitoh's performance in the 2006 tournament, particularly the final game in which he matched up with Masahiro Tanaka for a 15 inning tie.  Because the final ended in a tie, the game had to be replayed the next day and Saitoh pitched that game as well, winning it 4-3.  He struck out Tanaka to end the game.

I swiped some images of Saitoh from the 2006 from a book celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the tournament that came out a few years ago (this year is the 100th tournament but the first tournament was held in 1915 - there were a couple years - most of which were during the war - where the tournament was not held):

Here's the writeup on the championship that includes a couple photos from a mook celebrating the 90th Anniversary of Koshien Stadium in 2014:

Saitoh's professional career hasn't been particularly successful but it's interesting to see him reflect in the article that he is "still able to continue playing baseball because I still carry that feeling from Koshien. When I think about giving up, the memory of Koshien pulls me back.”  Here's a 2011 Bandai Owners League 02 card (#038) of him:

UPDATE - I don't know why I didn't think to look before I posted this but I found highlights of the 15 inning tie game on YouTube: