Thursday, February 21, 2019

Missing In Action - Warren Cromartie

For a while now I've been wanting to talk about players who for whatever reason don't show up in Japanese sets very often.  Now obviously I'm talking about retired players as pretty much every active non-ikusei player has a card each year - even if it's only in one of BBM's "comprehensive" team sets.  I thought I'd start a series of posts for players who appear to be missing with some regularity.

Warren Cromartie was a regular outfielder for the Montreal Expos from 1977 to 1983.  He left Montreal as a free agent but didn't receive any offers he liked from MLB teams so he ended up signing a contract with the Yomiuri Giants.  He spent the next seven seasons with the team, hitting .321 with 171 home runs over that time.  He won the Central League MVP in 1989, was selected to the All-Star team three times (1985, 1989, 1990) and made the postseason Best 9 team three times as well (1986, 1987 and 1989).  He also led the league in batting in 1989 with a .378 average.  He returned to MLB in 1991 and spent one season with the Kansas City Royals.

Cromartie had many cards during his career in Japan.  Despite apparently not having any cards in his first year in Japan (1984), he had more than 30 Calbee cards between 1985 and 1990.  He was also in each of the Takara team sets for the Giants over the same period of time.  There's a couple other sets I know of that he appeared in including the 1987 Amada Heat-Sensitive Giants set, the 1987 Play Ball set and the 1988 JBR 22 bromide set.  It is somewhat surprising to me however that he does not appear in the Lotte sets from 1989 and 1990.

1985 Calbee #70

1986 Calbee #201

1987 Amada Heat-Sensitive Giants

1988 JBR22

1989 Takara Giants #49

1990 Takara Giants #49

The photo on the JBR 22 card was likely swiped from a Calbee card.

He's appeared in very few Japanese cards since his retirement however.  He's in only three BBM sets that I know of - the "Nostalgic Stars" subset in the 1994 set, the 2008 "Back To The 80's" set and the 2013 "Legendary Foreigners" set (2 cards).

1994 BBM #541

2009 BBM Back To The 80's #010

2013 BBM Legendary Foreigners #30

2013 BBM Legendary Foreigners #78
I will add a caveat to that last statement by saying that there are four cards for him in the 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 set but none of them show his photo.

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #114
There have been a number of BBM sets that I would have expected him to show up in such as the 70th and 80th Giants Anniversary sets, the 2013 All Star Memories 80's setthe 2014 80th Anniversary Batters Edition set, and the 2018 Time Travel 1979 set.  I've no idea why he hasn't appeared in these sets.  Other Americans who played in Japan for several seasons around the same time, such as Randy Bass and Boomer Wells, show up frequently in sets from both BBM and Epoch.

Thanks to John E. Gibson of the Japan Baseball Weekly Podcast I had the opportunity to reach out to Mr. Cromartie a few months back.  John was kind enough to forward some questions I had to him.  John warned me that it was likely that Mr. Cromartie would probably not respond as he was very busy but, to the surprise of both of us, he sent back answers to my questions.  I tried to get some follow up questions answered as well but John did not get a reply back from Mr. Cromartie.

I specifically asked him why he had not appeared in many of the retired player sets.  The gist of his reply was that he had never been contacted by BBM for ANY retired player sets, including the ones he had appeared in!  "I must be honest," he wrote, "I have not seen any of these retired player baseball cards so if you see any please let me know.  Obviously they have them without my approval."  He added that "All they need to do is ask me directly."

I fear that I've not explained what the sets were adequately and that he has seen the cards.  I included scans of the cards in my follow up expecting him to reply "Oh - THOSE cards!  Well, why didn't you say so?"  I find it much easier to believe that I asked a confusing question than BBM has published cards of a player without his permission.  One piece of evidence that he did not know about the cards however - there's no autographed card for him in the 2013 Legendary Foreigners set.

I want to express my gratitude to Warren Cromartie for taking the time to answer my questions and to John for acting as an intermediary between us.


Unknown said...

Great post. Looking forward to more.

Sean said...

Wow, that is amazing that Cromartie actually responded to you, great "get" there!

That is an interesting question though, BBM isn't exactly a fly by night company so I have trouble believing they would be publishing cards of players they weren't entitled to make. Since these cards involve no input at all from the retired players (they are just re-using old photos) its possible he may have signed a contract years ago and then simply forgotten aobut it since he didn't actually have to do anything (as you note he doesn't have any signature cards either).

I'm a huge fan of Cromartie, though actually not because he played in Japan but because he played for the Expos. One of the reasons he is so busy these days is that he is a leading figure in the push to get a new franchise in Montreal, so he is a huge hero to me (I grew up an Expos fan)!

SumoMenkoMan said...

That is really cool that he got back with you. Great story!!

Fuji said...

I remember Cromartie from his days with the Expos and vaguely remember he went to Japan to play. Had no idea he was such a big star though. That's pretty cool that he responded to you and your friend. Maybe he'll come back and respond to this post.

Dan Skrezyna said...

That's pretty awesome. Glad you got some answers.