Sunday, March 31, 2019

Card Of The Week March 31

Opening Day for NPB was Friday and three of the six games that day went extra innings.  All three were won on walk offs by the home team (it would be very unusual to have a walk off by the visiting team of course) but none was more impressive than that of the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.  The Fighters had been down 3-1 to the Buffaloes late in the game but tied it up with two runs in the bottom of the eighth.  Nippon-Ham loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the tenth for Sho Nakata who ended the game emphatically with a grand slam:

Here's a card of Nakata from his first season in NPB (2008 BBM 1st Version #501):

Despite his inclusion in this subset, Nakata wasn't actually a candidate for the Rookie Of The Year award in 2008 as he spent the entire season with the Fighters' farm team.  He made his ichi-gun Fighters debut in 2009 and didn't become a regular with the top team until 2011.  The actual 2008 Pacific League MVPRookie Of The Year was Satoshi Komatsu of the Orix Buffaloes who was not included in the subset.

Saturday, March 30, 2019

RIP Akihito Kondoh

Akihito Kondoh, who manned second base for the Taiyo Whales in the 1960's, passed away this past week at age 80.  Kondoh signed with the Whales after graduating from Waseda University and made his debut with them in 1960.  Taiyo won their first Central League pennant that season and defeated the Daimai Orions in the Nippon Series in the first ever four game Series sweep.  Kondoh's solo home run in the ninth inning of Game Three broke a 5-5 tie and proved to be the game winner.  He followed that the next day with an RBI single in the fifth inning of Game Four that plated the only run of the game.  He was named the MVP of the Series. 

The rest of Kondoh's career was relatively unspectacular.  He was the Whales regular second baseman through the 1971 season and spent two seasons as a bench player before retiring following the 1973 season.  He made the Central League All Star team twice - 1962 and 1965.  He became a coach after his playing days were over, coaching for Taiyo from 1974 to 1978, the Swallows from 1979 to 1981, the Lions from 1982 to 1986 and the Giants from 1989 to 1991.  He returned to his old team as manager in 1993 (becoming the first manager of the newly renamed Yokohama Baystars) and ran the team for three seasons.  He managed the Chiba Lotte Marines from 1997-98 and returned to the Giants to coach again in 2006.

I was surprised when I went to pull cards for this post to discover that I didn't have any cards from him that came out when he was playing.  After doing a little research I discovered there's a reason for that - he only had five cards that appear in Engel's latest guide and a couple of those are somewhat obscure - 1960 Marusho Flag Back menko (JCM 13a), 1960 Sakai Gum (JF 49), 1961 Union Oil Taiyo Whales (JA 1), 1962 Shonen Club Flag Back Playing Cards (JGA 180) and the 1979 TCMA set (when he was a coach for the Swallows).  He also doesn't show up in BBM or Epoch's OB sets very often - there's only about five of him as a player since 1998 with another two commemorating his managerial career.

2016 BBM The Ballpark Stories #038

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #045

2010 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation #107

2015 BBM Whales Achievement #16

1979 TCMA #23

1993 BBM #398

1997 BBM #517
If it's not obvious the card from the 2016 BBM The Ballpark Stories celebrates him winning the 1960 Nippon Series MVP award.  His name is misspelled on the TCMA card.

Friday, March 29, 2019

Play Ball! (2019)

I was inspired last year by something Night Owl Cards has been doing for a while now for Opening Day each year - he does a post that shows a baseball card from the last year that each of the 30 MLB teams last won the World Series (not including the seven that have never won one).  I decided that I could steal the idea and do it for NPB.  After doing it for the first time last year I decided I would make a tradition out of it.  So here's the 2019 version:

The last time the HAWKS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2018 Epoch NPB #26
The last time the FIGHTERS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2016 BBM 1st Version #029
The last time the EAGLES won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2013 BBM Classic #057
The last time the GIANTS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2012 Calbee #195
The last time the MARINES won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2010 Bandai Owners League 04 #115
The last time the LIONS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2008 BBM 1st Version #385
The last time the DRAGONS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2007 Konami Baseball Heroes 3 Black Edition #B07B138
The last time the SWALLOWS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

2001 BBM #342
The last time the BAYSTARS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

1998 Future Bee Baystars #9
The last time the BUFFALOES* won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

1996 Takara BlueWave #6 (So Taguchi)
The last time the TIGERS won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

1985 Calbee #6 (Masayuki Kakefu)
The last time the CARP won the Nippon Series, cards looked like this:

1984 Mizuno (Yoshihiko Takahashi)

*The Buffaloes were called the BlueWave in 1996

All 12 current NPB teams have won the Series at least once so there are no "Photo Not Found" teams.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Spring Releases

Thought I'd do a quick post on the recently announced sets that will be released over the next two months.

- The Heisei Era is scheduled to come to a close in a little over a month and BBM is celebrating the era with a new multi-sport set.  I'm not quite sure how the name translates but I think it's basically called "Heisei".  BBM hasn't released a lot of details about the set - for example I can't tell you how many cards are in the set or what kind of insert cards there will be other than metal cards and "Phantom" inserts.  I assume there will be autograph card but I don't know that for sure.  As is typical of BBM's multi-sport sets the bulk of the athletes included are baseball players (both OB and active) but the other sports represented in the set include wrestling, boxing, speed & figure skating, soccer, softball, judo, bicycling, tennis, basketball and handball.  The set will be released in late April (Jambalaya has the release date as April 27th, three days before the Emperor abdicates).

- BBM has announced two more of their annual "comprehensive" team sets.  This time it's for the Carp and the Giants.  Both sets have a base set of 81 cards.  The base set for the Carp breaks down to 70 "regular" cards, two "Newcomer" cards, three "Starters" cards, four "Points of Team(?)" cards and two "Dominican Spirit" cards.  There are 48(!) insert cards - I'm not entirely sure what some of the insert sets are but there is a two card "One Step Beyond" set, a 15 card "Esperanza" set and an 18 card "Phantom" set.  There are also autograph and memorabilia cards available.  The Giants' base set consists of 66 "regular" cards, 1 mascot/checklist card, four "Giant Four" cards, four "Glorious Number" cards, three "Growing Hope" cards and three "G-Genuine" cards.  There are a whopping 66 insert cards split among seven different sets - "Giants Pride 2019" (15 cards), "Up And Coming" (3 cards), "Cross Foil Signing" (15 cards serially numbered to 15),  "Combo Cross Foil Signing" (3 cards serially numbered to 15), "Super Metallic Giants" (9 cards serially numbered to the player's uniform number - I think you actually get a redemption card for these), "Triplex 2019" (3 cards serially numbered to 25) and "Phantom" (18 cards serially numbered to 25*).  There are parallel versions of the "regular" player cards in the base set as well as the "Giants Pride 2019" and "Up And Coming" inserts.  There are also memorabilia and autograph cards available as well.  The Carp set will be out in mid-May while the Giants set will be out in late May.

* I assume the Carp "Phantom" cards are also numbered to 25 but the webpage doesn't say so.

- Epoch's third "Rookies & Stars" team set this year is for the Baystars.  This is another "comprehensive" team set that features 71 cards in its base set - all of which appear to be "regular" player cards.  There are a couple insert sets but as usual it's not very clear what they are.  There are several varieties of autograph cards available also.  The set will be out on May 18th.

- For the second year in a row, Epoch is releasing a "flagship" set.  Like last year's set, it's called "NPB" and has a base set of 432 cards (36 per team).  There are three varieties of parallels for some of the cards - "regular kira" (72 cards), "silver foil" (60 cards) and "hologram foil" (24 cards).  There are also 36 GEM insert cards and 24 autograph cards - both of these are serially numbered but I don't know what they are numbered to.  The set will be released on May 25th.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Blog Bat Around - My Projects - Updated

Just about a year ago I took part in a Blog Bat Around started by Night Owl Cards about the various card projects I was attempting to complete.  I thought I'd do a quick update on how those projects are going plus any new ones I've added.

First up - how I'm doing on the projects I listed last year?

2000 Upper Deck Olympics Baseball Team

As I reported last year, this one was actually done a year ago but I didn't have the last cards in hand yet.  Ryan had found the last two cards I needed and sent them to me last May.

1978 Yamakatsu JY6 set

Still need the Koichi Tabuchi card from this set.

2017 Topps Now WBC set

I reduced the number of cards I need for this set from 12 to only 3 but I haven't seen the last three I need very often and when I do, the seller wants at least $50 for each of them.  This may take a while.

2009 Konami WBC Inserts

This is another area where Ryan helped me out.  I'm down to only needing one of the "Special" cards but I still need eight of the "All Tournament Team" cards.

2003-06 BBM Rookie Edition sets

Not only did I not make any progress on any of these sets but I've misplaced my want lists!  I need to regenerate them and I need to do it fairly soon for reasons I will get into momentarily.

2017 Topps TBT WBC cards

Still need the Alex Bregman and Carlos Correa cards from this set.

1994-2000 BBM flagship sets

I made a lot of progress on the 1994 BBM set, again with Ryan's help.  I needed 45 cards from the set this time last year but a couple Yahoo! Japan Auction buys and some card shop visits by Ryan has gotten the total down to only eight.  Seven of those eight are rare low-numbered Swallows cards however and the other one is Hiroki Kokubo's rookie card so it won't necessarily be cheap or easy to complete but it's doable.  I also picked up the most expensive card I had left from the 1998 set (Yoshinobu Takahashi's rookie card) so that's getting more doable as well.  I also picked up a handful of 1997 cards as well.

1999 Teleca Sets

I'm still one card away from completing the 1999 Teleca regular set but the Premium set is complete.  Dan found me three of the four cards I needed and I got the last one from Rob Fitts when I bought some other Korean cards from him.

2000 Teleca "'99 Korea Japan Super Games" insert set

Surprisingly I made slow but steady progress on this set.  I got about seven cards from the set from various sources over the course of the year so I went from only having 15 cards to having 22.  Of course I still need 24 more cards but progress is progress.

Here's the new projects I added over the last year in no particular order:

2001 BBM Tigers set

2001 BBM Tigers #T55
After opening a box from this set a couple months ago I found that I was only six cards away from finishing it so I decided to go for it.  Ryan's already found five of them so it's almost done already.

2004 BBM 1st Version 2003 Asian Championship insert set

2004 BBM 1st Version "2003 Asian Championship" insert #AJ1
The 2004 BBM 1st Version set included an insert set for the Japanese National Team for the 2003 Asian Championship (which was a qualifier for the 2004 Olympics).  I'm a sucker for National Team sets and this is one of the few Japanese ones I don't have all the cards for.  I still need 16 of the 22 cards from the set so it'll take a while.

1999 Teleca Premium Korean Dream Team insert set

1999 Teleca Premium "Korean Dream Team" insert #D-13
Speaking of National Team sets...the 1999 Teleca Premium set included an insert set for the Korean National Team for the 1999 Asian Championship (at least I think it was for that tournament).  This is actually the only Korean National Team set that I'm aware of.  I'd had a couple cards from this set for a long time but I picked up most of the rest of the cards from a lot that Rob Fitts had up on Ebay.  I'm only three cards away from finishing the set.

2000 Teleca set

2000 Teleca #182
If you had told me a year ago that I'd only be 44 cards away from completing this set now I'd have told you you were crazy.  Last year at this time I only had 15 cards from this set.  But I bought a bunch of cards from the set from Rob Fitts in another Ebay lot and picked up another bunch of cards via a trade with a Marines fan named Takashi in Japan and now I have over 200!

I mentioned earlier that I needed to get my want lists together soon.  There's a reason for that - I am finally making another trip to Japan soon.  I'll be heading over in late May for a little over two weeks.  I'm hoping to catch a lot of baseball games and go to a lot of baseball card stores.  It'd be great if I could come back from the trip with some of these projects completed.  Of course, I'm sure I'll be finding new projects while I'm there!

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Card Of The Week March 24

I'm not a big fan of memorabilia cards but sometimes I can't resist something really cool.  I recently picked up this "Relic Combo" card from last year's Topps Triple Threads Baseball set (#WBC-SYT):

Saturday, March 23, 2019


It's not exactly breaking news that Ichiro announced his retirement on Thursday following the Mariners game against the Athletics at the Tokyo Dome that night.  I've done a couple posts dedicated to Ichiro in the past - one when he got his 3000th hit in MLB and another when he "retired" last May - and I've shown a lot of his cards over the years.  I thought I'd do a quick post showing cards of Ichiro that I'm pretty sure I've never used on the blog before.

1995 BBM Orix Team Set I #26

1996 Takara BlueWave #51

1998 BBM Diamond Heroes #158

1999 BBM #572

1999 BBM "Dream Team" insert #D8

1999 BBM Diamond Heroes #180

2000 BBM Diamond Heroes "90's Franchise Player" insert #F6

2000 Epoch Pro Baseball Sticker #042

2000 Konami Field Of 9 #FON00T-257

2006 Upper Deck Special F/X "WBC Counterparts" insert #CP3

2009 Bowman Draft Picks "WBC" insert #BDPW1
It's probably not obvious from the scans but the 1999 BBM "Dream Team" insert is die-cut while the 2000 BBM Diamond Heroes "90's Franchise Player" card is on transparent plastic.

Friday, March 22, 2019

1973/74 Calbee "Exciting Game Series"

The last of the 10 series that Calbee issued their 1973/74 set in appears to labeled something along the lines of "Exciting Game Series".  There were 72 cards issued in this series which were numbered 297 to 368.

As the name of the series implies, many (but not all) of the cards in this set highlight particular games late in the 1973 season as well as the post season.  Actually the count is 44 cards, just over 60%.  I only own nine of these cards but I was able to use the 1973 Calbee Book to do a little analysis.  I was curious about which games were commemorated on cards.

I discovered a couple odd things.  The first is that while there's 44 cards, there's only six games that are commemorated on the cards.  So each card is actually highlighting an event from each game.  The other odd thing is that the cards aren't in any particular order.  The games occurred over a two week stretch at the end of October of 1973 but there are cards for later games with numbers lower than earlier games.  The cards for particular games aren't necessarily all grouped together in the checklist either.

Here's a summary for each game and a list of the cards for it.  I'll show any cards I have from this series with the appropriate game.

October 20 - Dragons vs Tigers at Nagoya Stadium.  The Dragons won this game 4-2.  I think the significance of the game is that it knocked the Tigers out of first place just before the end of the season.  There are seven cards for this game - cards 328, 329, 330, 331, 332, 333 and 334.  I have two of these.  Card #332 shows Kenichi Yazawa getting an RBI hit in the third inning.

Card #333 shows Tatsuhiko Kimata of the Dragons rounding the bases after homering off of Yutaka Enatsu in the fourth inning.

October 22 - Giants vs Tigers at Koshien.  The Giants won this game 9-0 to clinch their ninth straight Central League title.  This game was commemorated 40 years later by BBM in the second release of their "Greatest Games" series of box sets.  Completely coincidentally this also happens to be the day Ichiro Suzuki was born.  There are 10 cards for this game - cards 335, 337, 338, 339, 340, 341, 342, 343, 344 and 345.  I only have one card for this game - #339 - which shows Koichi Tabuchi batting in the fifth inning (I think):

October 23 - Hawks vs Braves at Nishinomiya Stadium.  The Pacific League introduced a split-season format in 1973 with a best of 5 playoff series between the champions of each half season (unless a team won both halves in which case there would be no playoff).  Nankai won the first half that season, beating Lotte out by two games but the Hawks had a losing record in the second half of the season.  Hankyu had nearly a .700 winning percentage and finished 13 games ahead of the third place Hawks (and four games ahead of the second place Orions).  October 23 was Game Four of the Pacific League playoffs and Nankai came into the game up two games to one.  The Braves held off elimination, however, with a 13-1 drubbing of their Kansai rivals.  There are only three cards for this game - cards 346, 347 and 348.  I don't have any of these cards.

October 24 - Hawks vs Braves at Nishinomiya Stadium.  This game was scoreless into the ninth inning before Nankai put two runs on the board on solo home runs from Willie Smith and Yoshinori Hirose.  Hankyu scored a run in the bottom of the ninth on a solo home run of their own off the bast of Hidetaka Togin but it wasn't enough.  Nankai beat the Braves 2-1 to win their first Pacific League title since 1966.  It would 26 years before the franchise won another pennant.  This was the final pennant won by Nankai.  There are seven cards for this game - cards 349, 350, 351, 352, 355, 356 and 357.  I have three of these.  Card #349 shows Yutaka Fukumoto stealing a base (or at least making a stolen base attempt).  I think that's Hawks second baseman Teruhide Sakurai taking the throw with shortstop Yoshiyuki Sano coming over from the left.

Card #355 shows player-manager Katsuya Nomura and relief pitcher Takenori Emoto embracing after the Hawks recorded the final out.  That's third baseman Mitsuru Fujiwara (#7) coming in from the right with the Hawk fans storming the field from the left.

Card #356 shows Nomura getting the traditional do-age from his teammates.

October 31 - Hawks vs Giants at Korakuen Stadium.  The 1973 Nippon Series started on October 27th in Osaka with the Hawks beating the Giants 4-3.  The Giants evened the Series with a 3-2 extra innings win in Game Two.  After an off day for travel, the Giants went up 2 games to 1 in the Series with another 3-2 victory in Game Three.  Game Four was played on October 31 and Yomiuri beat Nankai 6-2 to take a commanding 3 games to 1 lead.  There are five cards for this game - cards 326, 353, 354, 366 and 367.  I don't have any of these cards.

November 1 - Hawks vs Giants at Korakuen Stadium.  The Giants wrapped up their ninth straight Nippon Series championship by defeating the Hawks in Game Five 5-1.  This game has the most cards with 12 - cards 305, 310, 325, 327, 336, 358, 359, 360, 361, 362, 363 and 364.  I have three of them.  Card #336 shows Nomura batting in the seventh inning (at least that's what I think the card says although it doesn't appear from this that he actually batted in that inning).  The card says he flew out to Giants left fielder Shigeru Takada which he did in the sixth inning.

I think card #359 is showing Giants second baseman Shozo Doi on his knees after making a fine defensive play late in the game.  I say it's late in the game because the player behind him is shortstop Takeshi Ueda who didn't enter the game until the seventh or eighth inning.  (Or it's Ueda on his knees with Doi standing behind him.)

Card #360 shows Giants pitcher Tsuneo Horiuchi (#18) coming into the game in relief with two outs in the top of the seventh with the Giants up 3-1.  The Hawks had a runner on but Horiuchi was able to retire Yoshihiro Aiba to preserve the two run lead.  The Giants scored two more runs in the bottom of the seventh to put the game out of reach for good.  This was Horiuchi's third appearance in the five games.  He had won Game Two in relief and pitched a complete game two days later while winning Game Three - a game in which he also hit two home runs.  He ended up being the MVP of the Series.  I think that's Doi tossing him the ball.  Nankai coach Takeshi Koba is visible in the foreground.  He moved onto the Carp after this game and became their manager in 1975, leading them to their first ever Central League pennant that season.  He'd go on to win three Nippon Series championships with Hiroshima and was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 1999.  I'm not sure who the guy on the mound is - it's probably Giants starting pitcher Makoto Kurata but I suppose it could be manager Tetsuharu Kawakami or the pitching coach.

Ryan has images of the front and back of card #327 on his post about the 1973/74 Calbee set.  The card shows Giants center fielder ToshirĊ Yanagida stealing second.  I think the Hawks fielder is Sakurai.

Calbee would expand on this concept of commemorating specific games for the 1974/75 set.  I plan on doing a post about them at some point in the near future but I don't have nearly as much information on either the cards or the games.