Sunday, August 30, 2020

Card Of The Week August 30

The Tochigi Golden Braves of the independent Baseball Challenge (BC) League appears to have been the last professional stop for a number of notable players in the past few years including Eri Yoshida in 2017, Shuichi Murata in 2018 and Tsuyoshi Nishioka last year.  This year Yoshihisa Naruse joined them as a player/coach and this past week the team announced the signing of former Hawk/Mariner/Cub/Blue Jay Munenori Kawasaki.  Kawasaki last played in NPB in 2017 with the Hawks after returning from MLB.  He sat out the 2018 season with an injury and spent some of 2019 apparently being a player-coach for the Wei Chuan Dragons of the CPBL.  I think he had hoped to play with the Dragons this year but COVID-19 restrictions prevented him from being able to travel to Taiwan.  His contract with Tochigi officially starts on Tuesday, September 1st.

Here's a card of Kawasaki from the 2006 BBM Hawks set (#H055):

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Japanese MLB Players

Just want to do a quick post that I added a page for all Japanese MLB players to the list of pages in the upper right of the blog.

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Fall Releases

A quick roundup of recently announced sets:

- BBM has announced two more of their perennial sets that were delayed this year.  First up is the second cheerleader/dance squad set.  "Dancing Heroing - Mai" will be out in late September, almost three months later than normal.  The base set will contain 88 cards of members of the "bluelegends" (Lions), "Honeys" (Hawks), "Tohoku Golden Angels" (Eagles), "M☆Splash!!" (Marines), "FIGHTERS GIRL" (Fighters), "VENUS" (Giants), "Tigers Girls" (Tigers), "Cheer Dragons 2020" (Dragons) and "Passion" (Swallows).  For whatever reason the cheerleaders for the Buffaloes and Baystars are not included in the set (and haven't been for a while) and the Carp don't have cheerleaders.  There's a parallel version for each card in the base set and there are autographed cards and "cheki" available in packs.

- The second delayed perennial BBM set is their annual high end set called Genesis.  The base set will be the standard 120 cards - 108 player cards (9 per team) and 12 checklist cards that are unusually thick to mimic the premium cards.  There will be parallel versions of all the player cards although the details aren't on the website.  There are three 12 cards "High Grade" insert sets - "Elite Of Nine" (some sort of plastic card), "Cross Blossom" (some sort of holographic processing) and "Game Changer" (some sort of 3D card).  There's also the usual big assortment of autograph and memorabilia cards - including multiplayer memorabilia cards, "booklet" cards with multiple autographs and buy back autographs (I'm assuming these are old "Diamond Heroes", "Touch The Game" and "Genesis" base set cards but I don't know that for sure).  Each box contains 20 packs containing five cards each, retails for 12,000 yen (~$113) and is guaranteed to contain one memorabilia/autograph card.  The set will be out in late October, a little over a month later than normal.

- Epoch has announced three more of their OB/active player team sets under the "Stars & Legends" label - these will be for the Swallows, Carp and Fighters.  As before these are examples of Epoch's "ultra high end" sets where a box containing four cards will retail for 14,850 yen (~$140).  Each box is guaranteed to include two autograph or memorabilia cards.  The Swallows set will have a base set of 52 cards - 32 active players (and the mascot) and 20 OB players - and will be out on October 3rd.  The Carp set will have a base set of 54 cards including 29 active players and 25 OB players and will be out on October 10th.  The Fighters set will be out a week later on the 17th and has 61 cards in its base set - 37 active and 24 OB (including Shohei Ohtani).  Each set has a 3 card "DECOMORI SIGNATURE" (a processed foil facsimile autograph) and a six card "Gem" insert set - I think each of these is serially numbered and has parallel versions.  Each set has a variety of different autographed cards.  The Carp set also has jersey cards available.

- SCC released their second KBO set of the season a few weeks back.  It's called "Battle Baseball Card Game Vol. 2" and, as you might guess from the name, it's a collectible card game and a follow up to the "Battle Baseball Card Game Vol. 1" set that was released earlier this season.  It has 110 cards in the base set (11 per team) - I don't know off hand if any of those are short printed.  The previous set had 30 short printed cards.  Dan Skrezyna has put the checklist up at the Trading Card Database.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Two Sword Players

I did a post a couple weeks ago about Yomiuri Giants infielder Daiki Masuda pitching in a blowout loss against the Hanshin Tigers and how unusual it was for a position player to be used as a pitcher in NPB.  Someone left a comment asking about an Orix outfielder from the late 90's name Toshihiro Kase who had pitched in a couple games in 1997.  I started looking into him and ended up going down a rabbit hole about "Two Sword Players".

A "Two Sword Player" is a player who is both a pitcher and a position player (i.e. a "Two-Way Player" but I like the idiom better).  Shohei Ohtani is the most obvious example of this (in fact there was a subset in the 2013 BBM Fighters set featuring him called "The Two Sword Player") but there were a number of such players in the early days of Japanese professional baseball including guys like Michio Nishizawa, Jiro Noguchi, Tetsuharu Kawakami, Fumio Fujimura and Junzo Sekine.   In the last 50 years or so there've really only been three guys other than Ohtani - Yozo Nagabuchi, Felix Perdomo and Kase.  (Note that this doesn't include players like Kazuya Fukuura, Yoshio Itoi, Ryuji Miyade and Yuhei Takai who started their careers as pitchers and then converted to position players).

2009 Kintetsu Memorial #23
Yozo Nagabuchi had been the ace pitcher for his high school team and both pitched and played right field for Toshiba in the corporate leagues for a number of years in the 1960's.  He was the Kintetsu Buffaloes second round pick in the 1967 draft.  I'm not sure I'm getting all the details correct on this based on the Google translation of his Japanese Wikipedia page I think he got a 3.3 million yen salary (or bonus) that he needed to pay off a 200,000 yen bar tab that he had run up - he was only making 30,000 yen a month with Toshiba.  He was drafted as a pitcher but his manager, Hall Of Famer Osamu Mihara, decided to use him as a pitcher, an outfielder and a pinch hitter.  He made 12 appearances as a pitcher in 1968, going 0-1 with a 2.79 ERA in 19 1/3 innings.  He made only one start.  Mihara apparently was not impressed with his pitching as his last appearance on the mound was in June.  He ended the season with a .274 average in 270 at bats over 109 games.  He was exclusively a position player in 1969 and hit .333 which was tied with Isao Harimoto for the Pacific League lead.  I suspect that this ended any further discussion of him pitching.  He put up a couple solid seasons for the Buffaloes over the next few seasons but age (and probably his drinking) started taking its toll on his performance and playing time around 1973.  He was traded to the Nippon-Ham Fighters (where Mihara was now the team president) in the 1975-76 offseason and retired after the 1979 season.  Probably his biggest legacy is that he was one of the inspirations for the "Abu-san" manga character Yasutake Kageura (along with Masaru Kageura, Fumio Fujimura and Masahiro Doi):

1998 BBM Hawks #FD74
Felix Perdomo was an interesting story.  He was a product of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp's Dominican Academy in the early 1990's and spent the 1992 season with the Carp's farm team as an infielder.  He dropped out of sight for a couple seasons before reappearing with the China Trust Eagles of the CPBL in 1995.*  He rejoined the Carp in 1996 and hit .083 in six games with the ichi-gun team.  He converted to being a pitcher in 1997 and got into 30 games with the top team over the next two seasons.  He changed his registration back to infield in 1999 but the Carp still occasionally used him as a pitcher.  There was some concern about this as the rules at the time only allowed NPB teams to have two foreign pitchers on the active roster.  The league said that this did not present an issue as long as all three didn't get into the same game.  Of course, on June 27th all three appeared in a game - Nate Minchey started against the Giants and was relieved by Perdomo who was relieved in turn by Rick Dehart.  I suspect that this would have caused more of a stink had the Carp won the game but they lost 4-2 with Perdomo taking the loss.  He was released following the 1999 season - partly due to roster pressures over the foreign player limit but probably also due to the fact that he wasn't particularly good either with the bat (he hit just .200 in 1999) or on the mound (1-2 with 4.56 ERA in 17 games).  As far as I can tell there are no Japanese baseball cards of Perdomo.  The only card I know of for him is from the 1995 CPBL A-Plus card set.  (There was a player by the same name in the Mets organization in the 1980's but he was about 10 years older.)

*It's actually not clear to me that he wasn't still associated with the Carp when he played for China Trust as the Carp had a working agreement with them for a number of years and had a couple players on their roster that season.  Or perhaps his being on the team that year led to the Carp re-signing him.

1995 BBM #537

2001 BBM Late Series #608
Like Nagabuchi 30 years earlier, Toshihiro Kase was the ace pitcher for his high school team.  He was also the cleanup hitter and hit 52 home runs during his high school career so Orix took him as an outfielder in the second round of the 1994 draft.  He made his ichi-gun debut in 1996 and hit .227 in 17 games.  Orix manager Akira Ohgi (another Hall Of Famer) tried him as a pitcher in an intersquad game in training camp in 1997 and was pleased when he retired Ichiro, Koichi Ohshima and Troy Neel.  He came into an exhibition game against the Hawks and retired Tadahito Iguchi to finish the game.  He didn't fare quite as well in the regular season however.  He ultimately only pitched three innings over two appearances and gave up three earned runs on four hits (including a home run from Hiromitsu Ochiai) and three walks while striking out three before Ohgi pulled the plug on the experiment.  Meanwhile his hitting wasn't particularly going well either - he hit .077 in 1997 and .053 in 1998.  Now you might be excused for thinking that the 32 ichi-gun at bats those two seasons weren't enough of an opportunity to see how well he could really hit but he hit only .147 in 68 at bats in 1999 so his performance didn't really improve with more opportunity.  After five hitless plate appearances in 2000 he saw the writing on the wall and decided to switch back to pitching full time (although he was still registered as an outfielder).  His 2000 season on the mound was so-so - he went 1-4 with a 5.10 ERA - but he had a pretty good season in 2001 (his first officially as a pitcher), going 2-0 with an ERA of 3.21 in 70 appearances.  His numbers declined every season after that and Orix let him go at the end of the 2004 season.  He's apparently been a batting practice pitcher for the Hanshin Tigers ever since.

Those three players plus Ohtani pretty much cover the NPB "Two Sword Players" since the 1960's.  However there is another professional baseball league in Japan and was somewhat surprised to discover it had three "Two Sword Players" last season.  Two of them performed in this role last season while the other has been strictly a position player since 2015.  I speak of course of the Japan Women's Baseball League (JWBL).

2016 Epoch JWBL #18

2018 Epoch JWBL #61
Mika Konishi was a charter member of the JWBL in their first season in 2010 (when they were the GPBL or "Girl's Professional Baseball League").  Despite both baseball cards I have of her listing her as a pitcher, she's been both a position player and pitcher for most of her ten professional seasons.  It looks like she was mostly a pitcher in 2018 and 2019.  From her Wikipedia page it looks like she's been star player both on the mound and at the bat.  She's led the league in wins four times (2010-12, 2019), ERA three times (2010, 2012, 2018), strikeouts three times (2010, 2011, 2016) and saves twice (2014, 2018) as well as home runs twice (2011, 2012) and stolen bases (2010).  She's a two time MVP winner (2011, 2012) and two time Best 9 winner at pitcher (2011, 2012).  She also won a Golden Glove award in 2019.  She retired at the end of the 2019 season.  Her cards only have her pitching statistics but her page in the JWBL "Players File" I picked up last year has both her batting and pitching statistics:

Konishi was the only JWBL player mentioned on the Wikipedia "Two Sword Player" page but when I went thumbing through the "Players File" I came across a couple more.

2016 Epoch JWBL #26

2018 Epoch JWBL #48
Miri Iwaya is another charter member of the JWBL.  Unlike Konishi, she only pitched for a couple of years before becoming exclusively a position player.  She pitched pretty well her first two seasons, putting up ERAs of 2.31 and 2.99 in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  She led the league in saves in 2010.  Her ERAs climbed to 4.38 and 5.02 the next two seasons and after not pitching at all in 2014 she made her last trip to the mound in 2015.  She's probably the closest thing that the JWBL has to a power hitter as she holds the record for most home runs in a season (5) and career (10 going into this season but it looks like she has three so far in 2020).  She's the only JWBL player to win a Triple Crown, having done it in 2017.  She also led the league in home runs in 2019 and RBI in 2018.  She won the MVP in 2017 and has four Best 9 awards at third base (2011, 2012, 2017, 2019) along with a Golden Glove award in 2017.  Her page in the "Players File" has both her pitching and hitting statistics:

She's a player/coach with Saitama Astraia this year. Here's a home run she hit last Saturday:

2016 Epoch JWBL #71

2018 Epoch JWBL #40
Unlike Konishi and Iwaya, Haruka Ebi is not a star.  She both pitched and batted her first three years in the league but was exclusively a pitcher last season.  She hit .533 in just 9 games in 2016 but as she got more playing time her average dropped to .296 in 2017 and just .136 in 2018.  Her ERAs got worse over the same period of time (4.32 to 4.92 to 6.88) although it dropped to 3.97 last season.  She retired from the league at the end of the year and is with the Sagawa Express women's corporate league team.  Here's her write up from the "Players File":

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Card Of The Week August 23

There were two stories from last week that I was thinking of covering in this week's post but I couldn't decide which one I wanted to do more.  So I decided to do them both.

First of all last Tuesday night Kenta Maeda took a no-hitter against the Brewers into the ninth inning before giving up a bloop single to Eric Sogard.  Maeda struck out 12 batters in the eight+ innings he pitched but sadly didn't even get the win as the Twins bullpen gave up three runs in the top of ninth to tie the game up.  The Twins eventually won in the 12th inning.

Had Maeda completed the no-hitter he would have become the first player to ever throw a no-hitter in both NPB and MLB.  He had thrown one against the Yokohama DeNA Baystars back on April 6, 2012 when he was still with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp - it was the Baystars 7th game under their new ownership.  The no-no was commemorated in the 2012 BBM No-Hitters set (#80):

The other story from last week is that on Thursday Orix Buffaloes manager Norifumi Nishimura resigned.  Orix currently has the worst record in NPB and Nishimura took responsibility.  He's being replaced by Satoshi Nakajima who had an almost 30 year (1987-2015) career as a catcher with Hankyu, Orix, Seibu, Yokohama and Nippon-Ham.  He was the last active Hankyu Braves player and actually hit the last home run by a Hankyu player.  He's been the farm team manager for Orix since last year.  So far the Buffaloes are undefeated under him (in all of three games!) but Tuesday they start a six game series with the Hawks so I would expect that to change.  Here's a card of him from when he was with Orix back in the 1990's (1995 BBM #108):

Saturday, August 22, 2020

Mint Kanda Closing

I wanted to do a quick post to pass along some news I had learned from Ryan of "This Card Is Cool" - Mint Kanda will be closing after August 23rd. 

Mint Kanda is one of three card shops conveniently close together in Jinbocho (the other two being Biblio and Wrappers).  According to their blog they've been at that location for 20 years.  I've been to the store twice (first in 2013 and again in 2019) and liked it quite a bit although I felt like I had already done my big set building purchases elsewhere so I didn't really take advantage of what they had for sale as much as I could have.

The store is moving to Nihonbashi Bakurocho which I think is about a mile and half east of its present location.  Its new name will be Mint Lab Tokyo and it will specialize in boxes and cartons.  It will have tables to do box breaks at.  They will no longer carry packs and single cards - they direct you to go to Mints Ikebukuro and Urawa for those (they don't mention Wrappers which is much closer than either of those other stores since it's not run by Mint).  The new store will open on September 10th.

I wish the owner luck in his new endeavor but I'll miss the old store.  And the new one doesn't sound like one that I'll be all that interested in visiting.

Friday, August 21, 2020

Non-Flagship All Stars

Every year from 1991 to 2012 BBM published an annual box set for that season's All Star teams.  For the first 20 years or so it would be published in mid-July, just in time for the games but the last two or three years it was published in mid-August so that it could feature photos taken from the games.  The set always contained the full roster of players (at least as of press time) along with the managers and coaches (who were always managers of teams other than the previous year's Nippon Series managers).

I had noticed recently when researching the Carp's US minor leaguers that Satoshi Iriki (who had been traded for Hiroyuki Satoh) had a card in BBM's All Star set in 2001 but didn't have a card in that year's flagship set.  I thought that was odd - surely a player who would be good enough to make an All Star team would almost always be good enough for BBM to include in their flagship set - especially in the years when 40 of the players on each team's 70 man roster were in the set.  I figured this had to be a very rare occurrence.

I sat down the other night to do some research and discovered that it's actually a lot more common than I thought.  In fact the 2001 All Star set alone had three players who didn't appear in the 2001 BBM flagship set.  I eventually discovered 17 players and four coaches who had All Star cards in a particular year but not a BBM flagship set card.  14 of the 22 All Star sets contained at least one of these players or coaches.  I decided to do some investigation on why these guys weren't in the flagship sets so here's the results of that:

1992 BBM All Stars #A17
Hiromoto "Dave" Ohkubo had spent over seven years with the Seibu Lions, mostly on their farm team, before being traded to the Yomiuri Giants in May of 1992 for Takayoshi Nakao.  Given a chance to start for the first time in his career, he went on a tear, hitting .300 with 12 home runs in the two months before the All Star break.  He won the Monthly MVP award for May and the Giants won every game that he homered in. 

1995 BBM All Stars #A8
 Robinson Checo was a product of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp's Dominican Academy.  He spent two seasons playing on the Carp's farm team in Japan before being released.  He signed on with the CPBL's China Trust Eagles in 1994 before returning to the Carp for the 1995 season.  He made his NPB debut in mid-April and threw a shutout against the Tigers.  He nearly no-hit the Tigers a month later, giving up a double to Teruyoshi Kuji with two outs in the ninth.  He ended up going 15-8 with a 2.74 ERA that year.  I'm guessing that he joined the Carp after the 1995 BBM set went to press but I don't know that for sure.  He is unique in that he is the only player ever on the official 70 man roster to wear a three digit number (106).

1995 BBM All Stars #A2
The Chunichi Dragons had a poor season in 1995, ultimately finishing in fifth place with a 50-80 record after having finished second in 1994.  Manager Morimichi Takagi resigned at the beginning of June and Sadayuki Tokutake was made interim manager.  Since the coaches for the Central League All Star team that year were the managers of the second and third place teams the previous year, Tokutake appears in the All Star set.  This is the only card depicting him as Dragons manager as he was dismissed on July 23rd, two days before the first All Star game, and replaced with Ikuo Shimano.  It looks like hitting coach Tatsuhiko Kimata was actually the coach for the Central League squad in the All Star games.  Shimano was let go at the end of the season when the Dragons brought back Senichi Hoshino for his second stint as Dragons manager.

1996 BBM All Stars #A18
Balvino Galvez spent 12 seasons mostly in the minors for the Dodgers,  Tigers, Twins, Expos, Yankees and Cubs between 1982 and 1993.  He got into 10 games with the major league Dodgers in 1986, going 0-1 with a 3.92 ERA.  He came to Japan in early 1996 after spending two seasons with the Brother Elephants of the CPBL and signed a contract with the Yomiuri Giants on February 22 which I assume is after that year's flagship set went to press.  Galvez went 16-5 with a 2.55 ERA that year, tying for the league lead in victories with his teammate Masaki Saitoh.  Galvez pitched in the Nippon Series that year and so appears in BBM's Nippon Series set as well.  (Given that the Nippon Series sets feature all the players who appear in the Series it is not that unusual for a player to appear in the Nippon Series box set but not appear in the flagship set.)

1996 BBM All Stars #A15
Kazuya Tabata had been a tenth round pick of the Hawks in the 1992 draft.  He was dealt to the Swallows along with Shinichi Satoh for Shikato Yanagita and Ryo Kawano.  This was a minor enough deal that out of the four players involved only Yanagita had a card in the 1996 BBM flagship set.  The Swallows put him in the starting rotation and, given an opportunity to play regularly for the first time, he pitched quite well after a slow start.  He was named to the All Star team on the recommendation of his manager, Katsuya Nomura.  He ended up going 12-12 with a 3.51 ERA for the season.

1997 BBM All Stars #A21
Isao Kohda had spent 11 seasons with the Yomiuri Giants before being traded to the Kintetsu Buffaloes for Hideyuki Awano after the 1994 season.  He spent almost the entire 1996 season with the Buffaloes farm team, going just 0-3 with a 9.64 ERA in four games (although he led the Western League in both wins and ERA) so you could have been forgiven if you didn't think a 31 year old pitcher coming off a season like that would be expected to contribute much the following year.  But Kohda made 18 starts with the ichi-gun team in 1997, going 9-4 with a 3.69 ERA in 18 starts and obviously pitching well enough to be picked for the All Star team for the first and only time in his career.

1998 BBM All Stars #A45
Like Galvez, Edwin Hurtado signed with his first NPB team after the BBM set that year had gone to press.  He had made 43 appearances in the majors for Toronto and Seattle before making his way to Japan, going 8-9 with a 6.67 ERA.  He made a couple starts for Orix in 1998 but he spent most of season in the bullpen, going 8-5 with a 3.74 ERA and seven saves. 

1998 BBM All Stars #A51
Tatsuji Nishimura had been a rotation staple for the Swallows in the early 90's but his career hit a snag when he was suspended for five games after beaning Giants outfielder Dan Gladden in the head in May of 1994 (which brought about the "automatic ejection for a dangerous pitch" rule).  The Swallows traded him to Kintetsu for Masato Yoshii just before the 1995 season and after his first season the Buffaloes effectively buried him on their farm team for two seasons.  He only got into four games with the top team in 1996, going 0-1 with a 7.62 ERA and he spent all of 1997 with the ni-gun squad before being released.  The Hawks picked him up in the spring of 1998 and he made their starting rotation, going 10-10 with a 3.36 ERA and winning the Comeback Player Of The Year award.

1999 BBM All Stars #A54
Rod Pedraza had spent eight years kicking around the minor league organizations for the Expos, Rockies and Rangers and also spent a season with the Winnipeg Gold Eyes of the independent Northern League before signing with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks shortly after Opening Day in 1999.  Daiei had originally intended to use him as a starter but he ended up in the bullpen instead and by teh middle of May he had taken the closer role away from Tsutomu Yamada.  He ended up going 3-1 with 27 saves and an ERA of 1.98 and helped lead the Hawks to their first pennant in 26 years and their first Nippon Series title in 35 years (and like Galvez had a card in the Nippon Series set).  He won the Monthly MVP award for June that year which probably helped him get selected for the All Star team.

2000 BBM All Stars #A15
Eddie Gaillard went to spring training with the Cincinnati Reds in 2000 after having spent the previous seven seasons in the Tiger and Devil Ray organizations.  The Reds released him on April 4th and he signed on with the Dragons four days later.  The Dragons made him their closer and he rewarded them with a league leading 35 saves to go with a 2.68 ERA and 52 strikeouts and only 13 walks in 47 innings pitched.

2000 BBM All Stars #A58
Hiroki Yamamura had been the Hanshin Tigers top pick in the 1994 draft but only made 15 ichi-gun appearances in his five years with the organization.  He suffered from a nervous disorder that kept him on the farm team for all of 1999 and was released after the season.  The Buffaloes picked him up during training camp the following year (he signed with them on February 29th, after BBM's flagship set went to press) and he ended up in the starting rotation for the team.  Like Tabata, he made the most of his first opportunity to play regularly and while his numbers for the season look mediocre (he went 6-9 with a 5.01 ERA), they obviously were good enough for him to be picked for the All Star team for the first and only time in his career.

2001 BBM All Stars #A19
Satoshi Iriki had spent 10 years playing for the Buffaloes, Carp and Giants but spent all of 2000 with Yomiuri's farm team.  They released him after the season and he signed on with the Yakult Swallows for the 2001 season.  He put together his best season ever, winning 8 games by the All Star break and getting named the Monthly MVP for June.  He ultimately went 10-3 with a 2.85 ERA for the full season and helped the Swallows win the Nippon Series (which means he also has a Nippon Series card from that year).

2001 BBM All Stars #A15
Yusaku Iriki is Satoshi's younger brother.  The two players were teammates on the Giants from 1999 to 2000.  He spent most of 2000 on the farm team with his brother, only getting into seven games with the ichi-gun team.  Like his brother though, he had the best season of his career in 2001, going 13-4 with a 3.71 ERA.  He started Game One of the All Star series and was relieved by his brother in the third inning.

2001 BBM All Stars #A40
Koki Morita had been a steady pitcher for Yokohama in the first half of the 1990's, mostly out of the bullpen, before being traded to the Buffaloes after the 1997 season for Hitoshi Nakane.  He missed most of the 1999 and 2000 seasons after having surgery for a brain tumor.  He returned full time in 2001 and was selected to the All Star team by fan voting.  It was a sentimental pick as he had an ERA of 7.06 that season but it wasn't just the fans being sentimental as he won the Comeback Player Of The Year award that season as well.  He also pitched in the Nippon Series that year (and so also has a card in that set).  He retired after the following season and suffered recurrences of the tumor in the years afterward.  Tragically he passed away from it in 2015.

2001 was the last year that BBM issued their flagship set as one monolithic set each April.  Starting in 2002 BBM would issue a set called 1st Version in April along with a second set called (obviously) 2nd Version in August.  As you would expect, this would greatly cut down on the number of players appearing in the All Star set but not appearing in that year's flagship sets.  After there were 13 such players in the 11 All Star sets between 1991 and 2001, there would be only four in the 11 sets between 2002 and 2012.

2003 BBM All Stars #A19
Hideki Irabu returned to Japan in time for the 2003 season after having spent seven years in the majors.  He had signed with the Tigers in December of 2002 so I actually have no idea why he did not appear in either the 1st or 2nd Version sets in 2003.  He didn't appear in the BBM Tigers "comprehensive" team set that year either although he was in the "Victory Road" boxed sets celebrating the team's first Central League Pennant in 18 years as well as the Nippon Series box set.  He went 9-2 over the first half of the 2003 season and was named the Monthly MVP for May, all of which helped him get selected for the All Star team.  Oddly enough he didn't appear in either flagship set in 2004 (his last active season in NPB) either although he had a card in the Tigers' team set.

2005 BBM All Stars #A18
I'll almost as baffled over why Shintaro Yoshitake wasn't in either the 1st or 2nd Version set in 2005 as I was with Irabu.  Yoshitake had been with the Hawks since they drafted him in the fourth round of the 1993 draft.  He'd spent most of 2004 with the farm team, only getting into 13 games but posting an ERA of 1.83.  He was a great middle reliever for the Hawks in 2005, getting into 61 games and recording 32 holds with an ERA of 3.12.  He set an NPB record by getting holds in eight consecutive games in June which I'm sure helped him get an All Star roster spot but apparently came too late to get him into the 2nd Version set.

2007 BBM All Stars #A03

2008 BBM All Stars #A34
Koji Akiyama was the head coach of the Hawks in 2007 and 2008 and was considered the heir apparent to manager Sadaharu Oh who'd been running the team since 1995.  Oh decided to not participate in the All Star games in both 2007 and 2008 due to declining health (he had been treated for stomach cancer late in the 2006 season) and Akiyama filled in for him.  Oh retired after the 2008 season and, as expected, Akiyama succeeded him as manager.

2009 BBM All Stars #A40
Yudai Kawai came out of nowhere to have a career year in 2009.  He'd only made 18 appearances in his four seasons with the Dragons before then but he was promoted from the farm team on April 21st and proceeded to win his first 11 decisions.  He won four games in June which got him the Monthly MVP award and probably cemented his selection for the All Star game.  He ended the season with an 11-5 record (which means he lost five straight decisions after his 11 wins) and a 3.78 ERA.

2010 BBM All Stars #A07
Yuya Kubo began his career with the Giants as a starter but they moved him to the bullpen in 2005.  He spent the bulk of the 2007, 2008 and 2009 seasons on the farm, only appearing in 26 total games with the ichi-gun team in those three years.  But in 2010 he set a Giants team record by appearing in 79 games, going 8-1 with a 2.77 ERA.  Obviously he had pitched well enough by early July to get named to the All Star team.

2010 BBM All Stars #A03
In 2009 the Tokyo Yakult Swallows under manager Shigeru Takada finished in third place which (among other things like making the playoffs) earned Takada a coaching slot on the 2010 Central League All Star team.  2010 did not go as well for the Takada and the Swallows.  The team fell to last place and at one point lost nine consecutive games.  Takada stepped down as manager on May 26th with a record of 13-32-1 and was replaced by head coach Junji Ogawa.  As a result Ogawa filled the coaching slot at the All Star game.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Trade With Steve

A couple weeks ago I got an email from someone named Steve who had taken a look at my want list and discovered he had six cards that I was looking for.  We had a back and forth about what he wanted in return and rapidly came to deal.

Then he sent me an email last week and mentioned that he also had the 1998 BBM Hawks checklist that was the one card I still needed to complete that set.  I'd mistakenly thought I had gotten last year in Japan and didn't discover until I got back home that I didn't have it.  Ryan has been checking stores for me since then but has been unable to find it.  I was very excited that Steve had one of them for me.

Steve shipped his cards to me on Thursday while I didn't make it to the post office until Saturday.  Surprisingly (especially with the shenanigans going on with the US Postal Service right now) we both got our packages today.

Here's what I got.  First, the afore-mentioned Hawks checklist:

1998 BBM #575
Next is one of the short-printed "Rookie" cards from the 2000 Teleca set:

2000 Teleca #R4
Next is four cards from the 2000 Teleca insert set for the 1999 Korea-Japan Super Games.

2000 Teleca #KJ24

2000 Teleca #KJ27

2000 Teleca #KJ35

2000 Teleca #KJ45
That last card features Joo Hyung-Kwang, Jin Pil-Jung Jin and Kim Min-Ho.

The final card was the All Tournament Team card for Lee Bum-ho from the 2009 Konami WBC Heroes set.

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09A007
In return I sent Steve a 2004 BBM 1st Version "2003 Asian Championship" Kosuke Fukudome insert, a 2017 Calbee Samurai Japan Sho Nakata gold signature parallel, four Hayato Sakamoto SCM and Shukan Baseball inserts and a 2011 BBM Swallows Tetsuto Yamada Foil parallel rookie card. 

It was a pleasure doing business with you, Steve.  Thanks so much for contacting me, finishing my 1998 set and getting me closer to completing three other sets!

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Card Of The Week August 16

Yesterday Yasuhiro Ogawa of the Swallows no-hit the Baystars 9-0.  Ogawa's nickname is "Ryan" because his motion resembles Nolan Ryan's.  Now he has something else in common with The Express (although he obviously has six more no-hitters to go!)

Here's his 2013 BBM 2nd Version card (#486) that shows the motion in question:

Study Abroad - the Carp in Virginia and Idaho

1989 marked the peak of NPB teams sending players to the US minor leagues.  That year there was a record seven teams who had players in North America.  It was the last year for the Buffaloes, Whales, Giants and Dragons but the Hawks and Swallows were starting a bold partnership with the Salinas Spurs of the California League (which will be the subject of a future post) and the Carp were beginning their own two year tenure in the United States.

Hampton, Virginia has a rich history of minor league baseball.  Two Hall Of Fame catchers - Johnny Bench and Gary Carter - made stops there on their way to Cooperstown and Satchel Paige made his last appearance in professional baseball here, pitching two innings in 1966 at age 59 (at least).  A bunch of other great players from the 1970's and 1980's passed through there as well including Darrell Evans, Cesar Cedeno, Julio Franco, Hal McRae and Andre Thornton.  But by 1989 the team had fallen on hard times.  They lost their affiliation with the White Sox after the 1987 season and operated in 1988 as an independent team in the Carolina League under the name the Virginia Generals.  They switched back to their traditional name of the Peninsula Pilots for 1989 but they still didn't have a major league affiliate.   The Pilots' owner Jay Acton approached the Carp at the 1988 winter meetings and got them to agree to send three players for the 1989 season.  Some visa issues held up the players for a couple weeks but they finally joined the team in early May.  As was the usual case for an independent team in organized ball, the team wasn't very good.  They went 44-89 and finished last in the South Division, 37 1/2 games behind first place Durham and 19 games behind third place Winston-Salem (although this was an improvement over their 41-99 record in 1988 when they finished 47 games out of first and 32 games out of third).

The Carp were still interested in sending players to the US for 1990 but Peninsula was no longer an independent team, having secured an affiliation with the Seattle Mariners.  Their fortunes did not improve much on the field however as they finished last in each of the next two seasons with 57-83 and 46-93 records in 1990 and 1991 respectively.  They set a Carolina League record by losing 22 games in a row in 1991.  But in 1992 they not only finished first in their division but they ended up winning the Carolina League Championship.  It was a bittersweet moment for Hampton, Virginia as the team moved after the season to Delaware and became the Wilmington Blue Rocks.  Hampton has not hosted a minor league team since although they do have a team in the Coastal Plain League, a summer collegiate league.

Luckily for the Carp, they were able to make a deal with another independent team.  The Pocatello, Idaho team in the Pioneer League had lost their affiliation with the San Francisco Giants after three years.  The team renamed itself the Gate City Pioneers (since the Pocatello Giants didn't make sense anymore) and operated as an independent team.  The Carp sent five players to Idaho but if they had any real impact on the team, it was pretty small.  The team went a dismal 15-55 and finished last in the South Division - 28 games behind first place Salt Lake City and 23 1/2 games behind third place Butte.  Their .214 winning percentage would equate in a 35-127 record over 162 games.

Pocatello would continue to be an independent team in 1991, changing their name to the Pocatello Pioneers, but the Carp were done with their US experiment.  The Pioneers moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, for the 1992 season and became the Lethbridge Mounties.  They continued to be independent until 1996 when they became the first ever minor league affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks - two years before the major league Diamondbacks would take the field.  They spent three seasons as the Black Diamonds before moving to Missoula, Montana and becoming the Osprey.  The team remains in Missoula to this day although it changed its name to the Paddleheads for the 2020 season (although with the cancellation of the 2020 season and the fact that Missoula is reportedly on the list of minor league teams that MLB plans to eliminate, the Paddleheads may never play a game under that name).

Here's the list of the eight players the Carp sent to the US those two seasons:

Name Team Draft NPB Career
Wataru Adachi 1989 Peninsula 1985 5th Carp 1986-93, Fighters 1994
Tetsuya Katahira 1989 Peninsula 1985 2nd (Dragons) Dragons 1986-88, Carp 1989-92
Koichi Ogata 1989 Peninsula 1986 3rd Carp 1987-2009
Itsuki Asai 1990 Gate City 1989 6th Carp 1990-2006
Shoshi Chiyomaru 1990 Gate City 1988 6th Carp 1989-97
Takashi Maema 1990 Gate City 1989 3rd Carp 1990-97
Hideki Mizusawa 1990 Gate City 1987 4th Carp 1988-91
Hiroyuki Sato 1990 Gate City 1988 2nd Carp 1989-96, Giants 1996-98, Buffaloes 1999, Carp 2000-01

There was a card set for the 1989 Peninsula Pilots published by Star but unfortunately none of the Japanese players appeared in the set.

Wataru Adachi made 20 starts for the Pilots, going 7-8 with an ERA of 3.85 and 119 strikeouts in 138 innings (and only 57 walks).  He was tied with Tad Powers (a reliever) for most wins on the team and led the team in strikeouts.  He also had the best ERA of any starter who made more than 10 starts with the team.  He was rewarded by a promotion to the ichi-gun Carp in October of that year.  He was somewhat less successful with the Carp, going 4-11 with an ERA of 4.13 in 38 games with the ichi-gun team between 1989 and 1992 and one season with the Fighters in 1994.  I suspect that the highlight of his career was pitching a perfect inning against the Lions in Game 7 of the 1991 Nippon Series, striking out Seiji Tomoshino and Tsutomu Itoh.  He has a handful of cards from the early 1990's - 1992-94 BBM, 1991 BBM Nippon Series, 1990, 1992 & 1993 Takara and 1993 Tomy.

1992 Takara Carp #22
Tetsuya Katahira might have had the oddest career of any of the Carp players who played in the US.  He was originally drafted as a pitcher by the Dragons in the second round of the 1985 draft.   After spending the 1986 season pitching on Chunichi's farm team, he became an outfielder and made his ichi-gun debut late in the 1987 season.  The Dragons traded him along with Shingo Motomura to the Carp for Mitsuhiro Kataoka and Hiroyuki Saitoh during the 1988-89 offseason.  He hit .216 in his 70 games with Peninsula the following season and made his only appearances with the ichi-gun Carp in 1990, hitting .231 in 11 games.  He spent two more years on the farm team for the Carp and switched back to pitching in 1992 but he never made it back to the top team and hung up his spikes at the end of that season.  He only has two cards that I know of - one from the 1988 Takara Dragons set and one from the 1991 BBM set.

1991 BBM #99
Koichi Ogata is easily the best known player of the eight players the Carp sent to North America.  He only hit .239 with the Pilots but he led the team in runs scored with 51 and steals with 41 while only playing in 98 of the team's 133 games.  His 5 triples was tied for the team lead with Hernan Cortes and his 7 home runs was fourth most on the team (some of this says more about the other players on the team than it does about Ogata).  By the mid-90's Ogata was a starting outfielder for the Carp.  He lead the Central League in runs scored in 1997 and 1999 and in steals for three straight years from 1995-97.  He made the All Star team in 1999 and he won five straight Golden Glove awards from 1995 to 1999.  He retired in 2009 after having played for the Carp for 23 years.  He managed the team for five years beginning in 2015 and led them to three straight Central League pennants from 2016 to 2018.  His team made it to the Nippon Series twice - losing to the Fighters in 2016 and the Hawks in 2018.  There are many cards of him available - way too many to list.

2006 Calbee #092
I want to wrap up the Peninsula season with a personal note - I saw this team play!  On August 9th, 1989, I saw them take on the Frederick Keys at McCurdy Field (the American Legion field the Keys played in during their first season while Grove Stadium was being built).  I hadn't remembered much about the game, other than it was a blow out, a position player pitched for Peninsula and that Doug Robbins, who had been on the 1988 US Olympic team, had hit a home run.  But I dug up my scorecard for the game and discovered that I had saved the box score and game story from the Washington Post.  It turns out that I saw both Ogata and Katahira in the game:

There were two team sets published for the Gate City Pioneers in 1990 - a 27 card set from ProCard and a 24 card set by Sport Pro.  Both sets had cards of all five Japanese players.  I've swiped the images of the front and back of each card from The Trading Card Database and will be showing them here along with a Japanese card of each player.

In addition to the baseball cards, each player was profiled on the blog The Greatest 21 Days which is about the minor league players from 1990.  I've linked to their profiles in each of my blurbs about the players.

Itsuki Asai had the longest career of any of the players the Carp sent to Pocatello and the second longest (after Ogata) of any of the Carp's US players.  He'd been drafted by the Carp in the sixth round out of Toyama Commercial High School in 1989 and split his first professional season between the Carp's farm team and the Pioneers.  He hit .253 with 2 home runs in 58 games with Gate City.  He also made one pitching appearance, giving up one run on three hits but also striking out a batter in one inning of work.  Back in Japan he briefly made his first team debut in 1993 and was up for good in 1995.  He spent 12 seasons with the top team as a backup outfielder and pinch hitter before retiring after 2006.  He's been a coach with the Carp ever since.  Like Ogata, he has too many cards to mention.

2000 Future Bee Power League #213

1990 ProCards #3345

1990 ProCards #3345

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #2

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #2
Shoshi Chiyomaru went by the name Akihito until the last two years of his career.  He had been a pitcher at Joban High School but switched to being a batter after getting drafted by the Carp.  He hit .245 with 4 home runs with Gate City and like Asai got pressed into duty as a pitcher (which makes probably more sense given his background).  He made two appearances, giving up no runs on two hits and a walk while striking out two batters in 1 2/3 innings.  He spent most of his nine year career with the Carp with the farm team as he only got into 14 games with the ichi-gun squad in parts of four different seasons.  He had another opportunity to play overseas when the Carp sent him to play with the China Times Eagles of the CPBL in Taiwan in 1995.  He hit .211 in 12 games with them.  He retired after the 1997 season and has coached for the Oki Data Computer Education Academy corporate league baseball team since then.  He only has one NPB card that I know of - 1997 BBM but in addition to his two cards with Gate City he had a card in the 1995 CPBL A-Plus Card set (I swiped that image from The Trading Card Database also).

1997 BBM #346

1990 ProCards #3339

1990 ProCards #3339

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #6

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #6

1995 CPBL A-Plus Card #159
Like Asai, Takashi Maema was a 1989 draftee who split his first professional season between the Carp's farm team and Gate City.  He made 19 appearances including 9 starts and went 1-8 with a 7.16 ERA (keep in mind that the team's entire pitching staff posted a 6.22 ERA so while he was bad, he wasn't THAT bad).  On the plus side, his 47 strikeouts were third on the team and he only walked 24 batters in 49 innings.  He spent the next five seasons on the ni-gun team, finally making his debut with the top team in 1996.  He pitched well that season, going 3-2 with a 3.88 ERA in 32 appearances, mostly in relief.  He picked up one save and struck out 30 in 48 2/3 innings.  1997 didn't go as well for him - he only made 6 appearances with the top team and got slapped around, giving up seven runs in 5 1/3 innings for a 11.81 ERA.  The Carp tried to trade or sell him to the Marines after that season but he refused to go and retired instead saying he had lost his passion for baseball.  I think he became a chiropractor after retiring.  He only has three NPB cards that I know of - BBM cards from 1992 and 1997 and a 1997 Takara Carp card.

1992 BBM #335

1990 ProCards #3358

1990 ProCards #3358

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #14

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #14
Arguably Hideki Mizusawa has had a more successful career as a scout than he had as a baseball player.  He spent four years in the Carp organization and never got off the farm team.  He pitched fairly poorly with Gate City, going 2-3 with a 7.44 ERA in 17 appearances, mostly in relief.  He only struck out 10 batters in 42 1/3 innings of work.  He became a batting practice pitcher for Seibu after he retired as a player in 1991 and then moved into scouting with the Lions in 1998.  He is credited with helping sign a number of players from Tohoku and Hokkaido including Shogo Akiyama, Takayuki Kishi, Yusei Kikuchi, Hotaka Yamakawa and Shuta Tonasaki.  He does not have any NPB cards that I'm aware of.

1990 ProCards #3342

1990 ProCards #3342

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #17

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #17
Hiroyuki Satoh's .267 batting average the highest one of any of the Japanese batters who played in the US those two seasons.  His 12 doubles were tied for the team lead with Doug Noce.  He spent eight seasons with the Carp but only got into 11 games with the top team across four seasons before they sold him to the Giants in mid-1996.  He spent two and half seasons on Yomiuri's farm team before being traded to the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes for Satoshi Iriki.  He was released by the Buffaloes after getting into 19 ichi-gun games in 1999 and rejoined the Carp.  After two years spent mostly on the farm team he retired.  He now works for a shipping company in Hiroshima.  He had three NPB cards that I know of - two with the Carp (1995 and 1996 BBM) and one with the Giants (1997 BBM Giants).

1995 BBM #372

1990 ProCards #3340

1990 ProCards #3340

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #19

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #19
Both seasons the Carp sent coach Keiji Abe to the US to accompany the players.  He attended high school at baseball powerhouse PL Gakuen and Iin 1979 he was the first player to ever hit three home runs in a summer Koshien tournament.  He went to Asia University after graduating from high school but dropped out and played for the Yamaha Motor team in the industrial leagues for a few years.  He was drafted by the Carp in the sixth round of the 1983 draft and made an auspicious debut by homering in his first at bat with the ichi-gun team in 1984, the 18th player to ever do so.  That ended up being the only home run of his career though as he ended up only getting into 27 games with the top team in three seasons between 1984 and 1988 (basically all the even numbered seasons).  He retired following the 1988 season and moved into coaching.  He remained a coach for the Carp for 22 seasons from 1989 to 2010 before (I think) moving into the front office.  He has no NPB cards that I know of but he does appear in both of the Gate City sets.

1990 ProCards #3362

1990 ProCards #3362

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #23

1990 Sport Pro Gate City #23