Wednesday, September 30, 2020

NPB Managers Who Have Played In North America

I was doing some research on the next couple of "Study Abroad" posts that I want to do and I discovered that one of the players that the Dragons sent to play in the US minors in the mid-1990's was Tsuyoshi Yoda, who has been the manager of the Chunichi Dragons for the last couple seasons.  I got to wondering how many current or former managers of NPB teams played professional baseball in North America at one time or another.

So far I've come up with a list of 22 20.  This includes the eight Westerners who have managed in Japan - Joe Lutz, Don Blasingame, Bobby Valentine, Leon Lee, Trey Hillman, Marty Brown, Terry Collins and Alex Ramirez.  Since I've already done a post on them, I thought I'd just concentrate on the 12 Japanese managers.

NOTE - this does not include any players who attended spring training in the US or played in the World Baseball Classic.  And to be honest Morimichi Takagi's case is probably borderline.

1975 NST blank backed parallel
I believe that the first NPB manager to have played pro ball in North America was Hall Of Famer Wally Yonamine.  (Yonamine was a second generation Japanese-American so I could have included him with the eight Westerners instead.)  He spent the 1950 season playing with the Salt Lake City Bees of the Pioneer League before joining the Yomiuri Giants the following season.  He managed the Chunichi Dragons from 1972 to 1977.

1993 Tomy #295
Hall Of Famer Morimichi Takagi had a 21 year career with the Dragons but spent the fall of 1965 with the Washington Senators' Florida Instructional League team.  He later managed the Dragons on three separate occasions.  He was an interim manager in 1986 before being the official manager from 1992 to mid-1995 and again from 2012 to 2013.

2002 BBM Pacific League Champion Lions #L1
Haruki Ihara spent most of the 1973 season with Lodi of the California League.  Lodi at the time was owned by Nagayoshi Nakamura who also owned the Lions and he stocked the team with several Japanese players.  Ihara went on to have a somewhat odd managerial career.  He managed the Lions in 2002 and 2003, winning the Pacific League pennant by 16 1/2 games with a 90-49-1 record in 2002 (although they were swept in the Nippon Series by the Giants) but was let go after the 2003 season.  He was picked up by the Orix BlueWave for 2004 only to be let go again when Orix and Kintetsu "merged" at the end of the season and Orix brought Akira Ohgi back as manager in 2005 since he had previously managed both teams.  He didn't manage again until 2014 when the Lions brought him back but he abruptly resigned mid-season.

2012 BBM Celebration Of The Hawks #22
Hall Of Famer Koji Akiyama was one of 33 players that the Seibu Lions loaned to San Jose of the California League between 1982 and 1988 and the first of four players from that group to become an NPB manager.  Akiyama spent the 1983 season in San Jose.  He managed the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks from 2009 to 2014, winning two Nippon Series titles in those six seasons.

2009 BBM 1st Version #253
Like Ihara, Akinobu Mayumi spent part of 1973 with the Lodi Lions of the California League.  He had his first taste of being a manager for one game with the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2002 but later spent three seasons leading the Hanshin Tigers from 2009 to 2011.

2015 Calbee "Managers" #M-05
Norio Tanabe was another of the Lions' San Jose contingent, having spent the 1986 season there.  He  took over the Lions in 2014 when Ihara resigned and managed the team until the end of the 2015 season.

2015 BBM Eagles #E01
Hiromoto "Dave" Ohkubo was on the same San Jose team in 1986 as Tanabe.  He managed the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles for one season in 2015.

2017 Epoch Carp #01
Koichi Ogata spent 1989 on loan from the Hiroshima Toyo Carp to the Peninsula Pilots of the Carolina League.   He would go on to manage the Carp for five years from 2015 to 2019, winning three straight Central League pennants from 2016 to 2018.  The Carp lost the two Nippon Series that the team played in during that stretch - to the Fighters in 2016 and the Hawks in 2018.

2018 BBM 1st Version #001
 Hall Of Famer Kimiyasu Kudoh is the fourth Lions San Jose alumni to manage in NPB, having spent the 1984 season in California.  Kudoh took over the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks from Akiyama after the 2014 season and has lead them to two Pacific League pennants and four Nippon Series championships in that time span.

2018 BBM Marines #M01
Tadahito Iguchi is the first NPB manager to have played professionally in North America without being on loan from an NPB team since Yonamine.  Iguchi left the Hawks as a free agent after the 2004 season and spent four years with the White Sox, Phillies and Padres before returning to Japan in 2009 to join the Chiba Lotte Marines.  He became manager of Lotte immediately after retiring at the end of the 2017 season.

2019 BBM Dragons #D01
Tsuyoshi Yoda appeared in nine games with the 1996 Memphis Chicks of the Southern League when he was loaned to the Padres organization by the Marines.  He has managed the Chunichi Dragons since last year.

2020 Epoch NPB #397
Like Iguchi, Shingo Takatsu left Japan as a free agent and headed for MLB.  He spent 2004 and 2005 with the Chicago White Sox and New York Mets before returning to NPB.  He was named manager of the Tokyo Yakult Swallows last winter.

Five of the current managers in NPB have played professionally in North America - Iguchi, Kudoh, Ramirez, Takatsu and Yoda.  I believe that is the largest number of such managers at any one time in NPB history.

One last piece of useless trivia on this topic - there is only one NPB team that has never employed a manager who has played professionally in North America - the Yomiuri Giants.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Card Of The Week September 27

Former Chunichi Dragon, Baltimore Oriole and Miami Marlin Wei-Yin Chen is returning to Japan.  He signed a deal with the Chiba Lotte Marines last week.  He'll be joining the team after he clears quarantine which will probably be another week (H/T NPB Reddit). 

Here's a card of Chen from his days with Chunichi - this is from the 2010 BBM Dragons 75th Anniversary set (#86):

As you can tell from this card, BBM has had multiple ways of spelling Chen's name including "Wei-Ying Chen" and "Weiyin Chen".

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Independent Study Abroad - 1993-94 San Bernardino Spirit

This is kind of a quick addendum to my recent post about the 1989-92 Salinas Spurs.  I was originally going to include this with that post but it was already way too long so I decided to do it separately.

As I mentioned in the Salinas post, Spurs owners Joe Buzas and Don Nomura sold the team following the 1992 season to new owners who would move the team to San Bernardino to replace the team that was moving to Rancho Cucamunga to become the Rancho Cucamunga Quakes.  The new team in San Bernardino would have the same name as the old one - the Spirit - but as in Salinas they would operate as an independent team.  The team would no longer receive players from the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks and Yakult Swallows of NPB but they did have a couple of Japanese players on their roster.

One of these Japanese players was the sole member of the 1992 Salinas Spurs to make the move to San Bernardino - Makoto Suzuki.  The 19 year old pitched worked in 48 games with all but one of them being out of the bullpen.  He went 4-4 with a ERA of 3.68 and 12 saves.  He struck out 87 in 80 2/3 innings.

The other Japanese player didn't fare as well.  Toshio "Tony" Tajima had been the first round pick of the Nankai Hawks in the 1986 draft.  He got into 30 games with the top team in 1987, going 3-7 with an ERA of 3.99 for a mediocre Hawks team in their penultimate year in Osaka but a right shoulder injury kept him on the farm team after that.  The Hawks released him after the 1990 season and he was picked up by Lotte who released him after two seasons spent exclusively on their farm team.  He spent 1993 with two teams - the Spirit and the Sioux Falls Canaries of the independent Northern League (which was in its inaugural season).  I don't know for sure but I think he was with Sioux Falls first - he made three starts and went 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA.  He wasn't much better in the California League, going 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA in 13 games with the Spirit (including three starts).

The remainder of the roster was mostly made up a players on loan from other organizations.  Two of these players (both on loan from the Montreal Expos) would later play in NPB.  Rick Dehart got into six games with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in 1999, going 0-1 with an 8.53 ERA.  Rod Peraza also made his NPB debut in 1999 but there the similarities end.  Peraza was an All Star for the Hawks for four straight years, notching 117 saves between 1999 and 2002.  He briefly played for the Yomiuri Giants in 2003 before suffering a career ending shoulder injury.

The Spirit went 62-74 in 1993, a 25 game improvement of their 36-99 finish in their final year in Salinas.  More importantly, attendance was 88,468, about 34,000 more than what the franchise had drawn the previous season (although this was almost 20,000 fewer than the Mariners affiliated team in San Bernardino had pulled in in 1992).

Following the season, Suzuki was the #6 prospect in the California League in Baseball America's survey of the league managers.  He was courted by several major league teams before signing a contract with the Seattle Mariners.  He was represented in his negotiations by Don Nomura.  Nomura had become a player agent after selling the Spurs and Suzuki was his first client.  The rest of Suzuki's career is fairly well known - he made his major league debut with Seattle in 1996, becoming only the third Japanese player in the majors and the first in the American League.  He also spent time playing for the Royals, Rockies and Brewers over the next few years before going back in Japan.  He was drafted in the second round by the Orix BlueWave in 2002 and spent three seasons with them.  He kicked around a bit after Orix released him after the 2005 season, spending time in Mexico, Taiwan and various independent league teams in both North American and Japan before retiring as a player in 2011.

The Spirit still had a Japanese player in 1994 as Tajima returned.  He got into 34 games, going 2-2 with a 7.42 ERA.  That ERA is bad but for context - the entire team's ERA was 6.21.

Even with Suzuki gone the team's roster featured one former Salinas Spur - Andy Allanson, the former Cleveland Indians catcher who had played for the 1990 Spurs, got into 20 games before being picked up by the California Angels.  Jolbert Cabrera, another player on loan from Montreal, would go on to play two seasons with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks in 2005 and 2006.

On the field in 1994, the Spirit's record dropped to 48-88 but off the field, attendance rose to 101,710, just under what it had been in 1992.  After the season the team finally entered into a working agreement with a major league team, signing on with the Los Angeles Dodgers.  This was the first time the franchise was an affiliated minor league team since 1987 when it was in Fresno - seven years and two cities earlier.  The team would be renamed the Stampede for 1995 and would end up winning the California League championship that year - a far cry from the mostly last place finishes the franchise endured as an independent team.  The team has remained in San Bernardino, having moved into a new ballpark in 1996 and is now called the Inland Empire 66ers.

With the team no longer being independent, Tajima returned to Japan and signed on with the Nippon-Ham Fighters.  He spent two seasons with them, never getting off the farm team before they released him after the 1996 season.  He then spent two and a half seasons with the Brother Elephants of the CPBL, going 9-20 with an ERA of 5.54 in 56 games.  The Elephants released him midway through the 1999 season and he returned to North America to join the Newark Bears of the Atlantic League.  He got into 16 games and went 1-1 with a 9.18 ERA and was then released.  This appears to be the end of his career.

There were two card sets issued for San Bernardino in 1993, one by Classic Best and the other by Fleer ProCards.  Suzuki appears in both sets but Tajima does not appear in either of them.

1993 Classic Best San Bernardino Spirit #19

1993 Classic Best San Bernardino Spirit #19

1993 Fleer ProCards #773

1993 Fleer ProCards #773
In addition Suzuki appeared in the pack based Fleer Excel minor league set that was issued over the winter of 1993-94.  It featured players from the 1993 minor league season.

1993/94 Fleer Excel #128

1993/94 Fleer Excel #128

The 1994 team also had team sets done by both Classic Best and Fleer ProCards.  Both sets feature Tajima:

1994 Classic Best San Bernardino Spirit #22

1994 Classic Best San Bernardino Spirit #22

1994 Fleer ProCards #2760

1994 Fleer ProCards #2760

Both players have had other baseball cards.  Suzuki has over 150 cards from the minor leagues, the major leagues, NPB and the CPBL.  Here's one of his NPB cards:

2005 Konami Baseball Heroes Old Black Edition #B05B184
Tajima has had many fewer cards than Suzuki.  He had three NPB cards - two of them from Takara Hawk sets from 1987 and 1988 and the other from the 1995 BBM set.  He also had several cards from his time in the CPBL.  Here's the 1987 Takara card:

1987 Takara Hawks #26
I swiped the images of the San Bernardino cards from Trading Card DB.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

More Fall Releases

A quick round up of some upcoming sets that were recently announced:

- Calbee's Series Three set will be released in mid October (officially it will be in stores on October 19th but it's usually available a few days before then).  The base set will have 89 cards - one more then usual - which will be broken up into 72 "regular" player cards (six per team), 12 "First Win" subset cards and five checklist cards.  The five checklist cards is one more than usual and makes up for the fact that Series Two had only three checklist cards.  There are 24 Star insert cards available and there will be a limited edition box set for the Opening Day cleanup hitters available on Calbee's Amazon store (not sure how much or if they'll ship outside of Japan - I kind of doubt they will).   The checklist for the set is available online here.

- Epoch has announced two more of their "Stars & Legends" combination active/OB player team sets.  The latest teams to be featured are the Hawks and the Dragons.  These are both examples of Epoch's ultra-high end sets as boxes for them retail for 16,500 yen (around $155) and contain four cards - although two of them will be autograph or memorabilia cards.  The base set for the Hawks contains 36 cards which is evenly split between active players and OB players while the Dragons base set will have 52 base cards (25 active players and 27 OB players - although the full roster of OB players has not been set yet).  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.  Both sets have a variety of different autographed cards and the Hawks set also has jersey cards available.  The Hawks set (which commemorates the 15th Anniversary of Softbank buying the team prior to the 2005 season) will be out on October 31st while the Dragons set will be out two weeks later on November 14th.

- Epoch has also announced their annual "Pacific League Premier Edition" set.  All I've seen about this set so far is a tweet from the company so I don't know all the details but I believe this is yet another ultra-high end set.  Boxes will sell for 15,000 yen (~$142) and contain six cards - three base set cards, one insert card and two "special insert" cards (either autograph or memorabilia).  The base set will have 54 cards - nine per team.  The nine per team will be split between seven "star" players and the first and second picks from last falls' draft.  There are two insert sets - Pacific League Superstars (24 cards) and Gem (18 cards) - and the usual wide variety of autograph and memorabilia cards.  The set will be out on November 7th (right in between the two "Stars & Legends" sets).

- SCC released their third set for the KBO a couple weeks back and Dan Skrezyna has put information about the set up at the Trading Card Database.  The set is called "KBO Premium Collection" and as usual the details are somewhat confusing.  Dan's got 120 cards listed as the base set and each team is separately numbered.  Each team has 11 to 13 cards in the base set but the card numbers for each team go from 1 to 20.  That's because there are two subsets/insert sets called "holo" and "rare" that fill in many of those other numbers.  There are also autograph and jersey (and jersey autograph) cards available.

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Card Of The Week September 20

The Swallows hit back-to-back-to-back home runs to start their game today against the Carp.  Taiki Hamada led off the bottom of the first with his second home run of the year and Norichika Aoki followed with his 15th.  Tetsuto Yamada completed the trifecta with his 10th home run of 2020.  Here's a video showing all three home runs (H/T NPB Reddit):

Aoki's and Yamada's home runs both landed in the Carp's cheering section in the left field corner which was just adding insult to injury.

This was the fifth time in NPB history that a team had led off a game with three consecutive home runs and the first time since 1995. 

Here are cards of the three players, all from BBM Swallows team sets from over the years:

2019 BBM Swallows #S68

2006 BBM Swallows #TY65

2011 BBM Swallows #S45

Study Abroad - The Swallows and Hawks in Salinas

During the 1987-88 offseason, the California League team in Fresno had a problem.  Two problems, actually, but one of them was the direct cause of the other one.  The city had condemned the grandstand of Euless Park, the home of the team for 46 years.  "Condemned" is probably not a strong enough word - the grandstand was a wooden structure and had suffered termite damage.  The city ended up bulldozing the grandstand in the spring of 1988.  The condemnation of the grandstand caused the San Francisco Giants to terminate their working agreement with the team - an agreement that had begun 30 years earlier when the Giants had moved to the West Coast.  Fresno was forced to operate as an independent team for 1988, being loaned players from various organizations (including the Hanshin Tigers).  The team had to rent temporary bleachers along with trailers to serve as the locker rooms, team offices and concession stands.  Only 34,734 fans attended games in Fresno that season, the lowest total in the league.

With no prospect for a new ballpark for 1989, the owner of the team sold it to long time minor league operator Joe Buzas who moved the team to Salinas, putting an end to professional baseball in Fresno after 42 years.  It would be 10 years before Fresno would get another team - the Giants would move their Triple-A team to the city after they were displaced from Phoenix by the expansion Arizona Diamonbacks.

Salinas had hosted a minor league team off and on since 1954.  The most recent incarnation of the team, the Spurs, had entered the league as an expansion team in 1982 and was a farm team for the Cubs.  The Mariners took over the affiliation in 1984.  The team moved to Riverside to become the Riverside Red Wave after the 1987 season, leaving Salinas without baseball in 1988.

Buzas was not the sole owner of the new Salinas team (again dubbed the Spurs).  He had a partner, a 38 year old real estate investor named Don Nomura.  Nomura was born Don Engel to a Japanese mother and American father.  His mother left the family when he was very young and eventually married Nankai Hawks slugger Katsuya Nomura who adopted him.  He changed his name to Don Nomura and spend four seasons playing on the Yakult Swallows farm team.  He moved to Los Angeles after being released by Yakult in 1981 and eventually made a lot of money in real estate, enough to buy a 50% stake in the Salinas team.

While Buzas and Nomura had a ballpark they could play in in Salinas, they still had the other problem that the team had had in Fresno - no major league affiliate.  They had a partial working agreement with the San Francisco Giants which over the course of the entire season provided them with around half of the 40 players who eventually suited up for the Spurs that year.  They filled in the remainder of the roster in the same manner that other independent teams were forced to - getting the occasional player on loan from an major league team's organization and signing players that were no longer part of an organization.  And - as a number of independent teams had done in the late 1980's - they got players from Japan.

I don't know if Nomura took advantage of his Japanese baseball background and contacts but the two teams who provided players for the Spurs in 1989 were the Swallows (who Nomura had played for) and the Hawks (who his step-father had played for and managed).  The Hawks were in their first season under new ownership - after 50 years of being owned by Nankai and playing in Osaka they were now owned by Daiei and playing in Fukuoka.  The two teams provided a total of seven players - four from the Hawks and three from the Swallows.  In addition, the Swallows provided a coach, Kenichi "Ken" Kajima.

Buzas and Nomura hired Tim Ireland as the team's manager.  I don't know if they felt it was important to get someone with some experience with Japanese baseball for that role but Ireland had spent two seasons with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in the mid-1980's so he certainly qualified.

The team was not good.  They finished the season in last place in the North Division with a record of 51-91, the worst in the league.  They were 38 games behind first place Stockton (although only five games behind fourth place Modesto).  Their .218 team batting average and 3.23 runs per game was the league's worst as was the pitching staffs combined 4.07 ERA.  Attendance grew to 47,609 which was almost 13,000 more than in the previous year in Fresno although it was still by far the lowest total in the league.

Things changed a bit in 1990.  The team lost its partial working agreement with San Francisco and were forced to scramble to fill the entire roster*.  The Hawks and Swallows stepped up and provided the team with 11 players - 9 from the Hawks and 2 from the Swallows.  (It's kind of odd that they Swallows only sent two players since Don Nomura's step-father Katsuya had become Yakult's manager prior to that season - the younger Nomura had actually negotiated his step-father's contract with the team.)

*I seem to recall that Daiei had also bought into the team as well although I haven't found anything to back that memory up and I may be conflating it with Suntory Brewery's purchase of the Birmingham Barons.

They also ended up signing a handful of former major league players who were looking for an opportunity to get back to the big leagues including Andy Allanson, Rodney Craig, Leon "Bull" Durham and Steve Howe - only Howe and Allanson would ultimately be successful.  Howe had previous experience with an independent team with Japanese players, having played on the San Jose Bees in 1985.  The rest of the roster was filled out by the usual assortment of players lent from MLB organizations and unaffiliated players.  One notable player was Corey Paul who joined the team after being released by the Mariners.  Paul would go on to play a number of years in the independent Western League in the mid-90's and parlayed his success there into a four year stint playing in Taiwan (Taipei Suns of the Taiwan Major League), Japan (Seibu Lions) and Korea (Hyundai Unicorns) between 1999 and 2002.

The Hawks also provided the team with its manager.  Hidehiko "Hide" Koga would become the first (and to my knowledge only) Japanese manager of a professional baseball team in North America (although arguments can be made in favor of Don Wakamatsu and Dave Roberts who are both of Japanese descent).  The Hawks also provided a coach (Takayuki Kohno) as well as the team's trainer and operations manager.

The team didn't improve much on the field.  They again finished dead last in the North Division with the worst record in the league - 47-93.  The team improved its batting average to .243 and their runs scored per game to 4.04 but these were still last in the league.  Their ERA swelled to 4.63 although this was better than one other team - the California League's other independent team, the Reno Silver Sox (who had a partial agreement with the Cleveland Indians).  Of particular concern though was the fact that attendance plummeted to 33,465, over 14,000 less than the previous season and less even then their final season in Fresno!

On a personal note, I actually went to a game in Salinas that year.  I had gone to a conference for work in San Jose in May and spent a couple extra days both before and after it visiting my sister who was attending Stanford at the time.  One day I drove down to Monterey to go to the aquarium and spend the afternoon at Point Lobos State Park.  That evening I went to Salinas and saw the Spurs lose to Reno 4-0.  I took a couple pictures (but only a couple - this obviously was back in the days when you had to use real film!).  This first one is of the ballpark itself:

The other shows Steve Howe coaching at first.  He was recovering from an injury and didn't play in the game.  I was told the umpire behind him was the brother of Lenny Dykstra although I have no idea if that's true.

The scorecard at the top of this post is from the game.  I saw three of the Japanese players - Shikato Yamagita, Kenichi Yamanochi and Seiichi Murakami - all from the Hawks organization.

Not much changed in 1991.  The Spurs were still fully independent and were supplied with 11 players from Japan - six from the Hawks and five from the Swallows.  They were again supplemented by a handful of former MLB players trying to work their way back - Todd Cruz, Gordon Dillard, Jim Eppard, John Rabb and Angel Salazar.  None of them succeeded.

Koga was back as manager and Kohno also returned as a coach.  They were joined by Shuzo Arita who like the other two was from the Hawks organization.

The team's performance improved somewhat in 1991.  They still finished last in the North Division but their 55-81 record was one game better than San Bernardino's so for the first time they didn't have the worst record in the league.  Their .252 batting average was eighth in the league (although just slightly better than ninth place Palm Springs) and their 4.32 runs scored per game was good enough for ninth (although again just slightly ahead of Palm Springs).  The team's ERA continued to rise, however, although the 4.87 value was better than Reno's 5.13.

The team's improvement on the field was reflected in the attendance.  Salinas drew 66,079 fans in 1991.  For once it was not the lowest amount in the league - this was yet another category in which they finished slightly better than Palm Springs (who drew 64,871).

Off the field, 1992 was more of the same.  The Hawks and Swallows sent seven players to Salinas - at least three from each team (there's one player I haven't been able to track down).  They only signed one former MLB player - Freddie Toliver - who did make it back to the majors for 12 games with Pittsburgh in 1993.  Two other players on their roster on loan from other organizations eventually made the majors - Duane Singleton and Kevin Tolar.

There were two interesting additions to the roster that year, both Japanese players who weren't from the Hawks or Swallows.  Motoi Okoshi had gotten everyone's attention with a pretty good performance during the 1989 Koshien Tournament with Sendai Ikuei Gakuen High School and he went on to Waseda University after graduation.  He was disappointed in how little he was playing for Waseda and eventually quit the team and dropped out of school in the spring of 1992.  He contacted Nomura about playing for Salinas and ended up getting into 11 games that year, going 1-1 with a 3.42 ERA.

The other player was a 17 year old who had been expelled from high school and was given a job as the clubhouse boy as a favor from Nomura to the boy's parents.  He ended up pitching in the team's final game of the season (and final game in Salinas but I'm getting ahead of myself) and pitched a perfect inning, striking out one.  This, of course, was Makoto "Mac" Suzuki who would go on to become the third Japanese player in MLB and the first ever in the American League.

Once again Koga and Kohno were back as manager and coach although Arita did not return.  The Swallows sent Keisi Asano to be the pitching coach.

On the field the team's performance fell apart.  They finished with a record of 36-99 which was by far the worst in the league.  They finished an astonishing 46 1/2 games behind first place Stockton (managed by Ireland) and 28 1/2 games out of fourth.  The team's batting average dropped to .248 and their runs per game dropped to 3.9 - both the worst in the league.  Their ERA rose for the fourth straight season to 5.25 which was ninth in the league, just slightly better than Reno's 5.29.  Attendance dropped to 54,256, worst in the league again.

The demographics of the California League had changed over the four years that Buzas and Nomura had run the team in Salinas.  In 1989 only three of the ten teams in the league drew over 100,000.  In 1992 only three of the ten teams in the league drew UNDER 100,000.  The two owners sold the team to new owners who moved it to San Bernardino to replace the team that was moving to Rancho Cucamunga to become the Quakes.  This was the last team in affiliated baseball to call Salinas home although the city would host the Salinas Peppers of the independent Western League from 1995-97.

After selling the team, Don Nomura became a agent.  Mac Suzuki was his first client and he would eventually negotiate a deal between Suzuki and the Mariners in 1993.  Nomura would make his biggest splash by representing Hideo Nomo and taking advantage of a loophole in the standard NPB contract to have Nomo "retire" from NPB and sign with the Dodgers in 1995.

The Hawks and Swallows sent a total of 34 players during the four years the team was in Salinas (if you're wondering why the math doesn't add up it's because two players spent multiple seasons with the Spurs).  Here's the list of 34 plus Okoshi and Mac Suzuki:

Player Year Draft Career Notes
Kiyoshi Arai 1992 1990 Swallows 4th Yakult Swallows 1991-96, Yokohama Baystars 1997-2000, Orix BlueWave 2001-02
Toyotoshi Chikada 1989 1987 Hawks Outside Draft Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1988-90, Hanshin Tigers 1991
Koichi Emoto 1990 1984 Dragons 4th Chunichi Dragons 1985-89, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1989-91
Hidefumi Hara 1992 1990 Swallows 5th Yakult Swallows 1991-94
Kazutaka Ikesue 1991 1987 Swallows 4th Yakult Swallows 1988-93
Hiroyuki Ito 1992 ? ?
Yuki Kaseda 1989 1987 Swallows 2nd Yakult Swallows 1988-92
Hideki Kato 1992 1990 Hawks Outside Draft Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1991-?
Ryo Kawano 1991 1990 Swallows Outside Draft Yakult Swallows 1990-95, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1996-99, Chunichi Dragons 1999, Orix BlueWave 2000-01
Masahiro Kuoda 1989 1988 Swallows 4th Yakult Swallows 1989-97
Hideyuki Mifune 1991 1988 Hawks 2nd Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1989-93, Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1994-96, Kintetsu Buffaloes 1997-98
Seiichi Murakami 1990 1988 Hawks 4th Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1989-93, Hanshin Tigers 1995-99
Arihito Muramatsu 1991 1990 Hawks 6th Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1991-2003, Orix BlueWave/Buffaloes 2004-08, Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 2009-10 All Star 1996, 2003-04, Best 9 1996, Golden Glove 2003-04, Led PL in steals in 1996.  Played on 2004 Olympic team.
Takayuki Nishijima 1990, 1992 1989 Hawks Outside Draft Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1990-2000
Tsuyoshi Nishioka 1991 1986 Swallows 1st Yakult Swallows 1987-92, Orix BlueWave 1993-94 Not THAT Tsuyoshi Nishioka
Katsumasa Ohta 1991 1988 Hawks 6th Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1989-95
Yukio Ohtsubo 1991 1979 Hawks Outside Draft Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1980-89 Baseball Reference has two pages for him - here's the one with his NPB stats.
Yukitoshi Oka 1991 1988 Swallows 2nd Yakult Swallows 1989-95
Motoi Okoshi 1992 1992 Hawks 1st Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1993-2003 Drafted as a pitcher but injuries forced him to switch to the outfield in 1996.  
Kenichi Oshio 1991 1989 Swallows 4th Yakult Swallows 1990-99
Kenichi Otsuka 1990 1986 Hawks 4th Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1987-91, Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1992, Seibu Lions 1993
Yoshiki Otsuka 1990 1984 Hawks 3rd Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1985-91, Yokohama Taiyo Whales/Baystars 1992-96
Shigeki Sasaki 1990 1986 Swallows 5th Yakult Swallows 1987-92, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1993-97
Makoto "Mac" Suzuki 1992 2002 Orix 2nd Seatle Mariners 1993-99, Kansas City Royals 1999-2001, Colorado Rockies 2001, Milwaukee Brewers 2001, Kansas City Royals 2002, Orix BlueWave/Buffaloes 2003-05, Chicago Cubs 2006
Yasu Suzuki 1989 1986 Swallows 6th Yakult Swallows 1987-93
Ryuji "Dragon" Taguchi 1989 1984 Hawks 1st Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1985-90, 1994 Baseball Reference lists his Salinas stats with Shigeki Taguchi who had spent 1989 with Salt Lake City.
Keisaburo Tanoue 1990 1989 Hawks Outside Draft Fukuoka Daiei/Softbank Hawks 1990-07 Led PL in Winning Percentage in 2001.  
Hiroyuki Tashiro 1990 1989 Hawks 6th Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1989-90
Takashi Uchinokura 1992 1990 Hawks 2nd Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1991-2002
Kenichi Uchiyama 1990 1985 Swallows 3rd Yakult Swallows 1986-93
Tsutomu Yamada 1992 1985 Swallows 5th Yakult Swallows 1986-97, Hiroshima Toyo Carp 1998, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1999-2000
Yuji Yamaguchi 1989 1983 Hawks 2nd Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1984-98
Kenichi Yamanochi 1990, 1991 1988 Hawks 5th Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1989-94
Shikato Yanagita 1990 1987 Hawks 3rd Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1988-93, Yakult Swallows 1994-95, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1996-2001 All Star 1998.
Hideyuki Yasuda 1991 1985 Hawks 6th Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1986-95, Nippon-Ham Fighters 1996-97, Chunichi Dragons 1998-2000
Koichiro "Yoshi" Yoshinaga 1989 1987 Hawks 5th Nankai/Fukuoka Daiei Hawks 1988-00, Yomiuri Giants 2001-03 Baseball Reference has two pages for him - this one has his NPB stats.  All Star 1992-94, 1996, 1997, 1999.  Best 9 1994, 1996.

There were two team sets issued each of the four teams the Spurs were in Salinas.  ProCards issued team sets in all four years with the 1992 set issued under the "Fleer/ProCards" label.  Cal League issued team sets in 1989 and 1990 while Classic Best put out sets in 1991 and 1992.  Cal League also issued league All Star sets in all four seasons and a couple of the Japanese players also appear in those sets.

30 of the 34 Japanese players sent by the Hawks and Swallows appear in the Salinas team sets.  Hiroyuki Itoh, Kenichi Oishi, Keisaburo Tanoue, Hiroyuki Tashiro don't have cards in any Salinas team set.  Takayuki Nishijima played for Salinas in both 1990 and 1992 but only has cards in the 1992 sets.  Neither Okoshi or Mac Suzuki appear in team sets although Okoshi appears on a 1993 Tomy card in a Salinas uniform.  Only half of the Hawks and Swallows players have cards in Japan although both Okoshi and Mac Suzuki do.  In many cases the minor league cards are the first cards and possibly only cards these players had.

There's a number of misspelling of the player's names on the cards along with just some general confusion on a couple of them.

I've swiped images from TradingCardDB, COMC and Ebay of all the minor league cards to include in this post.  I'm also including images of a Japanese card for all the players who have one.  I'm including the Salinas card of Okoshi as well.

Kiyoshi Arai

1992 Classic-Best Salinas Spurs #1

1992 Fleer ProCards #3761

1995 BBM #419

Toyotoshi Chikada

1989 Cal League #131

1989 ProCards #1812

Koichi Emoto

1988 Takara Dragons #58

1990 Cal League #121

1990 ProCards #2715

Hidefumi Hara

1992 Classic-Best Salinas Spurs #18

1992 Fleer ProCards #3768

Kazutaka Ikesue

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #21

1991 ProCards #2236

Yuki Kaseda

1989 Cal League #130

1989 ProCards #1808

Hideki Kato

1992 Classic-Best Salinas Spurs #10

1992 Fleer ProCards #3764

Ryo Kawano

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #11

1991 ProCards #2256
1999 BBM #465

Masahiro Kouda

1989 Cal League #134

1989 ProCards #1804

Hideyuki Mifune

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #4

1991 Cal League California League All Stars #32

1991 ProCards #2252
1992 BBM #360

Seiichi Murakami

1990 Cal League #119

1990 ProCards #2717

Arihito Muramatsu

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #10

1991 ProCards #2257
1997 BBM #B8

Takayuki Nishijima

1992 Classic-Best Salinas Spurs #7

1992 Fleer ProCards #3771
1998 BBM Hawks #FD62

Tsuyoshi Nishioka

1989 Takara Swallows #21

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #18

1991 ProCards #2241

Katsumasa Ohta

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #14

1991 ProCards #2242

Yukio Ohstubo

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #16

1991 ProCards #2243

Yukitoshi Oka

1990 Takara Swallows #19

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #15

1991 ProCards #2244

Motoi Okoshi

1993 Tomy #401

1993 BBM #409

Kenichi Otsuka

1990 Cal League #120

1990 ProCards #2716

Yoshiki Otsuka

1990 Cal League #141

1990 ProCards #2722
1991 Takara Hawks #35

Shigeki Sasaki

1990 Cal League #118

1990 ProCards #2719

Makoto Suzuki

2003 Calbee #082

Yasu Suzuki

1989 Cal League #135

1989 ProCards #1814

Ryuji Taguchi

1989 Cal League #132

1989 ProCards #1809

Keisaburo Tanoue

2001 Upper Deck #150

Takashi Uchinokura

1991 BBM #124

1992 Classic-Best Salinas Spurs #24

1992 Fleer ProCards #3765

Kenichi Uchiyama

1990 Cal League #122

1990 ProCards #2713

Tsutomu Yamada

1992 Classic-Best Salinas Spurs #19

1992 Cal League California League All Stars #13

1992 Fleer ProCards #3757
1994 BBM Late Series #579

Yuji Yamaguchi

1989 Cal League #133

1989 ProCards #1813
1996 BBM #430

Kenichi Yamanochi

1990 Cal League #140

1990 ProCards #2724
1991 Takara Hawks #60

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #7

1991 ProCards #2254

Shikato Yanagida

1990 Cal League #139

1990 Cal League California League All Stars #44

1990 ProCards #2723
1999 BBM Nippon Series #S16

Hideyuki Yasuda

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #3

1991 Cal League California League All Stars #40

1991 ProCards #2248
1993 Tomy #186

Koichiro Yoshinaga

1989 Cal League #136

1989 ProCards #1810

1999 Calbee #270 (Gold Signature Parallel)
I wanted to add some comments about the manager and coaches.  Hidehiko Koga had a very strange playing career.  He was a pitcher for Kinki University but when the Yomiuri Giants signed him in 1962, he switched to the outfield.  He was released by Yomiuri after the 1964 season and was invited to come to North America by Cappy Harada who was working as the San Francisco Giants' Far Eastern scout.  Koga ended up back on the mound for the Giants' Arizona instructional league team in the fall of 1965 and then spent 1966 with the Decatur Commodores of the Class A Midwest League.  He was injured in a car accident and missed the entire 1967 season (San Francisco released him that spring) but 1968 saw him pitching for the Lodi Crushers, the Chicago Cubs' team in the California League.  In 1969 he was a member of Toru Mori's Tokyo Dragons of the ill-fated Global League.  He spent a couple offseasons in the early 1970's playing for Maracaibo in the Venezuelan Winter League before finally hanging up his spikes in 1973.  He eventually ended up in the Hawks organization in time to run the Spurs.  He also coached for the Hawks (1996-2000) and Marines (2004-08) as well as for the Sonoma County Crushers of the independent Western League in 2001.

1990 Cal League #142

1990 ProCards #2735

1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #24

1991 ProCards #2260

1992 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #25

1992 ProCards #3773
1998 BBM Hawks #FD5
Kenichi Kajima was a coach for the 1989 Spurs.  Kajima had been the Swallows second round pick in the 1976 draft and pitched for them for 12 years.  His best season was probably 1980 when he went 15-8 with a 2.76 ERA.  He was a five time All Star (1977, 1979-80, 1983-84) and made three appearance in the 1978 Nippon Series, giving up just one hit and one run in 5 2/3 innings while striking out five (although walking four).  He coached for Yakult for 11 years after he retired after the 1988 season - Salinas was his first experience as a coach.  He has a card in the 1989 Cal League team set but not in the ProCards set.

1979 Yamakatsu JY8 #92
1989 Cal League #148
Like Kajima, Takayuki Kohno's first coaching experience came with Salinas.  He was the third round pick of the Nankai Hawks in the 1973 draft and spent his entire 16 year career with them.  He was Nankai's regular second baseman in the late 70's/early 80's before moving to the outfield to make room for Jeff Doyle.  He had a streak of 15 games in which he scored a run in 1982.  He made the All Star team four times (1979, 1981-82, 1984).  His older brother Kazumasa played for the Yomiuri Giants from 1970 to 1986.  He had three separate stints coaching for the Hawks before coaching for independent teams in Japan (Nagasaki Saints, Kishu Rangers) and Korea (Goyang Wonders).  He's been working with the Kanaflex corporate league team for the last few years.

While he officially retired as a player at the end of the 1989 season, he made some appearances with Salinas during his three seasons coaching for the Spurs.  He made a couple plate appearances in 1990 and 1992 but actually filled in the field some in 1991, getting into 16 games including 13 at second base.  Baseball Reference has his Salinas stats listed on a separate page (under "Takayuki Kohno") than his NPB stats (under "Takayuki Kono").

1990 Cal League #143

1990 ProCards #2736

1991 Class Best Salinas Spurs #26

1991 ProCards #2262

1992 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #26

1992 ProCards #3775
2018 BBM Hawks 80th Anniversary #15
Shuzo Arita had not officially retired as a player when he coached for Salinas in 1991.  He'd drafted by the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the second round of the 1972 draft.  He and Masataka Nashida split the catching duties for the Buffaloes for much of the 1970's and the first half of the 1980's.  He was pretty much Hall Of Famer Keishi Suzuki's personal catcher for the last years of the pitcher's career.  Once Suzuki retired Kintetsu traded Arita to the Giants where he was the backup catcher for a couple years.  He moved to the Hawks for the 1990 season and was a player-coach that season.  He made two All Star teams (1976, 1978) and won Diamond Glove awards in 1975 and 1976.  He also won the Comeback Player award in 1988.  He hit two home runs in the 1979 Nippon Series including a two run shot off Yutaka Enatsu in Game Two.  His older brother Tetsuzo spent five years pitching for the Carp from 1969 to 1973.  He officially retired at the end of the 1991 season and later coached for Hanshin and Kintetsu.

1990 Takara Hawks #22
1991 Classic Best Salinas Spurs #27

1991 ProCards #2261
Keishi Asano was in his third season of coaching for the Swallows when they sent him to Salinas.   Asano was a ninth(!) round pick of the Sankei Atoms in the 1966 draft (first phase).  Despite being such a low pick he made his debut with the ichi-gun Atoms early in the 1967 season and ended up getting into 50 games.  The Atoms used him in middle relief for his first couple seasons before converting him to a starter in 1971.  He had a couple decent seasons for some not very good Yakult teams before he was dealt to the Yomiuri Giants for Makoto Kurata after the 1976 season.  He won the Comeback Player award in his first season with Yomiuri.  He retired after the 1984 season.  He made the All Star team once (1974).  He was a TV commentator during the late 1980's before becoming a coach for Yakult.  He also coached for the Fighters and Baystars as well as the Chinatrust Whales of the CPBL and a couple colleges.

1992 Classic Best #29

1992 ProCards #3774
2008 BBM Back To The 70's #007