Friday, May 7, 2021

"2019" Vittum Foreign Attack Set

My copy of Dan Skrezyna's latest Vittum "Foreign Attack" set arrived at my house on Monday, the same day that my JAUCE order showed up.  Since the officially licensed KBO baseball card sets don't include the foreign players, Dan's been doing these sets for the last few years to fill in the gaps.  Each set has featured all the foreign players in the KBO for a given season and the new set is for 2019.

The set contains 39 cards - 38 player cards plus a checklist card.  Dan's done his usual fine job of coming up with an attractive card design.  Here's an example front and back of a card:

Dan only had 20 sets printed up and has hand numbered the backs of each card in the set.

Here's some more examples:






Dan has a placeholder for the set over at the Trading Card Database and I assume he'll be adding the checklist and card scans pretty soon.  I don't know how many sets Dan has left so if you're interested in picking one up I would recommend you contact him as soon as possible at either his blog or his Twitter account.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

2021 Calbee Series One

Calbee's Series One set, the first of their expected three sets for 2021, was published about a month and half ago in the middle of March.  Calbee's sets tend to be very similar from year to year and this one is no exception to that.  The base set contains 88 cards - 72 player cards (6 per team), a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset and four checklist cards.

Calbee has been alternating between having the players names in English or Japanese for the past six years or so and since 2021 is an odd numbered year the names this year are in English.  The big difference in the design this year is that the font for the names has changed a little and the letters are black with a white outline.  You may think that's not a big difference but for Calbee that's a sea change.

I've usually felt that Series One's a bit light on the big name players and that's the case again this year.  The biggest stars in the set are probably Tetsuto Yamada, Seiya Suzuki, Tomoya Mori, Shuta Tonosaki, Takehiro Norimoto and Nobuhiro Matsuda.  There are no rookies and only a couple foreign players (Tyler Austin, Neftali Soto and Dayan Viciedo).  There doesn't appear to be any cards of players who switched teams over the winter.

I beat up Calbee all the time for their "mundane photography" (as Sean puts it) on their player cards and this set really gives me no reason to stop doing that.  The vast majority of the photos used fall into the "batters batting, pitchers pitching and catchers catching" categories.  There's really only two that don't - Sosuke Genda is shown fielding and Naoki Yoshikawa is shown running the bases.  In complete fairness though, some of the photos are very nice.  My one other complaint is that there are no player cards with a horizontal format.  Here's some examples:








The 12 cards in the "Exciting Scene" subset show an...uh...exciting scene from last year for each team.  This is a subset that Calbee includes every so often - the last set that included it was Series Three from 2019.  Some of the players included in this subset are Hayato Sakamoto (for his 3000th hit), Hotoka Yamakawa (his 150th home run), Naoki Miyanishi (his 350th hold) and Ukyo Shuto (12 straight games with a stolen base).  Other players in it are Yudai Ohno, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Hideaki Wakui and Shintaro Fujinami.  Some of the photos on these cards are really good:



The last four cards are the ubiquitous checklist cards.  As is usually the case for Series One, these show highlights from late last season and the post season.  Card #C-01 shows the Hawks celebrating their Nippon Series victory on November 25th, Card #C-02 shows the Giants celebrating their Central League pennant clinching on October 30th, Card #C-03 shows Yudai Fujioka's home run to put the Marines up for good against the Lions on November 8th and clinch a spot in the Climax Series and Card #C-04 shows Koji Chikamoto stealing his 30th base on November 1st which I think made him the first Hanshin Tigers player to steal 30 bases in each of his first two seasons.  Here's the Fujioka and Chikamoto cards:



You can see all the cards (including the "Title Holder" and "Legend" insert cards and the limited edition "Team Strikeout Leader" box set available from Calbee's Amazon shop) over at Jambalaya.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

2021 BBM Rookie Edition

Rookie Edition, BBM's annual set for the players taken in the latest NPB player draft, was released about two months ago.  I had picked up a set through JAUCE but decided to wait until I also used them to get the Calbee Series One and BBM 1st Version sets and could have all three sets sent in one shipment.  So I'm a bit late getting around to this set this year.

If you've read any of my posts about the previous editions of this set, you pretty much already know a lot of what I'm going to say.  Let's get my annual generic comment out of the way before getting into the specifics:  as usual the photos of the players are all from the press conferences that the teams had to introduce the draft class so they're the usual boring photos of guys holding up a baseball or a bat or raising a first in a "guts" pose.  It would be SO much more interesting if they showed the players wearing their high school/college/corporate league/indy league uniforms instead.  Hell, I'd take their high school graduation photos like Topps did for their draft pick cards back in the early 90's just for the change of pace.

This year's set contains 135 cards which are split up into 123 cards for the players taken in last fall's draft and the 12 card "Early Days" subset.  The drafted players are from both the regular phase of the draft as well as the ikusei (development player) draft.  This is pretty much the only set BBM does that will include the ikusei players so for a bunch of those players this may be the only baseball card they ever have.  

Most years this will be the first card for all of these players but this year a handful already have had cards.  10 of the drafted players played for the Collegiate National Team in either 2018 or 2019 (or both) and had cards in Panini's 2019 and 2020 USA Baseball Stars & Stripes sets.  This includes several of the hot rookies of the season so far - Teruaki Sato, Shugo Maki, Takahisa Hayakawa and Hiromi Itoh.  In addition there were Epoch One cards issued back in December for the six players the Dragons took in the regular phase of the draft.

The card design is pretty basic and for the sixth year in a row features the player centered in a geometric figure.  This year it's either the bottom half of a hexagon or it's meant to be the shape of a home plate.  Here's some sample cards:







The Giants have the most players in the set as they picked a whopping 19 between the regular (7 players) and ikusei (12 players) phases.  In fact the Giants picked so many players they ran out of names and had to reuse one that one of their players was already using:


OK, so that's kind of a poor joke but my next comment may sound like a joke but isn't - for the fourth year in a row there's a "secret" version of the cards for each team's first round draft pick.  These are short printed photo variations that feature a different boring posed photo of the player.  I didn't get any of these.

Every year BBM includes some active or OB players in a subset in this set - basically as an excuse to include autographed cards of them.  The past few years this has been in the form of a 12 card subset called "Early Days" which features one player from each team shown when they were drafted.  Players featured this year include Sho Nakata, Eigoro Mogi, Yudai Ohno, Keta Sano and Ayumu Ishikawa.  Here's Nakata's card:


Despite my complaints about this set I still feel it is an essential set to get every year.  I just wish BBM would do something a little different with it.

As always you can check out all the cards in the set over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Card Of The Week May 2

Last weekend Masahiro Tanaka of the Eagles won his first game in Japan since 2013 and this past week Wei-yin Chen of the Tigers won his first NPB game since 2011, beating his former team the Dragons at Nagoya Dome*.  (H/T NPB Reddit)

*Yeah, I know it has a corporate name now but until they send me a check, I'm not using it.

The big difference between Tanaka and Chen is that Tanaka spent 2020 in MLB with the Yankees while Chen actually played in Japan last year, making four starts with the Chiba Lotte Marines and going 0-3 despite posting an ERA of 2.42.  Here's his 2019 BBM Fusion card (#608) from the set's 1st Version Update subset - his first Japanese card since 2011:

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Ball Stitches

Back in December Night Owl Cards did a pair of posts about something interesting about baseball card designs.  When you look at the spot on a baseball where the seams are closest together (the "sweet spot" for autographs), you'll notice that the stitches on the ball go in opposite directions.  The question that Night Owl set up to answer was - how often are the stitches on a baseball accurately depicted in the artwork on a baseball card?  How many times are the stitches on the seams incorrectly drawn going in the same direction?  You can check out his posts to see what he found but it inspired me to do a similar post about Japanese cards.

The first thing I discovered when I started looking into this is that there aren't a whole lot of Japanese cards that use a baseball graphic on them, at least not a baseball graphic that shows two seams.  I have cards from roughly 1400 card sets and I only found about 30 to 40 that used the graphic on either the front or the back (or both) - although I will admit I didn't thoroughly check EVERY set so this is not going to be a comprehensive list.  (I'm also not showing examples of every set I found that did it correctly.)

What I found was that most of the time the baseballs were depicted correctly with the stitches going in opposite directions.  As an example, here's a 1998 BBM card which is the only time the BBM flagship set front design had a baseball on it:

1998 BBM #523

The backs of BBM's flagship sets from 1991 to 1997 had the card number in a baseball.  These baseballs were correctly depicted as well:

1991 BBM #288 (Kazuyoshi Tatsunami)

The 2013-16 Classic sets reused the 1991-94 designs and maintained the correct stitches:

2013 BBM Classic #036 (Alex Ramirez)

The only other BBM back I found that had the card number in a correctly drawn baseball was the 2017 Time Travel 1975 set:

2017 BBM Time Travel 1975 #36 (Hiromitsu Kadota)

Here's a bunch of other cards that have correct baseballs on the front:

1975/76/77 Calbee #333

1997 BBM Diamond Heroes #47

1998 BBM "Baseball's Best" #R1

2000 Upper Deck Ovation #61

2000 Power League #174

2015 Eagles #051

2016 Epoch Baystars Season Achievements #17

2019 Epoch Giants Legendary Players #32 (Shuichi Murata)

The sets I found that had incorrectly drawn baseballs were an eclectic group.  One of the earliest cards I have that shows a baseball has it incorrect - the 1948 JCM 2 set has it wrong on the back:

1948 JCM 2 (Takeshi Doigaki)

Here's a couple more recent cards that have it wrong on the front of the card:

2000 BBM O-N #ON-B25

2015 BBM Genesis #075

Here's a couple that got it wrong on the back:

2008 Lions #40

2015 BBM Buffaloes Achievement #12 (Masataka Nashida)

There were four "Achievement" sets with a similar design released by BBM in the winter of 2014-15 with the other three being for the Hawks, Whales and Braves and the baseballs on the back of the cards are incorrect in all four sets.

Epoch's NPB sets have not used baseballs in their designs but the "promotion" cards issued for the sets in 2019 and 2020 have a graphic on them that does.  The stitches on the baseballs on the 2019 cards incorrectly go in the same direction:

2019 Epoch NPB #090 Promotion

The baseballs on the 2020 cards are wrong in a completely unique way - the two seams are interrupted by the word "PROMOTION" and go in opposite directions on either side of the word.  The stitches on the top of the word point down while the ones below the word point up.

2020 Epoch NPB #329 Promotion

The 2012 BBM Hawks set uses baseballs on the front of the "regular" cards as well as the front and back of the "Newcomer" subset.  It's drawn wrong in all three places:

2012 BBM Hawks #H62

2012 BBM Hawks #H91

2012 BBM Hawks #H91

You may have noticed that the front of the "Newcomer" card strongly resembles the 1968 Topps "Game" cards while the back looks an awful lot like the backs of the 1973 Topps set.  Topps depicted the baseballs correctly in both of those instances however.

There are two other sets that I wanted to mention that kind of dodged the whole thing about trying to get the direction of the stitches correct.  They simply didn't have their stitches pointing in ANY direction:

1990 Calbee #53

1994 BBM Tigers #T-42 (Tsuyoshi Shinjyo)