Sunday, January 31, 2021

Card Of The Week January 31

The big news of the past week was Masahiro Tanaka's return to NPB after seven years in MLB.  I'm not sure what makes me happiest here - his leaving the Yankees or his rejoining the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles - but either way I'm pleased.  Here's his "other" 2007 BBM rookie card - this one's from the 2nd Version set (#579):

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

2020 BBM Fusion

Fusion, BBM's final set for 2020, came out a little over a month ago.  This was about a month later than normal.  The base set contains 160 cards split into four separate sections that are unrelated and are separately numbered - the 99 "regular" cards, the 24 "Title Holder" cards, the 24 "1st Version Update" cards and the 13 "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards.

The "regular" cards act as a season summary.  I struggle every year to try to explain how this set works so we'll see if it's any clearer this time.  47 of the "regular" cards feature an active player who achieved some notable feat during the season while the remaining 52 cards feature an OB player who did something in past that was related to what the active players did.

This may make more sense with an example.  Card #03 celebrates Tigers pitcher Yuki Nishi hitting a home run on Opening Day.  Card #04 shows Taiyo Whales pitcher Masaji Hiramatsu who homered on Opening Day in 1975.  Here are the two cards:

#03 (left) and #04 (right)

The cards are ordered by the date that the active players did whatever it was they did.  The active player always comes first in the checklist and then is followed by one (or more) OB players (except for one time where there's two consecutive active players).  As usual I only know the significance of a handful of the cards such as Tomoyuki Sugano's 12 game winning streak, Yasuhiro Ogawa's no-hitter and Yudai Ohno's scoreless innings streak.  There's a couple milestones like Kodai Senga's 1000th strikeout although most of the major milestones are commemorated in the "Great Record" insert set that I'll talk a little later.  Other players featured include Yuki Yanagita, Koji Chikamoto, Seiya Suzuki, Sho Nakata, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Kensuke Kondoh, Tetsuto Yamada, Hayato Sakamoto, Hideto Asamura and Tomoya Mori.  There are two players - Munetaka Murakami and Masao Morishita - who have two cards in the subset.  Departing from most other BBM sets the cards are not split evenly between the teams - each team has between two (Marines, Dragons, Buffaloes, Baystars) and eight (Swallows) cards.  12 of the cards have "secret" versions - short printed photo variations.






The OB players featured include Hall Of Famers Isao Harimoto, Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Yutaka Fukumoto, Masaaki Koyama, Hiroshi Gondoh, Manabu Kittabeppu, Yutaka Ohno and Victor Starffin.  Both Yukio Tanaka's are in the set - the pitcher from the 80's and the more famous batter.  One player -  Makoto Shimada - has two separate cards.  There is one player who was active in MLB in 2020 - Yoshihisa Hirano.  The OB cards also include a card for Kyuji Fujikawa, who was active in NPB in 2020 but his card commemorates something he did in 2017.





I should mention that the final card in this subset that has a unique design - card #99 commemorates Hayato Sakamoto reaching 2000 hits in his career:


The "Title Holder" subset features the 2020 statistical leaders for 12 categories for each league - Batting Average, Home Runs, RBIs, Hits, OBP, Stolen Bases, ERA, Winning Percentage, Wins, Saves, Hold Points and Strikeouts.  If a player led the league in multiple categories then he has multiple cards - for example Kazuma Okamoto led the Central League in Home Runs and RBIs so he has two cards in the subset.  If two or more players share a title, all of them are featured on that card.  There are three cards that show multiple players.  The Leader cards are numbered #TH01 to #TH24.  



The "1st Version Update" features cards of players who either didn't appear in either the 1st or 2nd Version sets this year or were traded since their appearance.  Actually I think only DJ Johnson of the Eagles falls into that latter category - he had a card with the Carp in the 1st Version set.  At 24 cards this is the largest edition of this subset in the five years that BBM has been doing the Fusion set.  Like the "regular" cards, the 24 cards are NOT divided evenly among the 12 teams.  The Marines have the most with four cards while the Baystars have none.  Players featured in this subset include Wei-Yen Chen, Hirokazu Sawamura, Robert Suarez and Sachiya Yamasaki.  Pacific League Rookie Of The Year Kaima Taira is included as well as Satoshi Nakajima, who took over as the manager for Orix in August.  The cards are numbered #601 to #624 in continuation of the checklist for the 1st and 2nd Version sets.



The numbering for the "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards - #FP14 to #FP26 - is a continuation of the numbering of the "Ceremonial First Pitch History" cards from the 2nd Version set.  The difference is that these cards all feature First Pitch ceremonies from this year while 2nd Version ones featured ones from previous years.  There's one retired baseball player - Choji Murata - and the usual collection of Japanese celebrities from a variety of fields.  There's the usual assortment of Idols - Nonoa AoiShiori Kubo, and Airi Suzuki - along with actress/model Riho Takada, singer/actress Nozomi Nishida and singer Thelma Aoyama.  There's a couple athletes - golfer Mika Miyazato, jockey Reika Sekimoto and rugby player Yuna Sato.  There are also cards for the comedy duo Timon D and male geisha Roland.  My favorite of the cards is for Enka singer Sachiko Kobayashi who threw out the first pitch at a Lions game in October - or more accurately had the Lions mascot throw out the first pitch for her - while dressed in a very elaborate costume.  Kobayashi (2015 2nd Version), Takada (2016 2nd Version) and Suzuki (2019 2nd Version) have appeared in previous "Ceremonial First Pitch" subsets.



There are two non-premium insert sets for the set - "Legendary Players" and "Great Records" - that I picked up along with the base set.  "Legendary Players" features 12 OB player - one from each team.  Each player appears in the "regular" set although there's a bit of a twist this year - several of the players are pictured with a different team in the insert card than their regular card.  For some this is just the same team going by a different name - Lotte Orions vs Chiba Lotte Marines for Kiyoshi Hatsushiba, Fukuoka Daiei Hawks vs Fukuoka Softbank Hawks for Hiroshi Shibahara, Hanyu Braves vs Orix BlueWave for Nobuyuki Hoshino - although Takashi Saito is pictured with the Eagles on his base set card and the Baystars on his insert card.  The other players appearing in the insert set are Taigen Kaku, Koichi Isobe, Yukio Tanaka (the hitter), Masahiro Kawai, Masaaki Koyama, Manabu Kitabeppu, Kenshin Kawakami and Tsutomu Wakamatsu.


The "Great Record" insert set features 24 active players - two from each team - who all reached some milestone in 2020.  This includes Sakamoto's 2000 hits along with Adam Jones' 2000 hits between MLB and NPB, Sugano's 100th win, the 1500th hit for Takeya Nakamura, Yohei Ohshima and Tomotaka Sakaguchi, the 1000th hit for Daichi Suzuki, Jose Lopez (NPB only) and Yuki Yanagita and the 250th home run for Sho Nakata.  I was kind of amused that they had to scramble to come up with a second milestone for the Hanshin Tigers after Yuki Nishi's 1500 innings pitched - they went with Ryuhei Obata's first career hit.


As always you can see all the cards over at JambalayaRyan did a post about this set a couple weeks ago as well.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Card Of The Week January 24

I wanted to share two recent Ebay wins I received this past week.

BBM used to occasionally do a kind of update to their flagship set back in the days before they switched to issuing the flagship set as two sets (1st & 2nd Versions) in 2002.  They'd essentially do a second printing of the set but pull all the cards for a team (or two) and replace them with new photos and card numbers.  The new cards are referred to as "Late Series".  BBM did this six out of the eight years between 1994 and 2001.  With the exception of 1994, the "Late Series" cards are less common than the regular cards.

In 1995 BBM not only replaced all the cards of the Chiba Lotte Marines with ones that showed the Marines new uniforms but they also added five additional cards.  Three of these were for Americans who had signed with NPB teams late enough that they didn't make the regular set - Kevin Mitchell, Terry Bross and Rich Monteleone.  The other two cards were for a pair of players who had been traded for each other - Masato Yoshii and Tatsuji Nishimura.  While the updated Marines cards aren't super rare, for some reason these other five cards are.  I had never seen any of them.

Until a couple weeks ago.

I discovered that an Ebay seller in Taiwan had the Mitchell card up for sale at a very reasonable "Buy-It-Now" price and I snapped it up.  I was pleasantly surprised that it arrived relatively quickly.

Mitchell is one of the poster children for dame gaijin or "bad foreigner".  He'd signed a 400 million yen contract with the Hawks in early 1995.  It was the most expensive contract in NPB history at that point.  Things started out well when he hit a grand slam in his first at bat on Opening Day against the Lions, becoming just the second player ever to do so in their first NPB at bat (Norihiro Komada was the first).  But he complained of a knee injury and left the team without their permission to return to the US in May for treatment.  He later returned to Japan but left again in August while still suffering knee injuries.  The Hawks released him after this second unauthorized trip to the US.  He ended up getting into just 37 games, hitting .300 with 8 home runs and 28 RBIs.

1995 BBM #648

The other card I received this past week isn't really related to Japanese baseball - although the player in question did spend a season with the Kochi Fighting Dogs of the Shikoku Island League in 2017.  The Sydney Blue Sox of the Australian Baseball League made a splash a few months back when they announced that 48 year old Manny Ramirez would be playing for them this season.

Unfortunately, it never ended up coming together.  Ramirez traveled to Sydney and trained with the team but he suffered some unspecified medical issue that prevented him from playing in the Blue Sox' first couple games of the season.  Then new restrictions on travel after a COVID-19 outbreak on Sydney's North Shore required the Blue Sox season to be suspended for about a month.  The team announced that they had released him a couple of weeks ago

The Blue Sox had given away or sold a team set during their opening series against Melbourne the weekend of December 18th and the Ramirez card for the set made its way to Ebay where I grabbed it.  Here's the front and back of it:

UPDATE - My friend Steve Smith in Australia sent me a DM on Twitter with more details about the distribution of the Blue Sox cards:  "The Blue Sox sold the cards, in packs, $7 for 5 cards. They went on sale on the opening night (Thursday) [December 17th] of the series against Melbourne. The teams only played the first two games before a Covid outbreak in Sydney forced Melbourne to drive the 9hrs back immediately to ensure they were not forced into 14 days compulsory quarantine when returning to Melbourne and the closing of the interstate borders.  The Blue Sox then put the packs for sale on line, and they sold out inside the first week."  Thanks for the information, Steve!

Thursday, January 21, 2021

2020 Calbee Samurai Japan set

Calbee issued a set for the Samurai Japan team back at the end of November.  This is the fourth time in five years that Calbee has issued such a set - skipping only 2018.  This particular instance of the set features the 2019 Premier 12 roster with the exception of Shun Yamaguchi, who spent 2020 in the US and Yoshihiro Maru for some unknown reason.  Despite the team being the Premier 12 roster there doesn't appear to be anything in the set that actually mentions the tournament by name.

There are 37 cards in the set which makes it look like it's similar in size to the 2016 and 2017 set (which were each 36 cards) and seven cards smaller than last year's set but that's a little deceiving.  There's only 27 players in the set (well, 26 players plus manager Atsunori Inaba).  The set also has a 10 card "Starting Lineup" subset which means that 10 of the 26 players have more than one card.

The set includes a bunch of big names like Seiya Suzuki, Hayato Sakamoto, Shota Imanaga, Masataka Yoshida, Hideto Asamura, Yudai Ohno, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Kensuke Kondoh and Nobuhiro Matsuda.  It also includes Tetsuto Yamada and Yasuaki Yamasaki who are the only two players to appear in all four of Calbee's Samurai Japan sets.  At the other end of the spectrum this is the first appearance in a Samurai Japan set for Asamura, Hiroshi Kaino, Shinya Kayama, Takayuki Kishi, Kota Nakagawa, Kan Ohtake and Ukyo Shuto.

Like the previous sets, the cards have a "kira" finish and look a lot like the "Star" insert cards from Calbee's regular sets.  As usual there's a lot of "batters batting, pitchers pitching, catchers catching" poses on the cards.  As was the case in last year's set, the player names are all in Japanese.  Here's some examples of the "regular" cards:

#17 Tetsuto Yamada

#06 Hiroshi Kaino

#20 Ryosuke Kikuchi

#07 Shota Imanaga

#18 Sosuke Genda

#09 Rei Takahashi

The 10 "Starting Lineup" players are Imanaga (P), Tsubasa Aikawa (C), Asamura (1B!), Yamada (2B), Matsuda (3B), Sakamoto (SS), Shuta Tonosaki (OF), Kondoh (OF), Suzuki (OF) and Yoshida (DH).  Here's the Matsuda and Suzuki cards:

#SJ-05 Nobuhiro Matsuda

#SJ-09 Seiya Suzuki

As I've mentioned numerous times in the past, I'm a sucker for National Team sets so as usual I really like this set.  You can see all the cards over at Jambalaya (although their images for the cards are terrible).

I'm hoping if the Olympics are able to be held this year and they still have a baseball competition that Calbee will be back next fall with a Samurai Japan set featuring the Olympic team.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Invoice And Goodwill

I didn't really intend to but it seems like lately I've been doing a series of posts on things I didn't know about NPB farm teams.  Today's installment is about the other team I just discovered had a stretch where their farm team did not share their name.  

To recap, the two teams I previously knew had had a separate name for their ni-gun team were the Orix BlueWave/Buffaloes and the Yokohama Baystars.  Orix's farm team was Kobe Surpass due to a naming rights agreement with a construction company and the Baystars' team was the Shonan SeaRex, so named as a marketing move by the team to build a separate identify for the farm team.  

The third team that I just discovered had done this was the Saitama Seibu Lions.  There was a three year stretch in the mid-00's where their farm team was renamed as part of the naming rights deal for their ballpark.  In 2005 and 2006 the team had made an agreement with a company called Invoice and the Seibu Dome was known as the "Invoice Seibu Dome".  The farm team uniforms had "Invoice" across the chest and the logo on the hat was Invoice's rather than the "Kimba The White Lion" logo that the Lions had been using for 25 years.

It turns out that I haven't been paying close enough attention to my baseball cards from those two years.  I've only found one appearance of an "Invoice" uniform in any BBM flagship sets:

2006 BBM 2nd Version #509

But I found several on the 2005 and 2006 BBM Lions team sets.  Keep in mind that I don't have more than a handful of cards from either set so this is not a comprehensive list of "Invoice" cards:

2005 BBM Lions #L008

2006 BBM Lions #L066

2006 BBM Lions #L050

2006 BBM Lions #L064

2006 BBM Lions #L024

After 2006 the Lions entered into a naming rights agreement with a company called Goodwill and the ballpark named changed to the "Goodwill Dome".  As with Invoice, "Goodwill" now appeared on the farm team uniforms.  The deal was supposed to last five years but Goodwill had some sort of scandal involving illegal behavior and they and the Lions scrapped the deal after just one year.

I do not know of any baseball cards showing the Goodwill uniforms.  There aren't any in the 2007 BBM flagship sets and I don't have any cards from the 2007 BBM Lions set (yet).  I can show this blurb from the mook Professional Baseball Uniforms Encyclopedia 1936-2013 that has both the Invoice and Goodwill uniforms:

I'm not sure why the text indicates that they wore the Goodwill uniform in 2008.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Card Of The Week January 17

I was looking through my collection of BBM Orix team set cards from the 00's the other day, looking to see if I had any cards showing a player wearing a "Kobe Surpass" uniform.  "Kobe Surpass" was the name that Orix dubbed their farm team from 2000 to 2008 as the result of a naming rights agreement with Anabuki Construction ("Surpass" is a brand of condominium that they build).  I didn't find any but I did come across this 2007 card of Kosuke Katoh looking pretty unhappy.  Katoh had been the second round pick of Lotte in the 2000 draft and had a couple good years for the Marines before being derailed by injuries.  Still, he'd had high expectations going into 2007.  He started out on the Marines ichi-gun roster during training camp but got demoted to the farm team on March 28th and then sold to Orix two days later.  This card shows him at his introductory press conference with Buffaloes.

2007 BBM Buffaloes #Bs034

Katoh must have known how 2007 was going to go for his new and old teams.  The Buffaloes finished dead last in the Pacific League with a 62-77-5 record, 17 games behind first place Nippon-Ham.  Meanwhile the Marines finished second, going 76-61-7 and ending up just two games behind the Fighters.  They beat the Hawks in the First Stage of the Climax Series before losing to Nippon-Ham in the Final Stage.  Katoh would spend two years with Orix before moving on to Yokohama for two more years, and then Hanshin for five.  He wrapped up his career with two seasons as a player-coach with the Fukushima Hopes of the Baseball Challenge League.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Shonan SeaRex

It's funny how you can get a wrong piece of information stuck in your head for years.  

From 2001 to 2010, the farm team for the Yokohama BayStars was known as the "Shonan SeaRex" and had completely different uniforms than the top team.  What I thought had happened is that the BayStars had sold the naming rights for the team to a company called "Shonan".  Orix had done this around the same time, selling the naming rights to their farm team to the Anabuki Construction company.  The team was called "Kobe Surpass" where "Surpass" was the name of a brand of condominiums that the company built.

I was doing a little research on farm teams recently though and I discovered that I was wrong.  It was actually a marketing decision by the BayStars to attempt to built a separate brand name for the farm team - if for no other reason than to sell more hats and jerseys.  "Shonan" is a region in Kanagawa Prefecture along the Sagami Bay coast near Yokosuka, where the farm team plays and "SeaRex" was chosen for the both the nautical theme and I guess to have yet another camel-cased team name.  I'm not sure why they scrapped it after 2010 but ever since then the ni-gun team's just been the BayStars and have used the same uniforms as the ichi-gun team.

Photos of players wearing Shonan uniforms started showing up in BBM sets starting in 2001 and continued to do so until 2010.  Here are all the SeaRex cards from BBM's flagship sets from those years - oddly enough there were none in 2002 or 2009 and the only 2nd Version set to have any was 2010:

2001 BBM #324

2001 BBM #323

2001 BBM #327

2001 BBM #326

2001 BBM #75

2001 BBM #325

2001 BBM #329

2003 BBM 1st Version #182

2003 BBM 1st Version #186

2003 BBM 1st Version #181

2003 BBM 1st Version #183

2003 BBM 1st Version #185

2003 BBM 1st Version #180

2004 BBM 1st Version #372

2004 BBM 1st Version #355

2004 BBM 1st Version #371

2005 BBM 1st Version #491

2005 BBM 1st Version #487

2005 BBM 1st Version #492

2005 BBM 1st Version #486

2005 BBM 1st Version #484

2005 BBM 1st Version #489

2006 BBM 1st Version #323

2006 BBM 1st Version #324

2006 BBM 1st Version #320

2007 BBM 1st Version #427

2007 BBM 1st Version #426

2007 BBM 1st Version #428

2008 BBM 1st Version #140

2008 BBM 1st Version #142

2008 BBM 1st Version #141

2008 BBM 1st Version #139

2010 BBM 1st Version #214

2010 BBM 1st Version #216

2010 BBM 1st Version #213

2010 BBM 1st Version #215

2010 BBM 1st Version #193

2010 BBM 2nd Version #619

2010 BBM 2nd Version #621

2010 BBM 2nd Version #620

2010 BBM 2nd Version #617

As you might expect, SeaRex uniforms also appear in BBM's BayStars team sets during the 00's as well (although BBM's first BayStars team set wasn't until 2003).  I only have a handful of cards from these sets so this is an incomplete list of cards:

2003 BBM BayStars #YB032

2003 BBM BayStars #YB035

2004 BBM BayStars #YB33

2004 BBM BayStars #YB66

2004 BBM BayStars #YB41

2004 BBM BayStars #YB54

2004 BBM BayStars #YB57

2004 BBM BayStars #YB30

2004 BBM BayStars #YB20

2007 BBM BayStars #YB051

2007 BBM BayStars #YB058

2008 BBM BayStars #YB33

2009 BBM BayStars #YB19

2009 BBM BayStars #YB66

2009 BBM BayStars #YB07 (Foil Parallel)

2009 BBM BayStars #YB40

I only know of two other times that BBM showed Shonan uniforms on cards and both of these came in "Historic Collection" sets after the SeaRex were gone:

2014 BBM Brilliant Teenagers #043

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #042

I believe that the 2015 Takamori card is the only one that has "Shonan SeaRex" on it.

These are all the SeaRex that I know of.  I assume there are more in the BayStars team sets.  I don't have a lot of Calbee cards from the 2000's so I don't know if there are any in them although I suspect that there are not.

And as far as I know there are no cards showing the "Kobe Surpass" uniforms.