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)


Fuji said...

If I were to design a trading card, the first thing I'd do is put the card number inside of a baseball.

SumoMenkoMan said...

Interesting post. Never would have thought to check.

NPB Card Guy said...

@Fuji - Completely agree

@SumoMenkoMan - I never would have thought of doing this is Night Owl Cards hadn't first