Sunday, October 31, 2021

Card Of The Week October 31

The NPB regular season wheezes to a close tomorrow with the final make up game between the Carp and the Swallows.  The playoff teams are all set and the post-season will start for them next weekend.  For the six teams that didn't make the playoffs, the off season starts now and three of those teams have started to 2022 with a different guy in charge.  Tusyoshi Yoda of the Dragons, Kimiyasu Kudoh of the Hawks and Hideki Kuriyama of the Fighters are all stepping down and will be replaced by Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, Hiroshi Fujimoto and Tsuyoshi Shinjyo respectively.  

Of the three of these, the only one that makes a whole lot of sense from a baseball perspective is Fujimoto, who's been on the coaching staff for the team since 2011 and was the Hawks' farm team manager last year.  Tatsunami has been rumored to be in line for the Dragons job for years but he hasn't done any coaching since he retired as a player in 2009 other than a brief stint as hitting coach for the Japanese National Team for the 2013 World Baseball Classic.  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2019 so he has that going for him.  Tatsunami has at least been a baseball commentator on TV in the years since he retired which is more than Shinjyo can say.  As far as I can tell, Shinjyo hasn't been involved in any capacity with baseball since his retirement in 2006 and for a while wasn't even living in Japan.  He did attempt to make a comeback as a player in 2019 as he attended the 12 team tryout that fall but no one was interested in picking up a 47 year old outfielder.  I had been under the impression that the Fighters job was going to go to Atsunori Inaba, who had stepped down as the Samurai Japan manager after leading the team to the Gold Medal last summer.  Inaba, however, has been made General Manager of the team instead.

Here's cards of all three new managers from their playing days:

03 Chunichi Sports Tatsunami

1993 Tomy #198

2004 Calbee #026

With Kuriyama stepping down, the manager who's been at the helm of his team the longest is now Hatsuhiko Tsuji who has been leading the Lions since 2017.  Tatsunori Hara's current stint as Giants manager started in 2019 but his first iteration running the team was in 2002.

Saturday, October 30, 2021

Time Is Running Out...

...for any new 2021 sets to be announced.  Hard to believe but 2022 is just over two months away.  There are a number of sets that have recently been announced that will be released over the next two months - this does NOT include any sets from Topps.  It's been three and a half weeks now since their big announcement that they had signed a licensing deal with NPB and would be issuing "several products" in Japan in the fourth quarter of this year but there've been no further announcements since then.  The only remaining sets that I'm still expecting to be released this year are another ultra high-end collaboration between Epoch and the OB Club and a Samurai Japan set (featuring the Gold Medal winning Olympic team) from Calbee.

- BBM has announced the latest set under the "History" label, their recent line of OB team sets.  The new one is for Orix and is the fourth "History" set in as many months, following the Dragons set in August, the Marines set in September and the Tigers set this past week.  The full name of the set is "Orix Buffaloes History 1936-2021".  Like the previous "History" sets, it features a 90 card base set that's split up into 7 "History" cards, 71 cards of OB players and 12 cards of active players.  There's a 12 card "Legend Of Heroes" insert set, a nine card "Team Record" insert set and a 24 card serially numbered "Phantom" insert set along with a bunch of autographed cards.  Unlike the Marines set, it looks like this set will acknowledge that the team had previous ownership as there's a lot of sample cards showing players in Hankyu uniforms (Orix bought the team from Hankyu following the 1988 season).  The OB players shown on the sample cards include So Taguchi, Yoshitomo Tani, Hisashi Yamada and Boomer Wells but do not include Ichiro Suzuki.  The set will be out in late November.

- Also coming out in late November is a set featuring both OB and active players called "Rookie Legend".  The base set contains 90 cards and it looks like they're all player cards - there's no subsets listed on the website.  The set commemorates players who had great rookie seasons and will include OB players like Shigeo Nagashima, Koichi Tabuchi, Koji Yamamoto, Hideki Matsui and Koji Uehara and active players like Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Shugo Maki and Teruaki Satoh.  The website doesn't have a lot of details about the insert cards but there apparently will be a nine card one with an unrevealed theme along with the 12 serially numbered "Phantom" cards.  There will also be foil facsimile autograph inserts along with actual autographed cards.  The cynic in me figures this is a chance for BBM to grind out yet another Teruaki Satoh card and another batch of autographs from players from the 1970's and 80's but I'll probably buy it anyway.

- BBM is celebrating Daisuke Matsuzaka's career with a box set entitled "Heisei no Kaibutsu" or "the Heisei Monster".  Each box will contain the 18 card base set plus a currently unspecified number of "special" cards that could be 3D card, a memorabilia card or an autographed cards.  The set will be released in mid-December.

- BBM's likely final release for 2021 is the Fusion set, their annual combination Update and Season Summary set.  As usual the base set has four parts and as usual BBM hasn't released how large one of those parts will be so it's impossible to say how big the set will be (although we know it's at least 144 cards).  There's a 21 card "1st Version Update" subset, a 24 card "Leader" subset (featuring the statistical leaders for each league in 12 categories - the "Stolen Bases" for the PL card is going to be crowded because four guys tied for the crown), a the 99 card "Record Hall Of Fame" subset which despite the misleading name features cards highlighting feats by active players in 2021 and the related feats of OB players in the past, and the unspecified sized "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards that will be a continuation of the subset in the 2nd Version set.  The set has Fusion's standard non-premium insert sets - the 24 card "Great Records" set featuring two players from each team who achieved some milestone in 2021 and the 12 card "Legendary Player" set featuring an OB player from each team.  Additionally there are two premium insert sets - "Esperanza" which features serially numbered cards of 24 active players (2 per team) and the now ubiquitous "Phantom" set which features serially numbered cards of 12 OB players (one per team).  There's also the usual batch of autographed cards available.  The set hits the stores in mid-December.

- Epoch is releasing three more sets in their combination active/OB player team sets called "Stars & Legends".  These three are for the Dragons (out on November 20th), Buffaloes (November 27th) and Eagles (December 4th) and bring the total number of "Stars & Legends" sets for 2021 to eleven - or everyone but the Marines.  Each box for the sets will retail for 16,500 yen ($150) and will contain four cards (and I think at least one of those is an autograph).  The Dragons base set has 48 cards, the Buffaloes base set has 60 cards and the Eagles base set has 34 cards.  I think the Dragons' base cards are serially numbered.  Each set features the same five insert sets -  "Decomori Signature Black Vision (Gold)" (three cards each numbered to 15), "Decomori Signature Black Vision (Green)" (three cards each numbered to 5), "Decomori Signature Black Vision (Hologram)" (three 1-of-1 cards), "Gem" (six cards numbered to 15), and "Black Gem" (six cards also numbered to 15).  There's a number of different types of autograph cards available in each set including multi-player ones in the Eagles set.  The Buffaloes set DOES include Ichiro - I wonder if he has signed some sort of exclusive deal with Epoch as he's been in a number of their sets in the past two years (including the insanely expensive and exclusive "#51 Ichiro Suzuki - ORIX BlueWave Super Luxury Baseball Card Collection" set) and not been in any BBM sets.

- On November 20th Epoch is also releasing their "Pacific League Premier Edition" set.  This is another ultra-high end set with a six card box going for 16,500 yen.  There are 54 cards in the base set - 9 per team - and two insert sets - the 24 card "Pacific League Superstars" set and the 18 card "Gem" set.  Both insert sets have parallels.  Additionally there are three types of autograph cards and three types of memorabilia cards available.  The six cards in each box consist of three base set cards, one insert card and two autograph or memorabilia cards.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

2021 BBM Icons - Progress

The 2021 edition of BBM's annual "Icons" box set was released back in March.  The theme was "Progress" and featured players who (according to BBM's website) "made progress" last year and rookies who "will progress in the future".  

As usual unopened box sets contained 37 cards - a 36 card base set and one "special" card which could possibly be an autographed card - and as usual I only asked Ryan to get me a base set.  The 36 cards are split evenly between the 12 NPB teams so there are 3 cards per team.

I've felt for a while now that the Icons sets are an excuse for BBM to put out extra cards of the top draft picks as well as the first cards of players who changed teams over the winter out before the 1st Version set comes out (or Calbee's first set comes out).  There are no players on new teams in this year's set but there are six first round picks from the 2020 draft - Teruaki Sato (Tigers), Hiroto Takahashi (Dragons), Hiromi Itoh (Fighters), Takahisa Hayakawa (Eagles), Kento Watanabe (Lions) and Taisei Irie (Baystars).  The rest of the set is made up of mostly young players who've been drafted in the past couple seasons like Masato Morishita (Carp), Kyota Fujiwara (Marines), Hiroya Miyagi (Buffaloes), Yoshinobu Okugawa (Swallows) and Shosei Togo (Giants).  There aren't a lot of big names in the set - probably the best known players are Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Yudai Ohno.  Here's some example cards:







The entire set can be seen over at Jambalaya.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

2021 Epoch Japan Retired Foreign Player Association Set

Epoch did a box set earlier this year in association with the Japan Retired Foreign Players Association (JRFPA).  Each box had 43 cards - a 41 card base set, a "foil signature" parallel card and an autographed card.  Ryan picked me up a base set and included it in the box he sent me a few weeks ago.

It's an interesting collection of players in the set.  Obviously all the players are foreigners but more specifically they're all Westerners.  Unlike the foreign player sets BBM did back in 2013 ("Legendary Foreigners" and "Deep Impact") there aren't any Korean players included.  The set features some players who had long careers in Japan like Boomer Wells, Tuffy Rhodes, Leon Lee, Randy Messenger and Ralph Bryant along with a number with somewhat shorter careers.  Most of the players spent at least two seasons in Japan - the only exceptions are Jesse Barfield and Jason Rogers.  As far as I can tell, this is the first Japanese card of Rogers, who played just 40 games with Hanshin in 2017.  Adrian Garrett, who passed away about a month after this set was published, had the earliest debut in Japan of the players in the set, having made his first appearance with the Carp in 1977.  Other players of note are Randy Bass, Andruw Jones, George Arias, Colby Lewis and Jose Ortiz.  I assume that everyone in the set is a member of the JRFPA.  

The one odd thing about the base set is that it does not include Warren Cromartie BUT Cromartie has autographed cards available.  I don't think there's any other players like that.

The cards are beautiful.  I'm a sucker for cards with full bleed photos and a minimum of text and decoration and these definitely fall into that category.  The photos are also fairly sharp - frequently the older photos in a set like this look kind of grainy but these all look pretty good.  My only complaint is my usual one - the poses are all the generic "batters batting, pitchers pitching" ones.  Here's some example cards:







I think this is the first card I've seen showing Fernando Seguignol with the Orix Buffaloes - he only played 11 games with them in 2010.

I'm curious if Epoch and the JRFPA will team up for another set this winter - the set seems to have been very popular.

You can see all the cards over at Jambalaya.

Tuesday, October 26, 2021

2021 BBM Farewell Set

For the 11th edition of their annual set for retiring players, BBM changed things up a little.  It came out in February, a month later than normal (although that could have been COVID-related) and for the first time it included athletes other than baseball players in it.  This is one of the sets that Ryan picked up for me and sent me a few weeks back.

I'm never sure what the actual name of this set is.  In the past it's translated as something like "Regret At Parting Baseball Player" but since it has more than just baseball players in it this time, I think it's more like "Regret At Parting Sports".  I'm still going to refer to it as the "Farewell" set.  This year's edition has a 37 card base set - 31 baseball players, two sumo wrestlers, a pro wrestler, a soccer player, a boxer and a jockey.  This is sold as a box set containing 38 cards - the base set plus an autographed card of one of the players.  Ryan as always just got me the base set - which is why it was around 500 yen as opposed to 8800.  

Pretty much all the big name players (plus a number of the smaller names) who retired during or at the end of the 2020 season are included in the set - Kyuji Fujikawa, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ryota Igarashi, Yoshiyuki Ishihara and Kazuki Yoshimi.  There's only one card for each player which may not sound like a big deal but some of the earlier editions of the set contained two or three cards for certain players.  As has been standard for the last few years, each player is depicted wearing the uniform they wore in 2020, even if it's not the team the player is most associated with.  So Iwakuma is shown in a Giants uniform, not an Eagles uniform and Toru Hosokawa is shown as a Marine rather than a Lion.  The photos on ten of the cards are from the player's retirement ceremony while the photos on the other cards are the more mundane standard "pitchers pitching, batters batting" shots.

I don't know who any of the non-baseball players are - Gotaro Goeido (sumo), Kazuhiro Kotoshogiku (sumo), Kengo Nakamura (soccer), Manabu Nakanishi (pro wrestling), Hirofumi Shii (horse racing) and Akira Yaegashi (boxing) - but I assume they're well known in their sports.  I'm not sure I like this becoming a multi-sport set - as I've said in the past, I'm pretty much only interested in baseball when it comes to sports.  I may have to reconsider if I want to keep getting this set every year if BBM continues to include non-baseball players in it.

Here's some example cards:






As always you can see all the cards for the set over at Jambalaya.

Monday, October 25, 2021

2020 Epoch Hawks & Swallows Rookies & Stars sets

Another couple items that I had asked Ryan to pick up for me were the 2020 Hawks and Swallows "Rookies & Stars" team sets from Epoch.  

Epoch started doing team-specific sets in 2017 but in 2018 they started publishing them under the "Rookies & Stars" label.  They were "comprehensive" team sets in 2018 and 2019 (i.e. they contained everyone on the team's 70 man roster at the time the set went to print) but since 2020 they've only contained 36 cards each.  They've never done team sets for all 12 teams in one year - they've done between seven and nine each years.

I'd picked up last year's team sets for the Lions, Carp and Buffaloes but I wasn't really all that impressed by them and wasn't planning on getting any more teams.  But then I realized that the Hawks set had Carter Stewart in it and I've pretty much been getting all his cards (at least all his non-premium cards) so I asked Ryan to see if he could find a set at a good price.  And then when I was looking around Yahoo! Japan Auctions, I came across someone selling the Swallows set for 50 yen (roughly 50 cents) so I couldn't resist asking him to grab it also.

The sets are similar to the other three that I have in that they are printed on thicker stock than most other baseball cards and the photos are very generic - my usual too many "pitchers pitching, batters batting and catchers catching" poses.  Both sets contain the teams managers, all the 2020 rookies (i.e. the 2019 non-ikusei draft picks) and the major stars for each team - Yuki Yanagita and Kodai Senga for the Hawks, Munetaka Murakami and Tetsuto Yamada for the Swallows - along with the main 25-30 players on each team.  The Swallows set also contains a card for Tsubakurou, one of their mascots.

Here's some sample cards from each set:

2020 Epoch Hawks Rookies & Stars #08

2020 Epoch Hawks Rookies & Stars #29

2020 Epoch Hawks Rookies & Stars #02

2020 Epoch Hawks Rookies & Stars #20

2020 Epoch Hawks Rookies & Stars #27

2020 Epoch Swallows Rookies & Stars #10

2020 Epoch Swallows Rookies & Stars #26

2020 Epoch Swallows Rookies & Stars #17

2020 Epoch Swallows Rookies & Stars #27

2020 Epoch Swallows Rookies & Stars #36

Both sets are nice although if you're like me and already have the "comprehensive" team sets issued by BBM, they're a bit redundant.

As always, Jambalaya has all the cards online (including inserts and parallels) so you can see the Hawks set here and the Swallows set here.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

Card Of The Week October 24

50 years ago yesterday the Baltimore Orioles kicked off their tour of Japan with an 8-4 victory over the Yomiuri Giants at Korakuen Stadium in Tokyo.  It was the first of 18 games the Orioles would play against Japanese teams over the next month or so.  This tour is probably the closest we've ever had to everyone's dream of a set of games between the NPB and MLB Champions - a true "World Series".  The Orioles had just lost the 1971 World Series in seven games to the Pittsburgh Pirates and would play 11 games against Yomiuri, who had just won their seventh straight Nippon Series.  The Orioles went undefeated in their games against the Giants, going 8-0-3.  To top it off, Pat Dobson, one of the Birds' four 20 game winners that year, threw a no-hitter against Yomiuri on November 2nd.  The O's went 4-2-1 in their games against other Japanese teams which I think were All Star teams for a couple of games and combined rosters from two teams (Giants & Carp, Giants & Dragons, Giants & Lions) for a couple other games.

This was neither the first nor last tour of Japan by an MLB team - in fact the Orioles would return following the 1984 season - but it is significant in that it made its appearance on a couple baseball cards.  The 1975 NST Mr Giants set included three cards featuring Shigeo Nagashima with at least one member of the Orioles.  Card #56 shows Nagashima leading off first with Boog Powell behind him, card #59 shows Nagashima and Brooks Robinson with a traditional Japanese drum and card #62 shows Nagashima with Robinson, Earl Weaver and an unidentified member of the press (I assume).  I don't have cards #59 and #62 but I do have the Boog Powell card:

Powell has had a barbecue stand, Boog's Barbecue, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards ever since the park opened in 1992.  He used to sign autographs there but I don't know how often he shows up anymore.  I wonder what he'd say if I handed him this card to sign?

Saturday, October 23, 2021

Epoch One Cards

Among the cards Ryan sent me last week were the latest batch of Epoch One cards that I'd asked him to pick up for me - the final ones from last year along with a bunch from this year.  Epoch One is the Japanese equivalent of Topps Now - the cards are made available online for three days (as opposed to 24 hours for Topps Now) for 500 yen apiece (as opposed to $10 for Topps Now).  Unlike Topps Now, not all the teams participate.  Last year it was nine teams - the Baystars, Dragons, Fighters, Giants, Hawks, Lions, Marines, Swallows and Tigers and this year just eight as the Baystars dropped out.

I'm going to share all the Epoch One cards he sent me.  I asked him to get two of the 2020 cards because of the events they commemorate.  On November 5th of 2020, Munetaka Murakami of the Swallows stole three bases in one inning against the Hanshin Tigers:


On November 8th, Hayato Sakamoto of the Giants got his 2000th career hit.  This card had a print run of 556 which is the most I've seen for any 2020 Epoch One card (although admittedly I have only seen the print runs for 40-ish of the 676 cards):


For the third year in a row there were Epoch One cards available for the Dragons draft picks:







I had a variety of reasons for the 2021 Epoch One cards I asked Ryan to get for me.  One was again that they commemorated an event that I thought was significant for some reason.  This card is for the sayonara home run Yoshiyuki Kamei hit for the Giants on Opening Day:


This one was for Masahiro Tanaka's first start in Japan since 2013:


I'm honestly not completely sure why I asked Ryan to pick up this card of Seiya Matsubara.  Matsubara homered to lead off this game and I think knocked in the tying run in the ninth in a game between the Giants and Buffaloes that ended in a 3-3 tie:


Shohei Katoh was sent from the Marines to the Dragons in a mid-season trade.  He homered in his first at bat with his new team.  He had homered in his first at bat with the Marines back in 2013 as well so he became the first player ever to hit a home run in his first at bat with two different teams.


There were a couple cards I got for the debuts of 2021 rookies - I had joked with Ryan that I had caught "rookie fever".  The Satoh card commemorates his first home run while the Hayakawa and Itoh cards are for their first starts.




When I said "2021 rookies" for the above cards what I meant was that they were 2020 draft picks.  I also got cards for the ichi-gun debuts of a couple other players who are also rookies but were drafted before 2020 - and while it's true that they were all drafted before 2020, one of them wasn't in the NPB draft:




The Sasaki card had a print run of 709 which is the most of any of the 2021 cards.  

Several of the cards I had Ryan get for me were because they featured players in alternate uniforms - just in case I ever update my uniform posts:






The last card is for the latest transformation of Nazo Na Sakana, the Mysterious Fish: