Sunday, December 26, 2021

Card Of The Week December 26

Big news out of the KBO last week - after 15 seasons, Son Ah-seop has left the Lotte Giants as a free agent and signed with the NC Dinos.  Here's Son's earliest known baseball card - #SBC01-057 from the 2014 Superstar Baseball Season One set:

2021 BBM Legendary Rookies set

BBM issued the "Legendary Rookies" set back at the end of November.  The set ostensibly celebrates great rookie seasons in NPB history although as usual it is skewed towards recent, living players who can sign autographs rather than giving some sort of definitive list of the best rookie seasons ever.

The base set has 90 cards, all of which are player cards - there are no subsets or checklist cards.  The players are split between retired players (52) and players who were active in 2021 in either NPB or MLB (38).  The checklist is ordered chronologically by each player's rookie season so the first card in the set is for the earliest rookie season (Futoshi Nakanishi in 1952) and the last cards are for 2021 rookies (Hiroya Miyagi*, Takumu Nakano, Ryoji Kuribayashi, Hiromi Itoh, Shugo Maki and Teruaki Sato).   The set is very much skewed towards recent players, a fact that was made pretty obvious to me when I opened up the package containing the set.  The set was split into three 30 card bags with the cards in order (so the first bag had cards 1-30, the second had 31-60, etc).  The time gap between card #1 and card #31 (Hideki Matsui in 1993) was 41 years, the gap between card #31 and #61 (Tetsuto Yamada in 2011) was 28 years and the gap between card #61 and the present obviously is 10 years.  This means that two thirds of the set are players who debuted in 1993 or later (actually it's slightly more than that because card #30 - Tomohito Itoh - also debuted in 1993).

*It's kind of funny - Nakano, Kuribayashi, Itoh, Maki and Sato were all drafted in 2020 so their cards in the set all have the "rookie" logo on them while Miyagi was drafted in 2019 so his card does not say "rookie" on it - even though by NPB standards he was a rookie in 2021 - in fact he was the 2021 Pacific League Rookie Of The Year

Besides the players I've mentioned above, the set contains OB players like Hall Of Famers like Shigeo Nagashima, Isao Harimoto, Hiroshi Gondoh, Tsuneo Horiuchi, Koichi Tabuchi, Koji Yamamoto, Tatsunori Hara, Tsunemi Tsuda and Kazuyoshi Tatsunami along with guys like Akinobu Okada, Michiyo Aritoh, Masayuki Kakefu, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Koji Uehara and Kenshin Kawakami.  The active players include Kosuke Fukudome, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tsuyoshi Wada, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka, Hayato Sakamoto, Kodai Senga, Tomoyuki Sugano, Takehiro Norimoto, Masataka Yoshida, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Munetaka Murakami, Koji Chikamoto and Masato Morishita.

The cards themselves have a pleasant design.  The photos on the cards appear to be from the player's rookie year or at least close to it.  Most of the photos on them are fairly generic but there's a handful of black and white photos which I don't think have been used on cards before.  Here's a few example cards:










As BBM's OB sets go, this isn't a bad little set.  There's just nothing really outstanding about it.  As usual all the cards (including the insert cards) can be seen over at Jambalaya.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Card Of The Week December 19

Do you know who the only NPB player who wore a three digit number while on his team's 70 man roster was?  It was Robinson Checo of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp who wore 106 in his first stint with the team in 1992-93 and again for the first season of his second one in 1995.  He switched to 50 in 1996, his final season in Japan before joining the Boston Red Sox.

This is his card from the 1995 BBM All Star set (#A8), the only card I have of him wearing 106.  The only other card I know of with him wearing that number is his Calbee card from that year (#122) as he didn't have any other BBM cards in 1995.

So Long And Thanks For All The Fish

The Chiba Lotte Marines are apparently retiring their mascot Nazo No Sakana, aka "The Mysterious Fish".  I haven't been sure if this is real or a publicity stunt like the Swallows do every offseason when their mascot Tsubakuro enters into contract negotiations with the team and occasionally declares free agency.  I'm getting somewhat convinced it's real now that the team held an elaborate retirement ceremony for the Fish on Friday but it still wouldn't surprise me for the team to do an about face and announce he's coming back.

Nazo was introduced during the 2017 season.  He's had five different costumes - I think every so often they've done a big deal about him transforming into a new "form".  He's been fun to watch and it's a shame that he's going away.

The Fish has shown up on nine baseball cards that I'm aware of.  His "rookie" card is the "secret" version (short printed photo variation) of the Marines team checklist in the 2017 BBM 2nd Version set.  His other BBM appearances are in the 2018, 2019 and 2021 Marines team sets and the Marines team checklist card in the 2020 2nd Version set:

2017 BBM 2nd Version #591 ("Secret" Version)

2018 BBM Marines #M69

2019 BBM Marines #M72

2020 BBM 2nd Version #592

2021 BBM Marines #M69

The other four cards are all Epoch Now cards.  He had three cards in 2018 and one in 2021.  I only have two of these (one from 2018 and the 2021 one), both of which I think are celebrating the introduction of a new "form".  Here's the front and back of each of them:

2018 Epoch One #328

2018 Epoch One #328 (back)

2021 Epoch One #097

2021 Epoch One #097 (back)

The two 2018 cards that I don't have are #208 and #282.

Here's the video of his retirement ceremony from Pacific League TV:

Saturday, December 18, 2021

2021 BBM Buffaloes History 1936-2021

The sixth and most recent of BBM's "History" OB team sets was released a few weeks ago at the end of November.  This time around the Buffaloes are the subject and the set is called "Buffaloes History 1936-2021".  I should stress that the Buffaloes in question here are the Orix variety - Kintetsu isn't covered by this set.  It does cover the three incarnations of Orix teams - the Braves (1989-90), the BlueWave (1991-2004) and the Buffaloes (2005-present) - as well as their predecessor, the Hankyu Braves.

Given that this is the fourth one of these sets that BBM has put out in the past four months and the second one that I'm doing a post about in as many days, you'll have to forgive me if I kind of rush through this one.  Like the other five sets, there's three sections to this set - the seven "Buffaloes History" cards, the 71 OB player cards and the 12 active player cards.  Each of "Buffaloes" history cards covers a 9-15 year period in the team's history (during which the team was mostly not the "Buffaloes") - the photo on the front highlights some event during the covered time period and the back lists the team's results in each season covered.  Here's the card for the 1989-2001 period that features a photo of the team celebrating their 1996 Nippon Series Championship:


As with the previous sets, this set appears to primarily be an autographed card delivery system so the OB player section ignores the first roughly 20 years of the team's existence.  The oldest player in the set - Tetsuya Yoneda - didn't start his career until 1956.  He and Mitsuhiro Adachi are the only two players in the set who played in the 1950's.  Most of the Hankyu stars from the 60's and later are in the set though, including Hisashi Yamada, Yutaka Fukumoto, Atsushi Nagaike, Koji Minoda and Hideji Katoh.  The Orix players include So Taguchi, Yoshitomu Tani, Junichi Fukura, Hiromi Matsunaga, Satoshi Nakajima, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Nobuyuki Hoshino.  Boomer Wells is the only foreign player in the set.  There are three players included who are still active in NPB with other teams - Yoshio Itoi (Tigers), Chihiro Kaneko (Fighters) and Yuki Nishi (Tigers).

The biggest name missing from the set is, of course, Ichiro.  Ichiro has not appeared in a BBM set since 2009 although he's been in several Epoch sets lately (including the "Buffaloes Stars & Legends" set that came out at almost the same time as this set).  I don't know this for a fact but I'm guessing that he has an exclusive deal with Epoch.  Takeo Kajimoto, Jiro Noguchi, Brad Lesley, Bobby Marcano and Daryl Spencer are also missing from the set, probably because they've passed away.  Chico Barbon and Kazuhiro Kiyohara, both of whom are still alive and could sign autographs, are also not in the set.  The set also doesn't have any cards for managers (unless they played for the team like Fukura and Nakajima) so there are no cards for Akira Ohgi, Yukio Nishimoto, Toshiharu Ueda or Leon Lee.

The cards themselves are beautiful, just like the ones in the previous sets.  Once again, BBM has done a great job of digging up photos that mostly haven't been used in other sets.  Here's some examples:










The subset for the active players once again seems like an afterthought.  These cards again use a similar design to the OB player cards but have a dark blue tinted background.  For some of the other sets I got a sense that BBM was doing some fan service by including popular players who weren't necessarily contributing much any more but for this set I feel like they really picked what are probably the top 12 players on the team - Ryoichi Adachi, Shuhei Fukuda, Yoshihisa Hirano, Hiroya Miyagi, Yuma Mune, T-Okada, Yutaro Sugimoto, Daiki Tajima, Kenya Wakatsuki, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Taisuke Yamaoka and Masataka Yoshida.



You can see the entire set over at Jambalaya.

Friday, December 17, 2021

2021 BBM Tigers History 1935-2021

BBM published yet another OB team set in their "History" line back in late October.  The subject of this one was the Hanshin Tigers and the set is entitled "Tigers History 1935-2021".  It is the fifth set in the series following ones last year for the Carp and Giants and this year for the Dragons and Marines.  It was followed a month later by a set for the Buffaloes which I'll be doing a post for in the next few days.  Like the previous sets, this set splits the 90 cards in its base set into three parts - "Team History", OB players and active players.  

The seven "Tigers History" cards cover the team's history since their founding in 1935.  Each card highlights a 12-14 year period of time.  The front of each card shows some highlight of the stretch of years the card covers while the backs list the team's finish in each year of the featured time period.  Here's the card that includes the Tigers' sole Nippon Series championship:


The OB player cards make up most of the set.  There are 68 OB players included which is the lowest amount of any of the five sets so far.  The set includes many of the Tigers greats that you'd expect - Yoshio Yoshida, Masaaki Koyama, Masayuki Kakefu, Tomoaki Kanemoto, Koichi Tabuchi, Akinobu Okada, Taira Fujita, Akinobu Mayumi, Takahiro Arai and Kyuji Fujikawa.  There's one foreign player - Randy Bass - along with several former Tigers who were still active with other NPB teams - Kosuke Fukudome (Dragons), Atsushi Nohmi (Buffaloes), Takashi Toritani (Marines) and Yamato (Baystars).  The set also includes one player who I don't think has had a BBM card before - Yutaka Ikeuchi.

As was the case for the Dragons and Marines sets, this set doesn't appear to include any players who have passed away and couldn't sign an autograph.   So a whole bunch of guys who had appeared in earlier BBM OB Tigers sets like Masaru Kaguera, Minoru Murayama, Fumio Fujimura, Shigeru Kobayashi, Tadashi "Bozo" Wakabayashi, Kazuhiro Yamauchi, Kaoru Bettoh, Takeshi Doigaki and Gene Bacque aren't in the set.  Yutaka Enatsu and Tsuyoshi Shinjyo aren't in the set either but both are still breathing.  Enatsu may have an exclusive deal with Epoch as he hasn't been in a BBM set since 2014 but appears in Epoch ones fairly regularly.  Shinjyo hasn't been in a BBM set since 2015 (although obviously he'll be in them starting next year).  There's several foreign players who wouldn't have been out of place in the set - Matt Murton, Randy Messenger or Tom O'Malley - but they do not appear.

The cards use a similar design as the previous "History" sets and, like the ones in the previous sets, are quite attractive.  BBM seem to have really gone out of their way to pick out some nice photos to use in these sets and this one is no exception.  There's a good mix of posed and action shots and only a couple black and white photos.  Here's a bunch of examples:










The final subset in the set is for active players.  There are 15 cards in it which are the most of any of the five "History" sets.  The cards use the same design as the OB cards except they have their backgrounds tinted yellow.  My biggest gripe with these cards is that the photo selection is back to BBM's usual boring standards - the "batters batting, pitchers pitching and catchers catching" poses.  The one exception was this card of Takumi Nakano:


The other players in the subset include Takumi Akiyama, Koji Chikamoto, Shintaro Fujinami, Fumihito Haraguchi, Yoshio Itoi, Yusuke Ohyama, Robert Suarez and (of course) Teruaki Sato.


As always all the cards (including the insert sets) can be seen over at Jambalaya.

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

2021 Award Winners

NPB announced most of their major award winners this week.  Munetaka Murakami of the Swallows and Yoshinobu Yamamoto of the Buffaloes won the MVP awards:

2021 BBM 1st Version #313

2021 BBM 1st Version #140

The Rookies of the Year were Ryoji Kuribayashi of the Carp and Hiroya Miyagi of the Buffaloes:

2021 BBM 2nd Version #558

2021 Calbee #104

Here's the Central League Best 9:

2021 Epoch NPB #293

2021 Epoch NPB #411

2021 Epoch NPB #273

2021 Epoch NPB #414

2021 Epoch NPB #419

2021 Epoch NPB #236

2021 Epoch NPB #277

2021 Epoch NPB #421

2021 Epoch NPB #385

And here's the Pacific League Best 9:

2021 Epoch NPB #185

2021 Epoch NPB #090

2021 Epoch NPB #058

2021 Epoch NPB #056

2021 Epoch NPB #205

2021 Epoch NPB #093

2021 Calbee #180

2021 Epoch NPB #028

2021 Epoch NPB #208

2021 Epoch NPB #173

And finally it was announced a few weeks ago that Yamamoto had also won this year's Sawamura Award:

2021 BBM 2nd Version #467