Monday, June 27, 2022

History Of Calbee Part 3 - 1981 To 1984

At first glance, Calbee's sets from the early 1980's seem pretty straightforward, especially compared to the sets from the 1970's.  There was only one set each year and each set only spanned one year.  All the cards were of the smaller 2" x 2 5/8" size that was introduced midway through the 1980 set.  With a few exceptions the card fronts all used a similar design each year which can make it difficult to identify the set a card is from without looking at the back.  However, after you dig into the details of the sets, there's still quite a bit of oddness.


The 1981 Calbee set contained 450 cards that I believe were issued in nine 50 card Series.  The fronts of the cards featured the player's name and team across the bottom.  

The backs of the Series One cards were printed in pink ink like the cards for the previous two years.  Here's a sample card of Tsutomu Wakamatsu:

The remainder of the cards in the set have blue backs.  Here's an example card from Series Two of Hiromichi Ishige:

Series Five (cards 201 to 250) feature scenes from the 1981 All Star games.  It's the only series in the set that has the "parallel numbers" for the subset on the back.  Here's an example card for Hiromitsu Kadota - you can see the parallel number "2" in the circle in the upper left of the back of the card:

Many of the cards in Series Six, Seven and Eight show the player's 1981 statistics on the back.  It's kind of amusing to watch the cut-off date change from August 6th in Series Six to August 19th in Series Seven and September 24 in Series Eight.  Here's a card from each series - Akio Saitoh from Series Six, Daisuke Yamashita from Series Seven and Senichi Hoshino from Series Eight:

I want to mention one card from Series Eight that I found interesting.  Card #354 is "officially" a Sadaharu Oh card (in that it has his biographical information on the back) but it shows Oh along with Giants manager Motoshi Fujita and rookie Tatsunori Hara celebrating the team's Central League pennant.  I find it interesting because Hara, who was the Central League Rookie Of The Year that year, didn't have a card of his own in the set although fellow Rookie Of The Year award winner Ishige did.  

Series Nine kind of had two parts.  The first half of it (cards 401 to 425) are all dedicated to the 1981 Nippon Series between the Giants and the Nippon-Ham Fighters.  Here's cards of Junichi Kashiwabara of the Fighters and Kiyoshi Nakahata of the Giants (along with the back of Nakahata's card):

I'm not positive but I think the other 25 cards in Series Nine (cards 426 to 450) somehow feature the statistical leaders for the season - or at least 25 players that Calbee decided they should show the full season's statistics for.  Here's the front and back of Masayuki Matsunuma's card:


The 1982 Calbee set had 651 cards but were actually numbered to 751.  The reason for this is that the 100 cards numbered 452 to 551 were never actually issued.  It's unclear to me how many series the set was issued in.  I'm guessing there were 13 50 card series although either Series One or Series Two must have been 51 cards. 

The card fronts once again have the player's name and team on them and Calbee returned to pink ink for the backs.  Cards 1 to 101 had backs that looked very similar to the first Series from the 1981 set.  Here's the front and back of Yasushi Tao's card for an example:

Some of the cards in what I think is Series Three (cards 102-151) had backs that showed 1982 stats up until May 6th.  The others had just comments about the player.  As an example of a card with the partial 1982 stats, here's Daisuke Yamashita's card:

I think that the cards up until Series Six (cards 252-301) had the player comments on it.  Series Five (cards 202-251) contain mostly Hiroshima Toyo Carp players and may have been a regional issue.  Series Seven (cards 302-351) and Series Eight (cards 352-401) are appear to have been regional issues for the Kansai and Tokai regions respectively.  (I don't have cards from any of these three Series to use for examples.)

The backs of the Series Six, Seven and Eight cards have baseball terms on them.  Here's an example card of Mitsuo Sumi from Series Six:

All the cards after the eighth series (starting at card 402) have the player's basic biographical information on them.  This card of Makoto Shimada (that uses a multi-exposure photo) is an example of this:

The final Series (cards 702-751) features a number of cards for the Central League champion Dragons.  The backs of those cards use a "V1" logo rather than the Dragons logo.  I don't have any cards from this Series either.


The 1983 set appears to have followed a similar pattern to the previous two sets.  Once again I'm not positive but I think each series was 50 cards with the exception of the final one.  There was a total of 709 cards issued that were numbered 1 to 700 along with seven unnumbered cards (which would make a total of 14 series).  

Once again the first series (cards 1-50) was a bit different than the rest of the set.  There were two different backs for the series - one that had text and one that showed the player's statistics from the past couple seasons.  I only have an example of the text back - this card of Junichi Kashiwabara:

There were a couple changes to the cards for the rest of the set.  You'll notice that the front of Kashiwabara's card has text for his name and his team on it.  The fronts of the remainder of the cards in the set have the team name in parentheses.  The backs all have text on them (that apparently was contributed by Kazuhisa Inao) and significantly don't have the year on them - these would be the only Calbee cards in the 1980's to not have the year on them.  Here's a card of Yutaka Fukumoto that's pretty representative of much of the set after the first series:

There are a couple Series from the set worth a little more attention although of course I don't have any cards from any of them.  It appears that both Series Nine (cards 401-450) and Series Eleven (cards 501-550) may have been regional issues only available in the Sanyo region (including Hiroshima) since both series feature mostly Carp players.  Series Thirteen (cards 601-650) only has players from the two league champions that season - the Lions and the Giants.  The backs of these cards have a "V2" (in the case of the Lions) and "V1" (in the case of the Giants) on them instead of the team logo.  Series Fourteen (cards 651-700) all have gold borders and a little trophy on the front to indicate that the player led the league in something or reached some milestone that season.  I'm not sure but I think the front of the card may mention what the player is being recognized for.  I'm pretty sure the nine unnumbered cards were issued as part of this series.  There are five unnumbered cards for Tatsunori Hara and four for Osamu Higashio - they were the league MVPs that season.  The cards have the same gold borders and trophy's as the numbered cards from Series Fourteen and include the text "MVP" on the fronts.


The 1984 Calbee set contained 713 cards but it's not entirely clear to me how many series the cards were issued in.  It doesn't appear to me that each series had a similar number of cards.

The first 70 cards in the set (which could have been issued as one 70 card series or two 36 card series) have a front design very similar to the 1983 cards with the player's team name in parentheses.  The backs continued to use pink ink and show the player's recent statistics.  Here's Hiromitsu Kadota's card as an example:

Calbee changed the card fronts starting with card #71 and introduced their most distinctive design of the 1980's.  Each front had a green bar at the bottom containing the player's name and uniform number (in a little baseball) along with a drawing of the player's team's hat a la 1981 Topps:

The backs of the cards contained a block of text about the player written by either former Giant Shigeru Takada (for position players) or former Dragon Senichi Hoshino (for pitchers).  This design was used through card number 440.  Cards 371 to 400 and 401 to 440 are possibly regional issues (although I don't know what region or regions).  Here's the back of the above card of Yutaka Fukumoto:

Cards 441 to 490 are for the 1984 All Star players and have the words "'84 All Star Special" in gold on the fronts.  I don't have any cards from this series (I assume it was a single 50 card series but I don't know that for sure) but the backs contain the recent All Star performances for each player (prior to 1984).  Cards 491 to 540 are similar in design to cards 71 to 440.

Calbee tweaked the design of the card front a little starting with card 541.  For whatever reason they reduced the size of the hat.  The backs remained the same as this card of Tatsunori Hara will attest:

There appear to be two further regional series.  Cards 591 to 640 only have Carp players and may be a Hiroshima or Sanyo only issue while cards 641 to 690 only feature Dragons players and may be a Nagoya or Tokai only issue.  Surprisingly, I actually have one of the Dragons cards - this one of Ken Macha:

I suspect that cards 691 to 713 were issued as a single series.  These cards are similar to the final cards from the 1981 and 1983 sets in that they feature players who either led the league in something or reached a particular milestone in 1984.  Instead of the team hat these cards have a little "V" with laurels design.  This card of Osamu Higashio celebrates him getting his 200th win - you can see the text for "200 wins" on the front of the card:

This post heavily relied on the Calbee Collector's site for information along with both Ryan's and Sean's blogs (especially Ryan's post on the 1981 set) and Engel.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Card Of The Week June 26

I apologize for not posting much lately.  Life's been pretty busy the last few weeks between work, having work done on the house and a couple family emergencies.  The busy-ness has come to a peak this weekend in a good way, however, as yesterday my oldest daughter was finally able to have her wedding.  She and her husband had to postpone their nuptials twice since the pandemic started so it was a relief for everyone that they were finally able to tie the knot.

I thought it'd be appropriate to share a card from the 1999 BBM Mr Giants set that shows Shigeo and Akiko Nagashima's wedding day (#G35):

Sunday, June 19, 2022

Card Of The Week June 19

Couldn't decide on a topic for this week's Card Of The Week so...ok, actually, that's not quite true.  I've done a post for the Interleague MVP each year for the past I don't know how many years so my original plan for this week's Card Of The Week was to show Muntaka Murakami, this year's winner.  But then Yoshinobu Yamamoto went and threw the fourth no-hitter of the 2022 season yesterday which kind of threw a monkey wrench into things.  So I decided to feature both Murakami and Yamamoto this week - coincidentally they were the league MVPs last season:

2020 Calbee #TR-2

2021 Calbee #IL-06

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Nine Men Out

I went down a bit of a rabbit hole regarding the "Black Mist Scandal" last week while researching Masaaki Ikenaga for my post on the two 1968 Shonen Book cards I'd picked up.  The "Black Mist Scandal" was a really a series of scandals between 1969 and 1971 that involved the yakuza, game fixing in NPB and the fixing of auto races.  I'm not going to get too deep into the details here - you can read the Wikipedia article for a decent overview although I suspect the Japanese version is more accurate.  Instead I want to concentrate on the guys who were permanently banned from NPB because of the scandal and if I had any baseball cards of them.

There were nine players who effectively were made permanently ineligible to play or coach in NPB - Masayuki Nagayasu, Ikenaga, Yoshinobu Yoda, Akio Masuda, Kentaro Ogawa, Toshiaki Moriyasu, Isao Takayama, Tsutomu Tanaka and Kmihiro Sato.  Takayama, Tanaka and Sato had already retired as the scandal broke so I don't think they were ever officially banned - but all three have effectively been persona non grata in NPB since then.  (There's a discrepancy between the English and Japanese Wikipedia pages on the scandal - the English one lists Shoji Sakai, Takashi Suzuki and Akira Yano as having been banned instead of Sato and Takayama.  I don't think this is correct - Suzuki and Sakai served "indefinite suspensions" that only lasted about five months and Yano is never mentioned in the Japanese article.)

I went looking to see who I had cards from (other than Ikenaga).  I wasn't too surprised to discover I only had cards for three of the players - Yoda, Tanaka and Ogawa.  The scandal fell smack in the middle of the eight year stretch between the end of menko in 1964 and the start of Calbee in 1973 where there weren't many baseball cards produced in Japan.  But a couple of the players had started their careers early enough to show up on menko cards and at least one of the players (besides Ikenaga) was in the 1967 Kabaya-Leaf set.

1962 Marusho JCM 13b

Tsutomu Tanaka signed with the Nishitetsu Lions in 1961 after spending a few years in the corporate leagues.  His best season was 1966, when he went 23-12 with a Pacific League leading 217 strikeouts.  He also threw a perfect game that season and was named to the Best 9 team.  He was traded to Chunichi after 1967 and retired after 1969.  Because of his unofficial banning, he (and his perfect game) did not appear in either the 1994 BBM Perfect Pitching or the 2012 BBM No-Hitters sets.
1962 Marukami JCM 14e

Yoshinobu Yoda signed with the Lions in 1962 out of Yatsushiro Commercial High School.  He played for them until he was banished in 1970.

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #52

Kentaro Ogawa had a very odd career.  He originally signed with the Toei Flyers in 1954 after leaving Meizen High School but hurt his shoulder and never pitched for them.  After leaving the Flyers in 1955 he spent the next eight years in and out of the corporate leagues before signing with the Dragons in 1964 at age 30.  He had five solid years in the Dragons' rotation from 1965 to 1969, going 17-9 in 1965, 17-11 in 1966, 29-12 in 1967, 10-20 in 1968 and 20-12 in 1969.  1967 was obviously his best season - he led the Central League in wins and won both the Sawamura Award and a Best 9 Award.  He was a four time All Star also (1966-69).  He passed away in 1995 at age 61.

The odd thing about Ogawa is that BBM has actually issued cards of him!  He's in both the 2005 Dragons 70th Anniversary and the 2010 Dragons 75th Anniversary sets:

2005 BBM Dragons 70th Anniversary #35

2010 BBM Dragons 75th Anniversary #29

I'd have thought that BBM would have avoided doing cards of anyone on the permanently ineligible list but apparently I'm wrong.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Second Flagships, Team Sets and a KBO OB Set

It's been about six weeks since I last did a rundown on upcoming sets in Japan so there's actually a lot to talk about.  Starting with a set that I was surprised to discover was actually released TODAY - the Calbee Series Two set.  From what I'd seen on their website, I thought the set was going to be released around the end of the month and they were just going to release the checklist today.  Obviously I was wrong.  The 88 base set is pretty much what you'd expect - 72 "regular" player cards (six per team), a 12 card "OBP Leader" subset and the usual four checklist cards - but the insert cards are a bit different.  Calbee is continuing the celebration of their 50th Anniversary with an insert set featuring reprints of old Calbee cards for eleven of the twelve NPB team managers.  These cards will all feature a "kira" finish and are a continuation of the reprint cards for Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh from Series One.  For God only knows what reason, Calbee decided to not do a card for "BIGBOSS" Tsuyoshi Shinjo in the reprints, even though Shinjo had Calbee cards with both the Tigers and Fighters.  Instead they gave Shinjo a card in the ubiquitous "Star" insert set, making that set 25 cards instead of the usual 24 cards - two cards for every team except the Fighters who now have three.  There's also a 12 card "Opening Pitcher" boxed set that's supposedly available from Calbee's store although I've never been able to find these sets there.  (You can see all the cards from the set over at Jambalaya.)

Speaking of series two sets, BBM recently released some but not a lot of information about their "2nd Version" set which will be out in early August.  They haven't released the number of cards in the set or how the base set is split up although I do expect to still see a "1st Version Update" subset and the rest of the "Cross Grotto" cross set subset.  There's going to be a bunch of "Ceremonial First Pitch" cards although I don't know if they'll be short-printed like they were in last year's Fusion set.  There's four insert sets associated with the set - "Wizard", "Coming Hero", "Combo Cross Foil Signing" and "Treasure".  The "Coming Hero" set is the only one I know the size of - 24 cards.  There's also a lot of autographed cards available in the packs, including ones that celebrate Roki Sasaki's perfect game.

BBM has also released information on their final two "comprehensive" team sets for the year - the Tigers and the Fighters.  Both sets feature 81 card base sets and have several non-premium insert sets that contain a total of 18 cards.  The base set for the Tigers set breaks down to 70 cards for the manager and players, a three card subset for recent 1st round draft picks, a three card "Kaito Ranma" subset and a five card "Good ball must-hit" subset.  The non-premium insert sets are described more than actually named - a nine card "Main Player" set, a three card "Expected Rookie" set, a three card "Growing Up" set and a three card "Moment Of Resurrection" set.  There's a whopping 63(!) premium insert cards split among the "Treasure" (24 cards), "Esperanza" (15 cards) and "Antique" (24 cards) sets - I believe all those cards are serially numbered.  The subsets and insert sets for the Fighters set aren't well defined - the base set has 68 cards for the players and manager plus the three card "Young Slugger", three card "Young Relief" and five card "Step-up" subsets.  There's a 9 card "Main Player", 4 card "Rookie" and 5 card "Young People Who Are Growing" insert sets although I don't expect those will actually be the names.  There's 30 premium insert cards - 15 "Treasure" cards and 15 "Esperanza" cards that again I think will be serially numbered.  Both sets also feature a variety of autographed cards and the Tigers set has memorabilia cards as well.  The Tigers set will be out in mid-July and the Fighters set will be out in late-July.

The fifth team to have a "Premier Edition" team set from Epoch this year is the Baystars.  The base set is around 29-ish cards which includes three OB players in addition to the active players (and manager Daisuke Miura).  Each card in the base set has a "holo" parallel.  The set appears to have the standard variety of insert sets that the other "Premier Edition" sets have had - "Regular Printed Signature" cards in various colors, "Metal Power" cards in various colors, "Time To Shine" cards in various colors, "Decomori", "Gem" and "Black Gem" cards.  There's also a big selection of autographed cards.   The set will be released on July 9th.

I was kind of expecting Epoch to do another set with the Japan Retired Foreign Players Association (JRFPA) since last year's set seemed to be popular so I was a bit surprised when the JRFPA teamed up with 216 Co. Ltd (aka Hits or TLC) to do a "mini shikishi" card set that features retired foreign players from the Hiroshima Toyo Carp.  The set contains 15 cards and includes players like Brad Eldred, Kris Johnson, Marty Brown and Colby Lewis.  Each box apparently contains at least one autographed card - the boxes retail for 5500 yen and contain ten packs containing one card each.  The set will be out on July 23rd.

216 Co. Ltd (or whatever their name is) is also releasing the "Baystars Used Ball" set on August 4th.  The base set will contain 81 cards although the set only features 18 players.  There's also a variety of special and rare cards available in the packs including real and facsimile autographs and "used ball" and "ball patch" memorabilia cards.

I'm kind of excited about the last set I'm going to mention in this post although I confess to knowing almost nothing about it.  This month SCC is releasing a set in Korea called something like "Korea Baseball Legend" that I'm guessing is tying into the KBO's 40th Anniversary this year.  It looks like it may be the first ever OB player set for the KBO.  All I know about this set is basically from this Twitter thread so I don't know how big the set is or how much it'll be.  I'm just hoping the base set won't be prohibitively expensive.  UPDATE - I had missed a tweet by Dan Skrezyna (Korean Cardboard) with the details about this set.  It's got a 50 card base set with MANY parallels and autograph cards available.  The MSRP for each box is 220,000 won which is around $176 but I don't know what's included in the box - is it packs or is this a box set with chase cards?  The set will be released on June 17th.

Sunday, June 12, 2022

Card Of The Week June 12

On Tuesday evening Shota Imanaga of the Baystars threw the third no-hitter of the 2022 NPB season.  His gem came against the Fighters who had previously this season been no-hit for nine innings by the Marines in a game they ultimately won in the tenth inning on their only hit - a home run by Chusei Mannami.  It looked for a while that the Imanaga was going to get the same run support that Roki Sasaki had gotten than day - i.e. none - but DeNA rallied to score two runs in the top of the ninth to ensure the game ended after nine.  It was the first no-hitter ever thrown by an NPB pitcher at Sapporo Dome and with the Fighters moving to a new stadium next year, it may be the last.  It was also the first no-hitter thrown by a Baystars pitcher since Hiroshi Kito threw one on almost the same day in 1970 (June 9th instead of June 7th) when the franchise was still called the Taiyo Whales and played their home games in Kawasaki.

Here's a 2021 Calbee Star card of Imanaga (#S-19):

Saturday, June 11, 2022

Jun Hagiwara

The Dragons' recent experimentation with using Akira Neo as a pitcher got me curious if this had happened before in recent-ish (say the last 50 years of so) NPB history.  I could think of a number of examples of players who started out as pitchers switching to being position players - Kazuya Fukuura, Yoshio Itoi, Yuhei Takai, Ryuji Miyade and Fumikazu Kimura are all examples from the last 30 years - but I could not come up with anyone who'd gone the other way.  I reached out to John E. Gibson and Jim Allen of the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast and asked them if they could think of anyone.  They answered my question on the podcast two weeks ago but the only name they could think of was Jun Hagiwara.

Hagiwara drew a lot of attention by hitting 25 home runs as an infielder with Kofu High School.  He was the second round pick of the Orix BlueWave back in 1991 - the same draft that Orix took So Taguchi (1st round) and Ichiro Suzuki (4th round).  I'll quote the Google translation of his Japanese Wikipedia page - "When he was a newcomer, he was expected to be the same as So Taguchi and Ichiro, but his talent did not bloom."  I don't know what his farm team statistics were but between 1992 and 2000 he only had seven plate appearances in seven ichi-gun games and had just one hit.  In the middle of the 2000 season, Orix manager Akira Ohgi suggested that he try pitching.

He made his top team debut as a pitcher in 2001, appear in just one game but really came into his own in 2002 - appearing in 48 games out of the bullpen and posting a 2.64 ERA with 10 saves.  That was probably the best season of his career as his ERA jumped to 7-ish in each of the next two seasons.  He had another decent year in 2005, going 3-2 with a 3.89 ERA in 49 games split between the bullpen and the starting rotation.  He was traded to the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters with Tatsuo Katoh in the middle of the 2007 season for Akio Shimizu and Kuniyuki Kimoto.  He got into 25 games with the Fighters, posting a 5.63 ERA and was released after the season, despite pitching three scoreless innings against the Dragons in the Nippon Series.  He attended the 12 team tryout that winter and ended up signing with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.  He spent three seasons with Yakult although he was demoted to the farm team due to shoulder pain late in 2009 and was never brought back up the following season.  He retired at the end of the 2010 season and has been coaching for a variety of independent teams ever since.

Here's a handful of his baseball cards.  These first two are the only cards I know of showing him as a position player - although I would guess that there are some team issued cards of him from the 90's depicting him as an infielder as well:

1992 BBM #446

1997 BBM #278

His first cards as a pitcher don't appear to be until 2003.  He has 20+ cards between 2003 and 2010.  The only card showing him as a member of the Fighters is from the 2007 BBM Nippon Series set.  

2003 BBM 1st Version #351

2006 BBM Buffaloes #Bs23

2007 BBM Nippon Series #S32

2010 BBM 1st Version #082

One thing I discovered while researching Hagiwara is that he was actually the third player that Ohgi had converted to pitching in the late 90's!  He had also moved Toshihiro Kase (who I'd written about before but forgotten) and Fumiaki Imamura to the mound.  Hagiwara was by far the most successful pitcher of this trio which was kind of odd as he's the only one of the trio who was not a pitcher in high school.  Of course that also means his arm wasn't abused by his high school coach either.