Sunday, January 15, 2023

1990 Rushmore IBA World All-Stars

Sometimes a message can send you down quite the rabbit hole...

A couple months ago I got a message from my friend Steve Smith in Australia asking if I'd ever seen cards from the 1990 Rushmore IBA World All-Stars set.  Steve had just picked up the cards for the Australian players in the set.  This is a set that I used to have but sold in the early days of this blog.  I hadn't thought about the set in years but I started looking into more and more since Steve's message and found it got more and more interesting.

First some background.  IBA stands for the International Baseball Association which later became the International Baseball Federation (IBAF) and then the World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC).  It's the governing body for international baseball and organizes events like the Premier 12, the Olympics (with the IOC) and the World Baseball Classic (with MLB).  In anticipation of baseball becoming an official Olympic sport for the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, the IBA put on a "World All-Star Game" at Atlanta Fulton County Stadium on August 22, 1980.  Players from 24 of the 68 member countries participated in the game.  

The players were split into an East and a West team for the game.  The East team was made up of players from Europe, Asia, Australia and Oceania - Australia, Belgium, China, Guam, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Philippines, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan (Chinese Taipei) and the USSR.  The West team had players from the Americas - Aruba, Canada, Colombia, Cuba, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Puerto Rico, the US and Venezuela.  With four each Japan, Cuba and the US had the largest number of players on their respective squads.

The West scored first, putting two runs on the board in the bottom of the first behind a two run home run by Cuban Legend Omar Linares but the East tied it up with two of their own in the top of the second.  The game remained tied until the top of the sixth when the East scored three more runs.  They padded their lead to 7 to 2 with another pair of runs in the seventh and increased it to 11 to 3 with four in the eighth (after the West scored a run in the bottom of the seventh).  The West closed the gap some with two runs in the eighth and three in the ninth but the East held on to win 11-8.

To commemorate this game, the IBA teamed up with a card company called Rushmore to produce a 52 card set that included team photos, highlights of the games and cards of most of the players (the four US players - Philip Steadman, Joey Hamilton, Mike Hostetler and Jorge Fabregas - do not have individual cards in the set although they appear on the West team card and in the game highlight cards).  I remember seeing ads in Baseball Card Magazine for the set back in the day and thought it was overpriced at the time - if I remember correctly it was originally selling for $25.  I picked up the set I had originally had off Ebay for probably less than $10 sometime in the late 90's/early 00's.  I had used a couple cards of Linares in a post back in 2010 and someone in Taiwan offered me $160(!) for the set.  Now I don't post cards on the blog with the thought of selling them but when someone offers me $160 for something I'm not that interested in that I paid less than $10 for, I'm going to take that offer.  We made our deal and my copy of that 52 card set was soon winging its way across the Pacific.  And I didn't think much more about this set for probably 12 years, until I got that message from Steve.

When I had originally picked up the set I was still a minor league card collector.  I had only kind of peripherally looked into the backgrounds of the Japanese players on the team, basically determining that only two of them appeared to have ever played in NPB.  I didn't have anywhere near the resources that I have now for researching players and I didn't understand the role that Japanese corporate league baseball has played in international "amateur" baseball events.  Looking at the set again with a set of fresh eyes I found some interesting things - two Japanese Olympic baseball players, a Hall Of Fame coach, a Korean baseball legend, a Taiwanese Olympic player who spent six years with the Hanshin Tigers, an MLB Hall Of Famer and two stealth appearances of a Japanese baseball icon.

Let's start with the Japanese contingent on the team.  

Tetsuya Nagano is probably the least interesting of the group.  He had been playing for Osaka Gas when selected for the team and played for the Japanese team at the 1990 World Amateur Baseball Championship and the 1990 Asian Games.  He never played professionally although he had passed the Hankyu Braves entrance exam out of high school - he decided to go to college instead.  Nagano was the starting pitcher for the East team.  He pitched four innings, giving up two runs (on the Linares home run) on six hits and one walk with one strikeout.  

Masafumi Nishi was a teammate of Nagano's with Osaka Gas (and not the Osaka Gulls as listed on his card above).  He had joined the team out of high school in 1979 and played for them until 1993.  Like Nagano he never played professionally but he was the first player to appear on two Japanese Olympic baseball teams when he suited up for both the 1988 Seoul Games and the 1992 Barcelona Games.  At 31 he was the oldest player on the 1992 squad.  In the game he was a late inning replacement at shortstop and went 1 for 1 with two RBIs.

Shinichi Satoh (as opposed to Shin-Ichi) is probably the best known of the four Japanese players as he would eventually spend 13 years playing in NPB.  He spent several years playing for Hokkaido Takushoku Bank in the corporate leagues (which changed their name to Takugin for 1992, his last year with the team).  Satoh was a teammate of Nishi's on the 1992 Barcelona Olympic team and had 3 home runs and 11 RBIs in the tournament.  Following the games he declared for the 1992 draft and was taken by the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in the fourth round and made his NPB debut in April of 1993 as a 27 year old rookie.  His first couple seasons with the Hawks didn't go well and they eventually traded him to the Yakult Swallows with Kazuya Tabata for Shikato Yanagita and Ryo Kawano.  He didn't become a regular until 1999 but he put together his best season that year, hitting .341 with 13 home runs in 113 games along with a Swallows record 25 game hitting streak.  He torn an elbow ligament the following season and missed much of the 2000 and 2001 seasons.  After he returned from injury he played well as a part time player for Yakult and retired following the 2005 season.  He coached for Yakult for nine years before moving to Orix for the 2015 season.  He returned to coaching with the Swallows in 2021.

1994 BBM #462

2005 BBM Swallows #S77

Satoh had a very good World All-Stars game, going four for four with three RBIs and two runs scored.  He hit a three run inside-the-park home run in the top of the sixth to break the 2-2 tie and put the East team up for good.  He ended up being named MVP for the game.  Both the home run and the MVP award were commemorated on cards in the set:

Ken Suzuki the pitcher (as opposed to Ken Suzuki the infielder) had joined Nippon Oil in 1988 after graduating from high school and by 1990 was the team's ace.  He was considered for the Barcelona Olympic team but ultimately was not chosen.  He was drafted by the Carp in the third round of the 1992 draft and made his NPB debut the following season.  He had a poor season, going 1-7 and posting a 6.71 ERA in 19 games (including 11 starts).  His one win (which ended up being his sole NPB win) was a shutout of the Tigers in September of 1993.  He spent all of 1994 with the farm team and was dispatched by the Carp to the China Times Eagles of the CPBL in 1995 where he went 2-5 with an ERA of 5.14 in 14 games.  He also pitched in two games for the ichi-gun Carp that year but his ERA was 15.43(!) and he was banished back to the farm team for the remainder of his time in Hiroshima.  He was released by the Carp after the 1996 season and spent the next two years with the Yokohama Baystars farm team before he retired after the 1998 season.  He pitched in the ninth inning of the World All-Star game, giving up three runs on two hits and a walk (I assume he gave up a home run but I don't know to who) despite striking out two batters.

1993 BBM #427

The East team was managed by Japanese amateur baseball legend Masatake Yamanaka.  Yamanake was a star at Hosei University in the late 1960's, going 48-13 with 230 strikeouts and an ERA of 1.86 in 80 games.  Those 48 wins are a Tokyo Big Six record.  After graduation he joined the Sumitomo Metal industrial league team rather than going to NPB.  He spent seven years with the team and later managed both it and his alma mater.  He was also the pitching coach for the 1988 Seoul Olympic team and the manager of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic team.  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2016.  I'm only aware of two other baseball cards of him, one as a college player and one as an industrial league player:

2011 BBM Legend Of Tokyo Big Six #105

2017 BBM Infinity #043

I don't know anywhere enough about Korean amateur baseball history to be able to say anything about coach Soon-Jo Chang.  There were two Korean players on the roster who were teammates from Konkuk University.  Both would go on to play in the KBO but one would be much more successful than the other.  

We'll start with the less successful player.  Song Koo-hong went 0-3 during the World All-Star game.  He would go on to be the first pick of the LG Twins in the 1991 KBO draft.  He had the best two seasons of his career in 1992 and 1993, hitting .304 with 20 home runs and 20 steals and winning a Golden Glove in 1992 and hitting .308 in 1993.  I think he served his mandatory South Korean military service in 1994.  His performance dropped off after he returned in 1995 with his batting average dropping in the .260s.  He was traded to the Haitai Tigers before 1998 season and was traded again to the Ssangbangwool Raiders during the 1999 season.  He was released by the Raiders at the end of the season and returned to LG for the last three years of his playing career.  After retiring at the end of the 2002 season he either coached or worked in the front office for LG until 2018 and has spent the last few years as a coach for the Hanwha Eagles.  This is the only card I have from him from his playing days - I hadn't realized until I was scanning it that it was miscut:

2000 Teleca #139

You'll be forgiven if you don't realize who this is as the unusual transliteration of his name kind of hides it.  This is Lee Jong-beom, one of the greatest players in KBO history.  I think he went 1 for 4 in the game and scored a run before being replaced late in the game at shortstop by Nishi.  Lee was the first pick of the Haitai Tigers in the 1992 KBO draft and burst onto the scene with an impressive rookie campaign in 1993 where he stole 73 bases, led the league in runs scored with 85 and helped his team win the Korea Series in which he was named MVP.  He had an even more impressive season in 1994 when he won the batting crown by hitting .393 (the second highest batting average in KBO history), led the league in hits with 196 and stole a league record 84 bases.  He won the KBO MVP award that season.  After a couple more years of dominance (and two more Korea Series championships) he followed former Haitai teammate Sun Dong-yol to the Chunichi Dragons in Japan.  Lee spent slightly over three injury plagued seasons in Nagoya putting up numbers that were nowhere near what he had done in Korea.  He returned to the KBO and the Tigers (now owned by Kia) midway through the 2001 season and it was like he'd never left.  He made 13 All Star teams in Korea, won six Golden Glove awards, led the league in runs five times and played in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.  He retired following the 2012 season and has coached for Hanwha and LG.  His son is KBO star Lee Jung-hoo - the elder Lee's nickname was "Son Of The Wind" so of course the younger Lee is "Grandson Of The Wind".

1994 Teleca #18

1998 BBM #379

There were three players from Taiwan in the game but I don't know much about any of them other than Kuo Lee Chien-fu.  He pitched two scoreless innings in the game, giving up two hits and a walk.  As the pitcher of record when Satoh hit his three run inside-the-park home run to put the East into the lead for good, he wound up with the win.  He would go on to pitch for the Silver Medal winning Taiwan team in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and beat Japan twice in the tournament.  He parleyed this success against Japan into a contract with the Hanshin Tigers starting in 1993 and spent six season toiling for Hanshin under the name 'Tateo Kakuri'.  His career numbers were 27-31 with a 3.50 ERA.  He spent the next five years in the CPBL with the Chinatrust Whales before retiring after the 2003 season.  I don't actually own the above card (I swiped the image off the internet) but I have several cards of his from his days with the Tigers:

1998 BBM Tigers #T193

Take a good look at the team photo for the West team:

Notice the guy in the Braves uniform standing fifth from the left in the back row?  A glance at the back of the card will confirm that it's Hank Aaron:

I must point out here that I don't actually own this card either - I swiped the image off the internet also.

Let's take a look at the team photo for the East team:

Who's that guy in the Yomiuri Giants uniform kneeling in the front row?  The back of the card gives no clue:

Our mysterious Giant also makes an appearance on the "Team Congratulations" card (which has the box score of the game on the back).  See him on the far left?  (The card is unnumbered but should be card #51 in the set.)

That unnamed Giant is Sadaharu Oh!  (The "1" visible on his uniform on the team card kind of gives it away.)  I think he and Aaron were honorary team captains for the two squads.  I know he was there for the game because I have this SABR publication from 1992:

That's Yamanaka (#7) in the background behind Oh.  It's kind of odd that Oh is wearing a Giants jersey with the team's 50th Anniversary logo on the sleeve since that would have been in 1984 but this is clearly from the 1990 game.  It also looks like the jersey has Oh's autograph on it - look under the "G" on the front of it.  

There's an article in this publication by Bob Rybarczyk entitled "The IBA and the World Amateur Baseball Movement" that mentions this game.  Apparently Atlanta officials were interested in hosting this event as it was an opportunity to "host an important international competition one month before the final decision would be announced as to the location of the 1996 Olympic Games."  I don't know if it helped but it obviously didn't hurt since Atlanta won their bid to host the Games.  There was also a second game played at Dodger Stadium in 1991 but I know absolutely nothing about it.  As far as I know there was no card set issued for it.

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