Sunday, December 21, 2014

Card Of The Week December 21

2001 was Ichiro Suzuki's first season in the major leagues and Calbee decided to commemorate it by printing up a reprint of one of their first cards of him and including it with their second (of two) series that year.

Ichiro's BBM rookie card was in the 1993 set but Calbee did include a card of him in either of their regular sets in 1993 and 1994.  It wasn't until late in the 1994 season (which was Ichiro's breakout season) that they hastily added him to a small regional set they did that was only released for a short time in Hokkaido.  The set was originally 36 cards but Calbee added three cards of Ichiro to raise it to a total of 39.  This gets into one of those hair-splitting technical debates about what counts as Ichiro's Calbee rookie card - is it in the 1994 Hokkaido regional set or the 1995 regular set?  The market apparently has already decided which is the more valuable card - SCM #106 (the latest issue to include Calbee prices) lists the three 1994 cards at 7000 yen apiece with his 1995 cards (there are four in the set) at either 3000 yen (for the first series cards) or 5000 yen (for the second series cards).

Here's the front and back of the 2001 Reprint:

Monday, December 15, 2014

Rare Sighting

I was doing some looking around on Yahoo! Japan Auctions the other day and I came across something I've never seen before - an empty bag for Calbee's Yakyu chips from 1973, the first year Calbee did baseball cards.

I swiped the images from the auction to share here.  As you can see, the bag's not in very good shape which isn't a surprise since it's almost 42 years old.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Card Of The Week December 14

I was thinking recently that Hall of Fame pitcher Shigeru Sugishita had only played for the Dragons during his career.  This turns out not to be the case - he spent the 1961 season (his last) with the Daimai Orions.  I was further surprised to see that one of his cards in the 2000 20th Century Best 9 shows him as an Orions player - I've had this card for a while so I must have completely forgotten about his Orions detour.

It's always a bit jarring to see someone who had a long career for one team in a uniform for another team - kind of like seeing Willie McCovey in a Padres uniform or Wally Yonamine in a Dragons uniform.  (Hmm, maybe there was something in the air in 1961...)

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #367

Friday, December 12, 2014

More Unknown Menkos

I've picked up some more menko cards in the past few months that appear to not be cataloged in Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Cards Checklist And Price Guide".*

*I do need to mention that Gary Engel took a look at some of the cards I've posted and confirmed that the Shigeru Fujio card I have is a previously unknown card from the 1961 Marumatsu JCM 14d set.

UPDATE - I received an email from Gary Engel today (12/14) with his comments on the cards.  I'll add them to each of the paragraphs below.  One thing that Gary did stress with me was the distinction between unknown cards and uncataloged cards.  Just because a card is uncataloged doesn't mean it's unknown.

The first card is familiar looking but I still don't know what set it belongs in.  It's a card of Kaoru Bettoh and it's pretty obviously a Kagome card from the same set as the Fumio Fujimura card I mentioned last summer.  But neither card resemble any of the Kagome sets listed in the most recent edition of Engel.  (Engel: Not in Guide.  I have a copy of this card, too.  And, I've seen it several times.  I suspect it is from a set that is mostly non-baseball, but I have no proof.  (just a hunch))

I suspect that the next card should properly be classified as a bromide card, although I think it's from one of the sets that Engel refers to as links between bromides and the "tobacco" menkos of the late 50's and early 60's.  The player is Noburo Inoue of the Dragons.  Initially I was thinking that the card might be from the 1957 JBR 18 set, but the text doesn't really match (the size of the text of team name is roughly the same as the size of the player's name on the card whereas in the JBR 18 set the size of team name is smaller) and the JBR 18 cards feature stadium backgrounds.  The card is blank backed except for a "3" in a circle that is probably indicates that it was a "winner" card.  (Engel: There are a number of bromide sets which look like "tobacco menko" on the front but have blank backs.  I just keep a visual catalog of everything of this nature that I can find until I can find a taba, display sheet, or uncut sheet of a particular type which will allow me to catalogue each set.  I have not seen this particular card before.)

I'm pretty sure I know which sets that the rest of the cards I'm posting tonight belong in.  This card of Tadao Wako of the Lions  appears to be from the 1959 Marusho JCM 38b set.  That particular set featured only cards of the Giants and Lions, the participants in the 1958 Nippon Series.  (Engel: This is indeed a 1959 JCM 38b card.  Subsequent to the last Guide edition, I have obtained tabas and display sheets of this set.  It is now complete at 40 cards.  One of the two "new" cards that I discovered is this one of Wako.)

These next two cards are also from 1959 - I think they are both from the Maruta JCM 40 set.  The card with only one player on it features Shoichi Ono of the Daimai Orions.  The two player card features Tadashi Sugiura and Tamotsu Kimura of the Nankai Hawks. (Engel: Ono-Definitely a previously uncatalogued member of the JCM 40 set.  Sugiura/Kimura - This card is an already catalogued JCM 40.  It pictures Nomura with Sugiura instead of Kimura.  In fact, the first character for Kimura on your card looks like it was done in a different font.  Was it done by hand?  NPB Card Guy:  The "Ki" kanji does not appear to have been written on the card after printing as there is no depression in the surface of the card that a pencil or pen might have made)

This card of the Dragons' Toru Mori looks very similar to the cards in the 1959 Maruten JCM 135 set.  There's a couple major differences, however, as the cards in that set are assumed to be part of a sequence of pictures for each player in the set, so each card is marked with a sequence number.  The text on the back of the JCM 135 cards is horizontal while the text on the back of this card is vertical. (Engel: This is already catalogued in JCM 135.  It is sequential card number six for Mori, as the Japanese character for the number six is the bottom character within the black text box.)

This card of Toshio Miyamoto (UPDATE - just realized that this is nisei player Andy Miyamoto) of the Giants appears to be from the 1959 (again with the 1959!) Maruten JCM 136 set. (Engel: Yes, this is indeed a previously uncatalogued JCM 136.)

The final two cards appear to be from the 1961 Marukami JCM 14d set that I previously had found the new Fujio card for.  The first card is Takao Katsuragi of the Orions and the second card is Takeshi Kuwata of the Whales.  (Engel:  Several months ago, Rob Fitts was looking through his collection of JCM 14d and discovered that it either has two printings, or there are two very similar sets.  I had never collected this set, and much of my checklist relied on info given to me by Paul Margiott over 20 years ago, when we were putting together the first edition.

Rob doesn't have a complete set, but noticed that there were two versions of many cards in the set, each having a different menko number.  In all cases of cards with two versions, one was printed more crudely than the other, and that there are color variations between the two versions.  In many cases, where the guide checklist had two cards listed for a player, the two menko numbers simply indicated the two versions (I didn't know that), although there are some players who do have two cards with different images within the same version.

At present, we know of 72 cards from the two versions, as opposed to the 58 cards I had checklisted in the guide.  And a second version of the majority of cards is still unknown.  Rob had the Kuwata card.  The Katsuragi card is unknown to me.)

If anyone can shed any light on these cards (or point out where I missed them in Engel), please let me know.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

My White Whale - The 2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 Set

I started seriously collecting Japanese baseball cards in the fall of 2000.  One of my first sources for cards was the online store (which has been gone now for a number of years).  I used to buy a lot of unopened packs from them, especially packs from a set BBM had just released that fall - the 20th Century Best 9 set*.  I decided early on that I would attempt to complete this set.  Not only that, I wouldn't be satisfied with the base set, I wanted the master set, or at least the base set plus the two insert sets.

*I'm actually not positive what this set should be called.  Engel refers to it as the "20th Century Best 9" set so that's what I'm calling it here.  But those words don't appear on the packaging at all (at least not in English).  I've got the set in my database simply as "20th Century" and the packaging implies that the set is called "20th Century - The Best Players".

Little did I realize that the set was going to take me 14 years to complete!  Actually, I don't know how long it will take me to complete because I'm still short one insert card.  But with the help of Ryan (the most recent in a line of several people who have helped me out), I have finally completed the base set (to go along with an insert set I had completed a few years back via my first ever order with kuboTEN).  So I think it is finally time to do a post about this set, which is probably my favorite historic set ever.

According to Engel, in 2000 someone (probably NPB itself) had a fan vote to determine the Best 9 team for the 20th Century (similar to the MLB All Century Team although the NPB team would feature only one player per position).  BBM released this set in conjunction with the vote featuring (I assume) all 120 players on the ballot.  But BBM did not do a simple 120 card set - each player on the ballot would have four cards in the set for a whopping 480 card set!  In fact, the base set contains 484 cards as there are four unnumbered checklist cards as well.

The 120 players featured in the set are an amazing collection of the greatest players in NPB up to 2000.  The big names that you would expect are all in the set - Oh, Nagashima, Katsuya Nomura, Masaichi Kaneda (kind of - more about that in a minute), Sachio Kinugasa, Tetsuharu Kawakami, Tsutomu Wakamatsu, Kazuhisa Inao, Isao Harimoto, Koji Yamamoto, Hiromitsu Kadota, Yutaka Enatsu and Hiromitsu Ochiai.  There are a large number of players from before 1950, including players who played both pre-war and during the war, guys like Eiji Sawamura, Masaru Kageura (first cards ever for Kageura I think), Victor Starffin, Jiro Noguchi and Tadashi "Bozo" Wakabayashi.  Foreign players are well represented including Wally Yonamine, Warren Cromartie (kind of), Leron Lee, Ralph Bryant and Boomer Wells.  Harris McGalliard (real name was Andrew McGalliard and he played in Japan under the name "Bucky Harris"), an American who played a for a couple teams for a few years in the 1930's (he was MVP of the 1937 Fall season), is included in the set - I think these are the only four baseball cards of him ever made.  There's also a large number of players who were active in 2000 (including two that were still active in 2014) in the set - Ichiro, Hideki Matsui, Kazuo Matsui, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Koji Yamamoto, Akira Etoh, Hiroki Kokubo, Tuffy Rhodes, Bobby Rose and Tsutomu Itoh among others.  Two other players who were active in MLB in 2000 are included in the set - Hideo Nomo (kind of) and Kazuhiro Sasaki.

The fronts of all the cards use the same design but the backs differ.  Cards 1-120 have a biography of the player on the back.  Cards 121-240 have the player's career stats.  Cards 241-360 have a summary of awards and statistical titles for the player.  Cards 361-480 have a summary of the uniform numbers that the player wore.  Here are the backs of all four Sadaharu Oh cards as an example:




The photography on the front of the cards is a somewhat mixed bag in terms of quality.  Obviously the longer ago a player was active, the less likely there is of finding any color photos of the player.  And of course a lot of photos didn't survive the war.  On the plus side, BBM did a remarkable job in finding photos of players for some pretty obscure teams from 1930's and 1940's - the Eagles, Yamato, the Tokyo Senators as well as photos of players during the war (distinguishable by the fact that there's no English on the uniforms).  

Here's a bunch of example cards:












I mentioned above that Masaichi Kaneda, Warren Cromartie and Hideo Nomo were "kind of" in the set.  All three of them have cards, but BBM was not able to actually get the rights to use their pictures in the set.  So 12 of the cards look something like this:

Prestige Collectibles had an uncut sheet of cards from this set up for auction a few years back - I think it was actually a proof sheet for the set.  It actually included a Kaneda card with a picture on it.  Unfortunately it was priced waaaay out of my price range.

48 of the cards in the set (all featuring black and white photos) had a parallel version.  The parallel cards featured a sepia toned photo and a gold embossed bar in place of the black bar on the bottom of the front of the card.  The backs were also sepia toned rather than the original colors.

There were two insert sets issued with the set.  The first is a 15 card "Combination" set featuring shots of two players together.  Like the base set, some of the cards are black and white and some are color.  Here's a couple examples:



The other insert set is called "The Scene" and it features eight significant moments in Japanese baseball history up to that point - Yutaka Enatsu striking out nine PL batters in one of the 1971 All Star games (in which the Central League had a combined no hitter against the Pacific League), Shigeo Nagashima's retirement in 1974, Sadaharu Oh passing Henry Aaron in 1977 (the one card I still don't have), Isao Harimoto reaching 3000 hits in 1980, Keishi Suzuki getting his 300th win in 1984, Yutaka Fukumoto getting his 1000th stolen base in 1984, Sachio Kinugasa's consecutive game streak passing Lou Gehrig's in 1987 and Ichiro becoming the first player to get 200 hits in an NPB season in 1994.

There was also a group of cards that were available as a mail-in lottery.  200 cards were produced for each player who was actually named to the 20th Century Best 9 team.  It appears according to Engel that these were essentially the same in appearance as the sepia parallels although the photos were all in color.  There were also autograph cards available on a redemption basis - five players (Yutaka Enatsu, Kazuhisa Inao, Tetsuharu Kawakami, Yasimitsu Toyoda and Koji Yamamoto) each signed 40 cards.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me put this set together over the years - YakyuShop, Rob Fitts, Jason, Sean, Ryan and Mint Ikebukuro.  I also used Gary Engel's "Japanese Baseball Cards Checklist And Price Guide" in writing this post.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Card Of The Week December 7

I did a post the other day on the 80th Anniversary Best 9 team that NPB announced a few weeks back.  That Best 9 team did not include a DH even though the PL has been picking a DH for their annual Best 9 team since 1975, or roughly half the 80 years there has been professional baseball (and an even higher percentage of years with Best 9 awards which started in 1940 although they were not awarded again after that year until 1947).  By very unscientifically eye-balling the list of award winners, I think the player who has been named DH on the PL Best 9 team the most is Hiromitsu Kadota with four times.  Here's his 1992 Calbee card (#43) (which I believe is his last Calbee card, at least as an active player):

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Kevin Youkilis

Kevin Youkilis announced his retirement a few weeks back (I've gotten way behind on doing posts for retiring players but now that I'm caught up on sets for the moment maybe I can get back to them).  I normally wouldn't do a post on someone like this - he ended up only playing in around 20 games in Japan - but I've always been a big fan of his as the Red Sox are my favorite team.  I was really excited that he was going to spend 2014 in Japan and very disappointed when he got hurt early in the season, left Japan for treatment in the US and never returned.

Looking at the list at Sports Card Forum and taking a look at Jambalaya, I think Youk ended up having nine Japanese cards, of which I have five:

2014 BBM Icons - Big Guns #01

2014 BBM Icons - Big Guns #26

2014 BBM 1st Version #013

2014 Calbee #086

2014 BBM 2nd Version #456
In addition, he had a card in the Bandai Owners League 02 set (#001), the BBM Eagles team set (#E46) and two cards in the Eagles team issued set (#47 and #SS1-08).