Saturday, January 21, 2017

New Releases For The New Year

There was a couple weeks where I was starting to wonder what was going on - there didn't seem to have been any announcements being made about any 2017 releases.  Then about a week or so, BBM made an announcement about their annual Retirement set and it's like the flood gates opened, with news of five new NPB sets and a new KBO set.

- BBM will be releasing the aforementioned Retirement set on January 28th.  This is the seventh edition of this set and like the others it is a box set.  Each box contains 37 cards - a 36 card base set plus one autographed card.  The set includes cards of all the players who announced their retirement at the end of the 2016 season such as Hiroki Kuroda, Daisuke Miura, Takahiro Suzuki, and Saburo.

- BBM is releasing their annual Rookie Edition set in mid-February.  This is a pack based set featuring all the players taken in last fall's draft.  The base set has 126 cards - 114 for the draftees and 12 for a subset called "Early Days" that I think is for OB players.  There are two insert sets - Next Generation (12 cards) which I think is a young player for each team and Rookie Of The Year (2 cards) which features the two Rookies Of The Year from the 2016 season (Hiroshi Takanashi and Shun Takayama).  There are also autographed cards available for I think both the draftees and the OB players featured in the "Early Days" subset.

- Epoch is releasing another of their ultra high end sets in conjunction with the Japan Baseball Promotion Association (or OB Club).  The set is called "Opening Day Starting Lineup" and each 16,200 yen (~$160) box contains a single pack of six cards - three base set cards, one "Holo Spectra" card and two autographed cards.  There are 40 cards in the base set.  Possible autographed cards include autographed baseballs, autographed bats (only Koji Yamamoto) and some sort of autographed booklet.  The set will be out on March 18.

- There is a new outfit called Hits that is publishing a couple team based sets of "Trading mini colored paper", one for the Baystars and one for the Hawks.  Both sets feature 8 players and each player has two "cards" - a "normal" card and a "gold foil signature" card.  I think there are possible autographed cards with the sets as well but I'm not sure.  Both sets will be released on April 8th.

- The latest KBO set is called "Black Edition" and looks very similar to the Blue and Gold Edition sets released in the past two years.  The set has a bunch of autographed and memorabilia cards as well as some short printed cards and I think around 163 cards in its base set.  I believe that this set is already out but it's possible that it won't be until this coming week.  UPDATE - Just noticed that George did a post previewing the set and provided a link to the official website for it.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Fighters in Arizona, 2017 Edition

As I mentioned a few weeks back, your 2017 Nippon Series Champion Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters are returning to Peoria, Arizona for spring training this February.  More details have come out in the last week or so, including the schedule and the roster of who's attending.

The Fighters will have an abbreviated trip due to the World Baseball Classic starting up in early March.  Like last year they will be at the Padres training facility at the Peoria Sports Complex.  They will hold practices on February 1-4, 6-7 and the 10th, play an exhibition game against the KBO's KT Wiz on the eighth and hold an inter-squad game on the ninth.  The fifth will be an off day.

Shohei Ohtani is one of the Fighters coming to Arizona but it's rumored that he won't actually play in either of the games.  A couple of the other big names for the Fighters (Sho Nakata, Naoki Miyanishi, and Hirotoshi Masui) decided not to come to Arizona and will be with the ni-gun team in Okinawa instead.  Here's the full roster (got some help with the names from here):

There are a couple KBO teams training in the US.  Obviously the KT Wiz are in Arizona as it would be difficult for them to play the Fighters if they were not.  They will be training in Tucson from February 1 to 17 and then go to Los Angeles until March 8th.  The NC Dinos will also be in Tucson from February 1 to 19 and in Los Angeles until March 11.  The Nexen Heroes will be in the Phoenix area from January 30 to March 7 at two separate locations but I'm not entirely sure where those locations are.  The LG Twins will be at Surprise Stadium, home of the Rangers and Royals, from February 1 to 11 and the Lotte Giants will be using the Mariners facilities at the Peoria Sports Complex from January 30 to February 22.  Finally the SK Wyverns (managed by Trey Hillman) will be in Vero Beach, Florida from February 1 to 24.  (Source

Monday, January 16, 2017

2017 Hall Of Fame class

The results for this year's Hall Of Fame ballot were released today and there were five new inductees.  Longtime Lions catcher (and one time Lions and current Marines manager) Tsutomu Itoh was elected from the "Players Division" while the "Expert Division" elected former Dragons pitcher and manager (as well as Tigers, Eagles and 2008 Olympic manager) Senichi Hoshino and former Whales pitcher Masaji Hiramatsu.  Amateur umpire Hiroshi Goshi and "developer of standardized baseball rules" (for lack of a better term) Mirei Suzuki were elected from the "Special Division".

Here are cards for the new inductees who were former players (I don't know of any cards for Goshi or Suzuki).  I previously did a post on Hoshino when he retired as Eagles manager in 2014 and I got an autograph from him at the Cal Ripken World Series back in 2010.

Tsutomu Itoh

1982 Takara Lions #27

1993 BBM #439

2003 BBM 2nd Version #633

Senichi Hoshino

2011 BBM Legend Of Tokyo Big 6 #038

1981 Calbee #364

2012 BBM 2nd Version #663

Masaji Hiramatsu

1977 Yamakatsu JY3

2016 BBM The Ballpark Stories #037

2005 BBM 2nd Version #816

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Mitsutaka Gotoh

Mitsutaka Gotoh of the Tohoku Rakutea Golden Eagles announced his retirement last month.  Gotoh had been released by the Eagles at the end of the season and attended the 12 team tryouts in early December but did not get any offers.  The Eagles have given him a job working with their baseball academy.

Gotoh was drafted in the tenth round of the fall 2001 draft from Kawasaki Steel Chiba of the corporate leagues by the Orix Blue Wave.  It's hard to believe but he was the last Orix Blue Wave player still active in NPB (the only other active former Blue Wave player is Ichiro Suzuki).  He played for Orix through the 2013 season.  His best seasons were 2010 when he hit .295 with 16 home runs and 73 RBIs in 143 games and 2011 when he hit .312 in 130 games (and had a 26 game hitting streak).  He was traded to the Eagles after the 2013 season for Teppei Tsuchiya and spent the past three seasons in Sendai.

His BBM rookie card was #295 from the 2002 1st Version set.  I'm not entirely sure what his first Calbee card was as there was another Mitsutaka Gotoh who played for Seibu and Yomiuri between 2000 and 2005 but I'm pretty sure it was a card from the 2002 "New Face" subset (#BN-16).  His first regular Calbee card was #181 from the 2005 set and he also had cards in various Konami, Bandai and Front Runner sets.

2002 BBM 1st Version #295

2004 BBM Blue Wave #BW90

2007 Konami Baseball Heroes 3 Black Edition #B07B092

2009 BBM 2nd Version #577

2011 Calbee Star #S-09

2012 BBM Pedigree #20

2013 Front Runner Buffaloes Season Summary #15

2016 BBM 1st Version #147

Card Of The Week January 15

When Prince Fielder retired last summer due to a herniated disk in his neck, I immediately thought of former Hanshin Tigers outfielder Norihiro Akahoshi.  Akahoshi had been forced to retire in 2009 after suffering a similar neck injury.

BBM did a box set dedicated to Akahoshi in early 2010 called "Red Star 53".  There's a lot of great photos in the set (which you can see at Jambalaya) but one of my favorites is this one of him in Sydney, Australia:

2010 BBM Red Star 53 #07
The back of the card indicates that the photo was taken in 2003.  I think the Tigers did a trip to Australia in November or December of that year in celebration of their Central League pennant that season.

Twenty years ago Wednesday I was in Sydney myself and took a similar picture of the Opera House:

Saturday, January 14, 2017

1970's Yamakatsu Albums

I did a post a few months back on the Calbee card albums of the 1970's and 80's (and I just did an update to the post with some images I swiped off of Ebay).  But Calbee wasn't the only card company from the 1970's who had albums.  Yamakatsu did them as well.  I don't know how many the company did but I have two of them.

The first album I have is from 1977.  Unfortunately I'm not 100% sure which set it was issued with as some of the 70's Yamakatsu sets are difficult to keep straight.  I'm pretty sure it was the "JY4" set but it might have been the "JY3" set.  I had opened boxes of both of these a few years back.  The album was included in the box with the cards - I think the intention was that the shop owner would put the packs of cards out for sale and give the album as a prize to the customer who pulled a pack with a "winner" card in it.  (There were also "premium" cards packed in the box to be given away as well.)

The album has color photos on the front and back but none in the inside.  Oddly enough it does not appear that most of the photos were also used on the cards.  There are three one pocket cellophane pages in the album for putting cards in.  Like many Japanese books and magazines, the album opens from the left side.  The album is about seven inches by ten inches - keep in mind that the cards in both the "JY3" and "JY4" sets were pretty large - around 6 3/4 inches by 9 3/4 inches.

1977 Yamakatsu Album front

1977 Yamakatsu Album back

The other album I have is from the 1979 "JY8" set.  This album is smaller - about 6 1/2 inches by 7 1/2 inches - and opens from the right like Western books and magazines.  The front has photos of Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh of the Giants while the back features Koichi Tabuchi and Shigeru Kobayashi of the Tigers, a Dragons player that I think is Keiichi Yazawa and Koji Yamamoto of the Carp.

1979 Yamakatsu Album front

1979 Yamakatsu Album back
Inside the album were paper pages with spots for the cards to be glued into - six per page.  I'm guessing that Yamakatsu had decided that their cards should be pasted into albums the same way that NST cards were.  I'm grateful that more Japanese collectors at the time did not do this - there'd be a lot fewer Yamakatsu cards in good condition if they had.  The album I have had about six cards pasted in it - most of them on the first page:

That's Shigeo Nagashima and Yutaka Fukumoto on the top row and Sadaharu Oh, Katsuo Ohsugi and Shigekazu Mori.  (And in case you're curious, the other card in the album is Koji Yamamoto's #7.)  I'd love to pull the two cards that I don't have (Oh and Mori) out but I don't see a way to do it without damaging the cards and/or the album.

Here's what empty pages look like - the album was too big for my scanner to get the full spread so the image is cut off a bit on the left side and by a full card's worth on the right side.

The guy selling these on Ebay had three separate auctions going for them - there was one with no cards in it for less than $10, the one I got with six cards in in for $15-ish and a near complete set for $40-ish.

I assume there were albums for other Yamakatsu sets but I have never seen them.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

2017 BBM Time Travel 1975

BBM didn't do a "Historic Collection" set this year, replacing it with the Fusion set.  For those looking for their OB player fix (beyond the 55 OB players in the Fusion set that is) BBM issued a set in late December called "Time Travel 1975".  This set has a major retro feel to it - the cards have a matte finish rather than the usual glossy finish and monochromatic backs rather than the standard full color ones.  The player cards only have stats through the 1975 season, making you feel like the cards were issued at that time.  The cards feel and look very similar to the "Achievement" box sets BBM put out two years ago for the Braves, Buffaloes, Hawks and Whales although I will mention that the photos look much better in this set than in those - some of the photos from the "Achievement" cards had been processed to look "aged" and it wasn't a good look.

The set has 99 cards in its base set.  84 of these are player/manager cards.  There are six cards per team with the exception of the two pennant winning teams - Hankyu and Hiroshima.  Those teams both have 12 representatives.  The players included are most of the big names active in NPB in 1975 - Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Isao Harimoto, Katsuya Nomura, Sachio Kinugasa, Koji Yamamoto, Yutaka Fukumoto, Hiromatsu Kadota, Hisashi Yamada, Isao Shibata, Senichi Hoshino, Kenichi Yazawa, Morimichi Takagi, Koichi Tabuchi, Michio Arito, Keishi Suzuki and others.  There's a handful of Westerners in the set as well - Roger Repoz, Bobby Marcano, Don Buford, John Sipin, and Gail Hopkins.  Four of the managers that year are included - Nagashima, Nomura (player/manager), Shinichi Eto (player/manager) and Takeshi Koba.

My usual complaint about a set like this is who does it not include (you can see my posts for the similarly themed Epoch/OB Club sets for 1977 and 1987).  In this particular case, I think BBM did a pretty good job.  The biggest names I see missing are Choji Murata (who hasn't appeared in a BBM set since 2004 - other than the 2009 Legend set that I'm pretty sure was issued with a magazine), Yutaka Entasu and Osamu Higashio.  There's a couple gaijin missing - Charlie Manuel, Dave Johnson, Richie Scheinblum, Ron Woods and Clarence Jones all come to mind - there's a couple of the other managers who would have been nice to see - Wally Yonamine of the Dragons and Masaichi Kaneda of the Orions for example - but overall most of the major award winners and league leaders for the 1975 season are in the set.

The photos used on the player cards all appear to be from 1975 (or thereabouts).  What's nice is that it looks like BBM went into their archive and picked photos that they hadn't used for cards over and over in the past 15 years (especially for Mitsuhiro Adachi).  I'm kind of curious about a couple of the Dragons cards - they appear to have been taken at a training complex.  The Dragons spent spring training that season in Bradenton, Florida - is it possible the photos were taken there?

Here's some sample cards:






Here's a sample back. This is Sadaharu Oh's card.  Some of the cards for players with less years on the back have BBM's ubiquitous "Did You Know?" box on them.  (Oddly enough, the back of player/manager Katsuya Nomura's card has hit batting stats on it while player/manager Shinichi Eto's has his managerial stats on it.)

Back of #82 (Sadaharu Oh)
The remaining 15 cards in the set are split up into three subsets.  The first one is six cards featuring baseball highlights from 1975 - the Pacific League's adoption of the DH rule on January 20th (the card shows Hankyu's Tokuji Nagaike who won the first Best 9 award for DH), the Carp's Koji Yamamoto's two home runs in the first All Star game on July 19th, what I think is Hankyu's Yasuhiro Takai breaking the record for most career pinch hit home runs on August 27th, the Carp winning their first Central League pennant on October 15th (showing manager Takeshi Koba), the Carp's Yoshihiko Sotokoba throwing 200 pitches in a 13 inning outing in Game 4 of the Nippon Series on October 30th and the Braves winning the Nippon Series on November 2nd (showing Hankyu manager Toshihiro Ueda).  Neither Takai or Ueda have cards in the regular set.  I have a minor gripe about this subset - all the people shown are either from the Carp or the Braves.  There were things that happened to other teams that year - for instance Toshio Kanbe of the Buffaloes threw a no-hitter.  The first DH to bat in a regular season game was Toshizo Sakamoto of the Fighters - maybe he should have been on the DH card rather than Nagike.

The next subset is for current (or recently retired) players who were born in 1975 - Kazuya Fukuura, Kenshin Kawakami, Hiroki Kuroda, Kazuo Matsui, Yoshinobu Takahashi and Koji Uehara:

The last three cards are for "1975 social situation" which I think really means 1975 pop culture.  There's a card for singer Hiromi Iwasaki's first #1 single "Romance" and the debut of the TV shows "Himitsu Sentai Gorenger" (which apparently is where the footage for the "Power Rangers" TV shows came from) and "Time Bokan".  Here's Iwasaki's card that I think shows the cover from the single for "Romance":

As always you can see all the cards at Jambalaya (including the insert cards which feature the league leaders) and Ryan wrote about the set last week.

I want to mention that this set must be pretty popular in Japan - it took me three auctions before I was able to get one.  The first auction I attempted to get the insert sets as well - I bid 3000 yen but the auction went for 10,000!  As a point of comparison, I got the Fusion set for 1500 yen and last summer's Classic set for 1000 yen.