Sunday, August 21, 2016

Card Of The Week August 21

I went to the Cardinals - Phillies game last Friday night up in Philadelphia.  I was hoping to get a chance to see former Samsung Lion and Hanshin Tiger reliever Seung-Hwan Oh pitch for the Cardinals - especially since Oh has been the Cardinals closer lately and seeing him would imply the Cardinals were winning the game (and the Cardinals are my favorite MLB team after the Red Sox).

It didn't look good for seeing him, however, as the Phillies were leading 3-1 going into the ninth inning.  But then Jedd Gyorko hit a two run home run to tie the game up.  Oh came in the bottom of the ninth.  He gave up a single and an intentional walk that inning but kept the Phillies from scoring.  He pitched the bottom of the tenth as well with the game still tied and retired the side in order, striking out two in the process.  The Cardinals took the lead in the top of the 11th and Oh was replaced on the mound by Alex Reyes, who got the save.  Oh ended up as the winning pitcher.

Here's Oh's card from the 2015 BBM Tigers set (#T11):

Thursday, August 18, 2016

More New Stuff

Several new sets have been announced recently:

- The last time I did a "new cards post" I mentioned that Sports Graphic Number was releasing a set in September featuring Hiroki Kuroda and Takahiro Arai of the Carp to celebrate the two of them reaching the Meikyukai this season (actually I left out that part).  BBM apparently has decided to rush a similarly themed box set out next week to preempt the Sports Graphic Number set.  BBM's box set will be called "200 Wins & 2000 Hits" and will also feature Kuroda and Arai.  Each box will contain 25 cards - 23 cards in the base set, an insert card (one of seven possible foil signed cards) and a "special" insert card (one of 11 possible memorabilia cards or one of three possible "super metallic" cards or one of an unspecified number of autograph cards).

- BBM's annual premium set will be released in late September.  For the fifth year in a row the set is called Genesis (I make the distinction simply because the set was previously known as Diamond Heroes from 1996 to 2001 and Touch The Game from 2002 to 2011).  The base set contains 120 cards - 108 player cards (9 from each team) and 12 team checklists - and there will be three 12 card insert sets - ELITE OF NINE, STADIUM JEWEL and CROSS FREEZE - but honestly no one really cares all the much about the base set or the insert sets - Genesis is all about the chase cards.  As always there is a bewildering amount of what BBM refers to as "Premium insert cards" - memorabilia cards including "big patch", "super patch", and "bat grip end" plus cards with more than one piece of memorabilia on them and a wide variety of autograph cards including autographed memorabilia cards (at least autographed balls) and multi-player autographs.  There is also some sort of booklet card available.  There's also the usual crazy parallel versions of the base sets.  I think the insert cards are all serially numbered to 50 but I don't know for sure.

- The checklist for Calbee's Series Three appeared on line recently.  Like the two previous Series this year there will be 72 player cards in the set (six per team).  There's also a 12 card "Exciting Scene" subset and the usual four card Checklist subset meaning that the base set will be 88 cards again (like it was for Series Two).  As always there is also a 24 card "Star" premium subset/insert set.  I haven't seen a release date for the set yet but it usually comes out in mid to late September.

- The Dragons are celebrating their 80th Anniversary this season.  BBM snuck out a kind of lousy Anniversary set last winter and now Epoch has decided to try their hand at one.  The set is called something like "Chunichi Dragons 80th Anniversary Record Breakers" and will be out in late August or early September.  I'm a little confused on the details but I think it's sold by the box (and a box has an MSRP of 11,200 yen or roughly $112).  Each box contains two mini-boxes and each mini-box has 11 cards.  I think there's a guarantee of two autographs in each box (which would probably be one in each mini-box) which I think means that the other 10 cards in the mini-box would be base set cards.  There are 49 cards in the base set which includes Dragons manager (at the time the set went to press anyway) Motonobu Tanishige and both active and OB Dragons players.  There's a number of different autograph cards available including autographed parallels of the base set cards and "booklet" cards featuring multiple player autographs on baseballs.

Monday, August 15, 2016

RIP Yasumitsu Toyoda

Hall Of Famer Yasumitsu Toyoda passed away yesterday at age 81.  Toyoda was signed by the Nishitetsu Lions out of high school (in Ibaraki) in 1953 and was the Pacific League Rookie Of The Year that season.  He spent 10 years with the Lions, making six Best 9 teams at shortstop and winning two batting crowns.  He moved to the then-Kokutetsu Swallows in 1963 and played for them for seven seasons (during which time the team name changed first to the Sankei Swallows and then the Sankei Atoms).  He made the All Star team 9 times - 7 times with the Lions and twice with Kokutetsu.  He was a player-coach with the Lions in 1962 and with the Atoms in 1968 and 1969.  He also coached with the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1972.  Since he hung up the uniform he had been a TV and radio commentator as well as an author.  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2006.

I have a couple cards of him from his playing days but most of the cards I have for him are OB cards that have been issued in the past 16 years.

1959 Marusho JCM 39

1964 Marukami JCM 14g

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #434

2008 BBM Lions Memorial #34

2013 Epoch JPBA Rookie Of The Year #21

Sunday, August 14, 2016

1994 Calbee Hokkaido

Sean did a post a few weeks back talking about a 1994 Calbee Hideki Matsui card he had recently picked up.  He mentioned in the post that Calbee actually did two separate sets in 1994 - the "regular" set (which appears to have been issued in four series of 36 cards each for a total of 144 cards) and a regional set that was only issued in Hokkaido and has come to be known as (naturally) the Hokkaido set.

Sean mentioned that the 1994 regular set is hard to find and the regional set is even more scarce.  While that may be true, I was fortunate enough to get a large number of the Hokkaido cards.  Several years ago there was a a seller on Ebay who had a number of unopened packs that I picked up.  I ended up with 29 of the 39 cards in the set (along with a couple doubles).

The most significant thing about the 1994 Calbee Hokkaido set is that it includes the first Calbee cards of Ichiro Suzuki.  It looks like the set was originally only 36 cards (which would have been the same size as each of the Series from the regular set) which did not include Ichiro but then they later issued three cards of him (numbered C-37 to C-39) to take the set to 39 cards.  Unfortunately, I did not get any of the Ichiro cards in the packs that I bought off Ebay (although I do have a reprint of #C-37 that Calbee issued in 2001).

The set itself includes most of the major stars of NPB at the time - Hideki Matsui (3 cards), Koji Akiyama, Hideo Nomo, Hideki Irabu, Hiromitsu Ochiai, Atsuya Furuta, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Tatsunori Hara, Masumi Kuwata, Masaki Saito and Tsuyoshi Shinjyo are all in the set along with Shigeo Nagashima who was managing the Giants at the time.

The design of the set was a throwback of sorts for Calbee.  For the previous five years (1990-94), Calbee's designs had moved away from the simple "full bleed photo with Japanese text" design that they had mostly used from 1973 to 1989.  The 1990 set either featured a bottom border with the player's name and uniform number (for the first Series) or the player's name in English (for the remainder of the set).  The 1991 set also featured the player's name in English while the 1992-94 sets had actual graphics drawn on the card.  This set, however, featured no graphics on the front and no English text on the front or the back (the first time since the first Series in 1989 and the last time until this year that the "regular" Calbee cards in a set would no have any English on them).

There was at least one occasion where Calbee used the same picture for a player in both the regular set and the Hokkaido set.  I'll use this to illustrate the difference in the card design:

1994 Calbee #15 (left) and Calbee Hokkaido #C-26 (right)
The backs of the cards were multi-colored and featured a head shot of the player.  This is the first time that Calbee had card backs like this - pretty much every thing before this was monochrome.  This has obviously become a standard for them in the years since (and was undoubtedly influenced by BBM doing it for their 1993 set).

Back of #C-31 (Takahiro Ikeyama)

Here's some of the other cards from the set.  I was lucky enough to pull several of the more valuable cards from the set so I'll take the opportunity to show off:

#C-1 (Hideki Matsui)

#C-20 (Hideki Matsui)

#C-25 (Hideo Nomo)

#C-23 (Tsuyoshi Shinjyo)

#C-5 (Tomonori Maeda)
Engel states that the Ichiro and Nomo cards are commonly counterfeited.  Since I pulled the Nomo from a pack I'm feeling pretty good about its authenticity.

The Calbee Collector website has a little more information about the set.

Card Of The Week August 14

The Chunichi Dragons have been having a very poor season so far this year and last week their manager, Motonobu Tanishige, resigned after being asked to step down.  He is being replaced on an interim basis by head coach Shigekazu Mori.  Rumor has it that Dragons ni-gun Michihiro Ogasawara is the front runner to replace Tanishige on a permanent basis.

Mori has coached for the Dragons since 2004 with the exception of 2012-13 when he was a sports commentator.  It looks like Hiromitsu Ochiai brought him in when he became manager in 2004 and Mori resigned when Ochiai was let go after the 2011 season.  Ochiai then brought him back when he took over as GM in 2014.

Mori spent 10 years as a pitcher with the Seibu Lions from 1979 to 1988 and another 11 years as a coach for them.  He had a couple two year stints coaching with the Fighters and Baystars before joining the Dragons.

Here's the only card I have of him wearing a Dragons uniform - from the 2007 BBM Dragons set (#D003):

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Card Of The Week August 7

The National High School Baseball Championship tournament (better known as Summer Koshien) kicked off today in Nishinomiya.  This tournament is hugely popular and many NPB players made a name for themselves here before they became professionals.  In fact, many NPB players manage to have careers based primarily on what they did at Koshien rather than what they did in NPB - Yuki Saitoh and Koji Ohta both come to mind.  The best place to follow the tournament is the Koko Yakyu blog.

I only have a couple cards showing players at Koshien - I'd really love for BBM to do some sort of historic set for the tournament.  First up is Masumi Kuwata.  Kuwata played for PL Gakuen in Osaka and won 20 games at the Koshien (that includes the spring invitational tournament as well) which is second only to Hall Of Famer Masao Yoshida (who had 23 and never played professionally).  Kuwata's team won the summer tournament twice - in 1983 and 1985.  Here's the card from Kuwata's biographical set (2007 BBM "Legend Of Masumi Kuwata") showing him pitching for his high school team:

2007 BBM Legend Of Masumi Kuwata #MK03
Oddly enough, the biographical set for Kuwata's PL Gakuen teammate Kazuhiro Kiyohara does not show him in his high school uniform.

The other card is for Hideki Matsui.  Matsui played in four tournaments (three summer and one spring) for Seiryo High School.  His team never won the tournament but he did pretty well at the plate, hitting several home runs (including one that was the first and maybe only to strike one of the light stands at the ballpark).  He was feared enough as a hitter that he was intentionally walked five times by Meitokugijuku(?) high school in his final game at Koshien.

I'm not sure if the front of this card shows the home run into the light stand...

2002 BBM The Legend Of Hideki Matsui #25
...but I'm pretty confident that the back shows one of the five intentional walks:

2002 BBM The Legend Of Hideki Matsui #25 back

Ichiro 3000

In honor of Ichiro getting his 3000th hit in the majors, here's all eight of his BBM "flagship" set cards:

1993 BBM #239

1994 BBM #403

1995 BBM #338

1996 BBM #382

1997 BBM #283

1998 BBM #422

1999 BBM #452

2000 BBM #326