Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Recent Box Sets

I mentioned the other day that I had gotten a package from Ryan the other day.  Among the goodies were four recent box sets - well, I say "recent' but most of them were actually from late 2015 - early 2016.  I thought I'd talk briefly about all four of them.

2015 Epoch Swallows Victory Memorial #09

2015 Epoch Swallows Victory Memorial #20
First up is the 2015 Epoch "Swallows Victory Memorial" set from last fall.  This set commemorates the Swallows 2015 Central League pennant.  The base set has 30 cards - 28 cards of the Swallows players such as Tetsuto Yamada, Wladimir Balentien, Tony Barnette, Shingo Kawabata, Kazuhiro Hatakeyama and Yasuhiro Ogawa, 1 card for manager Mitsuru Manaka and 1 card showing the team's celebration after clinching on October 2 last year.  I don't think much of the card design - it's a little busier than I like - but I thought the actual photos Epoch used were quite good.  You can see all the cards at Jambalaya.

2016 BBM Spirit Of Legends #36

2016 BBM Spirit Of Legends #01
In December BBM put out a box set called something like "Spirit Of Legends" that exclusively featured pitchers who had won the Sawamura award.  This sounds like a good idea (and is the kind of theme that Epoch has featured in several of the box sets they've done with the OB Club) but I'm not real impressed with the execution of it.  As is pretty much typical of a BBM OB set, most of the 36 players featured in the set played in the 1970's or later.  Actually pretty much every Sawamura Award winner since 1970 is in the set - the only ones missing are Kazumi Takahashi, Shigeru Kobayashi and Hideo Nomo.  But there's only a handful of the earlier ones - Shigeru Sugshita, Masaaki Koyama, Gene Bacque and Hiroshi Gondoh, leaving out guys like Yutaka Enatsu and Masaichi Kaneda.  Most of the OB players in the set have appeared in other recent BBM sets.  A number of the players included are currently playing in the US - Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kenta Maeda, Masahiro Tanaka and Koji Uehara.  I guess I just feel the set's a bit uninspired - the design is kind of blah and many of the photos are grainy.  You can judge them yourself by taking a look at the cards over at Jambalaya.

2016 BBM Farewell #08

2016 BBM Farewell #02
BBM issued their annual set for retiring ballplayers in January.  I call this set "Farewell" but the translation of the official title is something along the lines of "Regret at Parting Ball Players".  This year's edition has 38 cards featuring 38 different players (as opposed to previous years which featured multiple cards for certain players).  Everyone you'd expect to be in the set is there - Masahiro Yamamoto, Yoshinobu Takahashi, Motonobu Tanishige, Michihiro Ogasawara, Kazuhiro Wada, Fumiya Nishiguchi, Satoshi Nakajima, Hirokazu Ibata.  There's not really a lot to say about this set - the photos all seem to be from last year.  Many of them are from the retirement ceremonies for the players.  Notably missing is Nobuhiko Matsunaka because he didn't officially announce his retirement until February - a month after this set was released.  I assume he will be in this winter's version of the set.  Jambalaya (as usual) has all the cards from the set on-line.

2016 BBM Go Higher #3

2016 BBM Go Higher #5

2016 BBM Go Higher #9

2016 BBM Go Higher #16
The final box set that Ryan picked up for me is the "Go Higher" set that BBM released in June.  This set features Shohei Ohtani of the Fighters and Shintaro Fujinami of the Tigers.  The 18 cards in the set include seven of each player and another four showing both of them.  Each card commemorates various events in the player's careers - their draft in the fall of 2012, each player's debut, first post season appearance, etc.  I really like the card showing Ohtani batting against Fujinami (card # 5 from above) but the whole set is pretty nice.  Once again you can see all the cards in the set at Jambalaya.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Card Of The Week September 18

The Shikoku Island League was the first independent minor league in Japan.  It started up in 2005.  While there's been sets issued for each team over the years (in a similar manner to how US minor league teams issue team sets), BBM has never issued much in the way of cards for the league.  From what I've been able to tell, BBM has only issued three cards for the league - all of which were inserts in Sports Card Magazine.  I just got a package from Ryan yesterday and among the goodies in it were two of these three cards (and I had gotten the other one in a trade last years).

The first two cards were issued in SCM #53 which was published in September of 2005.  The cards are of Masatochi Kakuno of the Tokushima Indigo Socks and Masaki Hiyashi of the Ehime Mandarin Pirates:

SCM #56

SCM #57
I don't know anything about Kakuno but Hayashi led the league in batting that season with a .322 average.  Neither player appears to have ever played in NPB (there was another Masaki Hayashi who played for the Carp from 2001 to 2011).

It's possible that these two cards are promos for a BBM Shikoku Island league set but I've never seen or heard of one.  One the other hand, I had never seen or heard of BBM's cards for the GPBL until Ryan found them last year so maybe there is one.

The other card is from 2009 and features Hideki Irabu.  Irabu has last played professionally with the Hanshin Tigers in 2004.  He appeared in 10 games in 2009 with the Long Beach Armada of the Golden Baseball League before returning to Japan and signing with the Kochi Fighting Dogs and appearing in two games late in the season (I'm not sure when exactly he was with Kochi - Baseball Reference says his last appearance with Long Beach was August 5 and I think Japanese Wikipedia says he pitched with Kochi in September).  This was his final professional appearance.  The card was issued in SCM #77 which I believe was published in late September of 2009 (which is why I'm not convinced that he only pitched for Kochi in September).  The card is in the style of the 2009 BBM 2nd Version set (well, the 1st Version Update subset so it's really the style of the 1st Version set) and has a number of 810 which makes it what I call a "bonus" card for the 2009 BBM sets:

SCM #130

Seung Yeop Lee

Last week Seung Yeop Lee, currently with the Samsung Lions of the KBO and formerly with the Marines, Giants and Buffaloes in NPB, hit his 600th career home run between the two leagues:

Lee joined the Samsung Lions in 1995 and became a regular almost immediately at the age of 18.  He had his breakout season in 1997 where he hit 32 home runs and had 114 RBIS, leading the league in both categories for the first time.  He stayed with Samsung through the 2003 season, leading the league in home runes four more times and RBIs three more times.  He set a KBO (and at the time Asian baseball) record with 56 home runs in 2003.  Following that season, he signed with the Chiba Lotte Marines and headed for Japan.

1999 Teleca #80

1999 Teleca Premium #52

1999 Teleca Premium "Sniper" #S-3

2000 Teleca "Super Game"
Lee spent his first two season in Japan with the Marines.  He had modest numbers his first season but hit 30 home runs with 82 RBIs in his second season while helping Lotte win the Nippon Series.  He hit .545 with 3 home runs and 6 RBIs in the Marines' four game sweep of the Tigers and received one of the three "Outstanding Player" awards for the Series.

2004 BBM 1st Version #113

2005 Konami Baseball Heroes "White Edition" #B05W159

2005 BBM Nippon Series #18
He left the Marines and signed with the Yomiuri Giants for the 2006 season.  His first season with the Giants was his best season in Japan - a .323 batting average with 41 home runs and 108 RBIs.  He followed that up with another 30+ home run season in 2007 but a number of circumstances (injuries, the 2008 Olympics and I think the foreign player limit on the active roster) started taking playing time away from him after that, although he did appear for the Giants in both the 2008 and 2009 Nippon Series.  The Giants released him following the 2010 season.

2006 BBM 1st Version #382

2008 Calbee "Opening Game" #OP-02
He signed with the Orix Buffaloes for the 2011 season, hitting only .201 with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.  After the season he returned to Samsung and the KBO.

2011 BBM 1st Version #123
Lee has pretty much returned to form in the past five seasons with Samsung.  He's hit over .300 with at least 20 home runs each season except for 2013.  He is the all time KBO home run leader with 441 (as of last Wednesday).

2014 Super Star Baseball Season Two #SBC02-004-AS

2015 Super Star Baseball Season Two Sticker
Lee has played for the Korean national team in two Olympics -2004 and 2008 and also played for them in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.  He hit five home runs in the 2006 WBC but none of them was a big as the two run shot he hit against Japan in the last game of Round 1 in the Tokyo Dome.

2006 Upper Deck WBC Moments #CM-27
For more cards of Lee, check out Dan Skrezyna's page for Lee on his KBO Cards blog.

H/T KBO Reddit for the video.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Card Of The Week September 11

The Carp clinched first place in the Central League yesterday.  This is the first time that the Carp will finish the season in first since 1991.  I thought I'd share a couple cards that show the celebration from that year - one is from the 2008 BBM Hiroshima Memorial set that commemorated the closing of Hiroshima Municipal Stadium and the other is from the 2014 Epoch Carp The First Victory 40th Anniversary set that celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the Carp's first ever pennant in 1975:

2008 BBM Hiroshima Memorial #09

2014 Epoch Carp The First Victory 40th Anniversary #54
That's manager Koji Yamamoto getting tossed in the air on the Epoch card.  If the Carp go to the Nippon Series this season it'll be the first time they've ever done it without Yamamoto in uniform - he was a player when they went to the Series the first five times and the manager the sixth.

I want to point something out about the Carp's 1st place drought but I need to clarify something first.  When the Central League added playoffs in 2007 NPB decided that the pennant winner for each league would be the team that finished first, regardless of whether or not that team won the playoffs.  So if you look at a list of Central League pennant winners, you'll see that the Giants are listed as the pennant winners in 2007 and 2014, despite the fact that the Dragons and Tigers won the playoffs in those two seasons and represented the league in the Nippon Series.  So by virtue of this rule, the Carp are the winners of the 2016 Central League pennant.  Their 25 year pennant drought was the longest current drought in the NPB (the new longest pennant drought is owned by Orix who last won in 1996 - I'm not counting Kintetsu's pennant in 2001 since Orix is not honoring Kintetsu's retired numbers).

There's a key thing to remember in NPB's definition of pennant winner - they started it in 2007 when the Central League adopted playoffs.  But the Pacific League had started doing playoffs three years earlier in 2004.  For those three years, the team that won the playoffs was considered the pennant winner (and just for completeness so were the teams that won the split-season playoffs the Pacific League had from 1973 to 1982).  In 2005 the Hawks finished first but lost to the second place Marines in the playoffs.  Thus the Marines were the 2005 Pacific League pennant winners.  In 2010, the Hawks again finished first and again lost to the Marines in the playoffs.  But because the definition of "pennant winner" had changed in 2007, the Hawks were the 2010 Pacific League pennant winners.

I say all this because I want to point out that while the Carp had the longest current pennant-less streak in NPB until yesterday, they did not have the longest current streak of non-first place finishes.  That streak belongs to the Chiba Lotte Marines, who last finished first in 1974 (when they were the Lotte Orions).  And actually that really shouldn't count - as I mentioned above the Pacific League had a split season from 1973 to 1982 and Lotte only finished first in the second half of the season before defeating Hankyu in the playoffs - although to be fair they did have the best overall record in the league that season.  (They also finished first in the second half of the 1977 season and first halves in 1980 and 1981 but lost in the playoffs all three times.)  The last time Lotte finished first in a full season was 1970.

Quick Report From Lancaster

I tweeted something about this earlier but I wanted to put it up here as well - I was at the Lancaster Barnstormers game this afternoon and I got a card autographed by former Baystars and Eagles pitcher Hitoshi Fujie who is on the Barnstormer's roster.  He was nice enough to pose for a picture as well:

2009 BBM 1st Version #429

Saturday, September 10, 2016

The Future Will Be In Stock

Once again I have gotten far enough behind in the new set posts that one of the sets has been released.  So let's get caught up...

- Hitting the stores today is the latest of BBM's Authentic Edition team box sets.  This one is called "CLIMAX" and features the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.  Each box contains 31 cards - the 30 card base set plus one "special" card which may be an autograph or memorabilia card - including jersey and patch cards.  There are multi-player jersey cards available.  You can check out the base set at Jambalaya - the Shohei Ohtani card has him both batting and pitching.

- BBM's putting out another team box set on September 15 - this is the latest Autograph Edition set and it's for the Carp.  The set is entitled "Katsukoi".  Each box contains 28 cards - a 27 card base set plus one autographed card.  Multi-player autograph cards are possibilities.

- For the third year in a row BBM is releasing a box set dedicated to a team's cheerleader/dance squad.  This year it's for Giants Venus, Yomiuri's cheerleaders and is called "Original Smile".  The box contains 44 cards - 42 cards from the base set plus two "special" cards which could be autograph cards (including multi-person autograph cards), facsimile autograph cards and memorabilia cards.  The base has 19 cards of the team members in their costumes, 19 cards of the team members wearing yukata and four cards that are group photos.  The box also contains a "raw photo" that I think is essentially a parallel of one of the 38 cards that show a single team member.  The set will be released on September 15.

- Epoch has three high end team sets coming out in the next month or so.  The Swallows "Shadow Box Edition" will be out on September 24.  It looks like one box (at 11,200 yen) only has five cards in it but it's not clear to me what the breakdown of those five cards is.  I think there's three base cards and two "special" cards but I'm not sure.  There are 27 possible cards in the base set and a bewildering variety of autograph and memorabilia cards available.    The Carp "Stars & Rookies" set will be released on October 8.  One box of this (MSRP of 11,200 yen) contains one 12 card pack containing 10 base set cards (of a possible 42) and either a parallel card and a "special" card or two "special" cards.  The "special" cards could be autograph or jersey cards.  The Fighters "Season Achievement" set will be out on October 22.  Each box (MSRP of 11,700 yen) contains one 10 card pack - five base set cards (of a possible 36), one regular parallel card, one holo "Spectra" card, one "Crystal" die cut cards and two "special" cards - possibly autograph or jersey.

- On the more affordable end of the spectrum, Epoch is also releasing a set for the Japan Woman's Baseball League (JWBL) on October 10th.  This is a more traditional pack based set (each box contains 20 packs of five cards each).  There are 78 cards in the base set and possible autograph and "cheki" cards (not quite sure what those are).  This will be the first major card set for the JWBL since BBM did some sets in conjunction with the GPBL (as the JWBL was known then) back in 2010-11.

(And in case you're wondering about the title of the post, it's how Google translated the title of the "upcoming sets" section on Jambalaya's web page - 今後の入荷予定)

Thursday, September 8, 2016

More Memories Of Uniforms - Baystars Edition

One of the new professional teams to join the Central League in its debut season of 1950 was the Taiyo Whales who played in Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi.  The team merged with the Shochiku Robins after the 1952 season and were known as the Taiyo Shochiku Robins for the next two seasons.  The team played their home games in Osaka those two seasons.  Following the 1954 season Shochiku sold their interested in the team and the name reverted to the Taiyo Whales.  At this time the team moved to Kawasaki, Kanagawa where they would remain for the next 22 seasons.  The team moved a little south to Yokohama in time for the 1978 season and became known as the Yokohama Taiyo Whales.  The team name changed to the Yokohama Baystars following the 1992 season due to the parent company changing their name from Taiyo to Maruha.  Maruha sold the team to the Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) in 2001 but the team name remained the same.  TBS sold the team to DeNA prior to the 2012 season and the team name became the Yokohama DeNA Baystars.

I rounded up the usual suspects as my sources for this - The History Of UniformProfessional Baseball Uniforms Encyclopedia 1936-2013 and the uniform posts from Yakyu Baka and Yakyu DB.

NOTE - I list all the uniforms I've identified, even ones that I don't have cards for.  Don't panic - the blank spots don't mean there's a photo your browser isn't loading.

1950-51 (2 different)

~1950 Uncataloged Bromide

1950 JBR 2

1951 (2 different)

1952 Home

1952 Away

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #447
1953 (4 different)

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #088
1954 Home

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #066
1954 Away

1955 Home

1955 Away

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #328
1955-56 (2 different)

1955-58 Home

1957 JBR17
1955-58 Away

1959 Doyusha Game Set
1959 Home

1961 Marukami JCM 14d
1959 Away

2000 BBM 20th Century Best 9 #098
1960-62 Home

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #043
1960-62 Away

2006 BBM Nostalgic Baseball #042
1961-62 Home

1963 Home

1963 Marukami JCM 14f
1963 Away

1964-67 Home

1964-67 Away
2004 BBM Golden Arms #007
1964-67 Home "Kawasaki"

1968-72 Home

1973 Calbee #56
1968-72 Away

2005 BBM Glorious Stars #040
1968-72 Home "Kawasaki"

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #038

1973 Home

2002 BBM All Time Heroes #042
1973 Away
2015 BBM Whales Achievement #17

1974-77 Home

1977 Yamakatsu JY3
1974-77 Away

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #039

1978-92 Home

1979 Yamakatsu JY8 #74
1978-92 Away

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #040
1993-95 Home

1993 BBM #367
1993-95 Away

1993 BBM #359
1996-08 Home

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #041
1996-05 Away

1998 BBM Nippon Series #S6
2000-10 Shonan Searex Home

2001 BBM #329
2000-10 Shonan Searex Away

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #042
2004 Home April

2004 BBM 2nd Version #792
2004 Home September

2005 BBM 1st Version #462
2004-05 Alternate

2006 BBM 1st Version #312
2005-06 Interleague Home

2005 BBM 2nd Version #813
2005-06 Interleague Away

2006 BBM 2nd Version #655
2006-07 Alternate

2007 BBM Baystars #YB040
2006-08 Away

2007 BBM 2nd Version #674
2007-08 Interleague Home

2007 BBM 2nd Version #668
2009-11 Home

2009 BBM 2nd Version #732
2009-11 Away

2010 BBM 1st Version #207
2010-11 Alternate

2011 BBM 1st Version #313
2010 Great Central

2012-2014 Home

2012 BBM 1st Version #312
2012-2013 Away

2012 BBM 1st Version #299
2012 Great Central

2012 Away "Old Style"

2013 3rd

2013 BBM 2nd Version #540
2013 StarNight

2014 Front Runner Trading Cards Baystars Rookies & Young Stars #14
2014-15 Away

2015 BBM Baystars #DB17
2014 StarNight

2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform #044
2015- Home

2015 BBM Baystars #DB58
2015 StarNight

2016- Away

2016 Calbee #142
2016 Throwback

2016 BBM 2nd Version #587
2016 StarNight


I think I did pretty well on this one considering the multitude of uniforms and the fact that there really aren't any OB team sets for the Whales/Baystars that cover the years before 1978.  Although I don't understand how I managed to do this without a card of Takuro Ishii.

The only difference between the 1964-67 and 1968-72 uniforms are the hats.  Same thing with the 1993-95 and 1996-08 uniforms (1996-05 for Away).  The Baystars also apparently had different hats that they wore in April and September of 2004.

The colors are wrong on the uncataloged bromide I'm using for one of the 1950-51 uniforms.  "Whales" should be in navy not red.

I believe that the Whales were the first Japanese team to have numbers names on the back of their uniforms.  They started in 1964.  They also had a variant that had "Kawasaki" (the team's home city) on the back in place of the name.

There's numerous differences between the illustrations in HOU and the photos in PBUE.  For the most part I went with what PBUE said.

The Baystars farm team was sponsored by a company called Shonan from 2000 to 2010 so the team was known as the Shonan Searex.  They had a uniform that was different than the parent team.  (Orix did something similar but I've never seen a baseball card of a player wearing a Kobe Surpass uniform.)

I'm making a best guess on the cards I'm using for the 1973 uniforms.  Daisuke Yamashita was a rookie in 1974 so I'm theorizing that he wore the 1973 uniforms in training camp that season.

There are two uniforms on cards that I have not been able to identify.  The first is this card of Toru Mori from the 2015 BBM Memories Of Uniform set (#037):

The Whales won the 1960 Japan Series and wore the patch you see on the left sleeve of Mori's jersey during the 1961 season.  But Mori didn't join the Whales until 1962 and I've seen no pictures indicating that the Whales had a jersey at that time that did not have the player's uniform number on the front.  All I can guess is that this was something he wore during training camp in 1962.

The other uniform I can't place is on this card of Masaji Hiramatsu from the 2002 BBM All Time Heroes set (#037):

The uniform looks very much like the Away uniform worn between 1964 and 1972 but I've only seen that hat with the 1973 Home uniform.  I've got no idea unless there simply was another hat used in those years (or at least after Hiramatsu's rookie season of 1967).