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.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Fake Ohtani Card

I've been resisting pointing this out because (1) I shouldn't draw attention to it and (2) it's not like it's not obvious but there's a Shohei Ohtani card being sold on Ebay that depicts him as a high school student that is not a legitimate card issue - this is someone's home brew card.  It has a "copyright date" of 2012 but I never saw it until recently.

At least the guy who put this together found an original photo of Ohtani to use - his fake Kenta Maeda card last year reused the photo from his rookie card in the 2007 BBM 1st Version set.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Card Of The Week January 8

Several years back I discovered that the Lotte Orions had employed a former Olympic sprinter named Hideo Iijima as a pinch runner between 1969 and 1971.  I compared Iijima to Herb Washington, the sprinter that Charlie O. Finley had brought in to pinch run for his Oakland A's in 1974 and 1975.  I hadn't meant to suggest that Finley had gotten the idea from Lotte (although apparently I left people with that impression) but I'm starting to wonder now.

While doing the research on my post on Japanese teams doing Spring Training in the US I came across a column by Robert Markus of the Chicago Tribune which mentioned a game between Lotte and the A's in Arizona (although it specifically mentioned that Finley wasn't at the game) in March of 1971 - which was when Iijima was with Lotte.  Is it possible that Finley saw or heard about Iijima that spring and that's where he got the idea to hire a sprinter as a pinch runner?

The answer is...I have no idea for sure.  Finley has passed away so we can't ask him.  Probably the biggest argument against it is that Finley started toying with the idea of a full time pinch runner with Allan Lewis in 1967.  However Lewis was an actual baseball player who occasionally batted and appeared in the field - kind of like how the Yomiuri Giants utilized Takahiro Suzuki over his career.

I had also had a concern about whether or not Iijima had actually come to the States with the team for Spring Training in 1971 - he only appeared in six games with the ichi-gun team that season.  However while doing some research for this post, I discovered that the Orions had done Spring Training in the States in 1970 as well.  Since Iijima had appeared in 61 games in 1969 and 50 games in 1970, there's a decent chance he came to the US with the team that spring.  So I think the answer is actually maybe.

There aren't many baseball cards of Iijima that I'm aware of.  He had a card in the 2008 BBM Lotte 40th Anniversary set (#19) and in the 2016 BBM Fusion set (#040).  His career falls into the "dead zone" between the end of menko in 1964 and Calbee's debut in 1973 where there weren't many card sets produced in Japan so those may be the only two.  Here's his card from the Fusion set:

Of course with two cards, Iijima is one up on Herb Washington, who only had the one Topps card in 1975 (#407).