Thursday, August 17, 2017

KBO Foreigner Set Plus Some Other New Items

- There have been no new KBO sets this year and the KBO sets that have been released over the past few years have not contained cards of foreign players.  Dan Skrezyna of Korean Cardboard is doing something about this - he's putting out a self-published set featuring all the foreign players from the 2016 KBO season.  The set is called "Foreign Attack" and contains 46 cards - 41 cards for all the foreign KBO players from last season, four cards for the four foreign players who have been named MVP of the KBO in its history (Tyrone Woods in 1998, Danny Rios in 2007, Eric Thames in 2015 and Dustin Nippert in 2016) and a checklist card.  The sets are only $23 shipped in the US ($30 shipped overseas although that price is not final) but Dan is only getting 20 of them printed up and at least eight are already spoken for.  If you want a set, contact Dan as soon as you can.  He's also planning on doing a 2017 set.  Dan is hoping to have these sets out by the end of this month.

- After several months of putting out reasonably priced sets of baseball cards, Epoch has jumped back into the premium sets.  First up is a set called "Hankyu Braves Greats" which features..uh...great players from the Hankyu Braves.   The MSRP on each box is 14,040 yen (~$128) although Discount Niki is selling them for 12,960 yen (~$118).  I'm not completely sure but I think each box has just six cards in it - three base set cards, one parallel or foil sign card and two autographed cards.  The base set has 30 cards that include Yutaka Fukumoto, Hisashi Yamada, Boomer Wells, Chico Barbon and Toshiharu Ueda.  The set will be out on September 16th.

- Epoch is also releasing a set called "Dragons Stars & Legends" that features both active and OB players from the Dragons.  Each box has an MSRP of 12,960 yen but again Discount Niki has a discounted price of 12,000 yen (~$110).  I believe that each box contains just six cards but I'm not sure of the breakdown - I'm pretty sure that each box contains at least one autographed card.  The base set has 47 cards and there is some sort of parallel version of it as well as the autographed cards.  Some of the OB players include Eiji Bando, Kazuyoshi Tatsunami, Norihiro Nakamura, Masaru Uno, Kenshin Kawakami and Kazuhiro Wada.  The set will be in stores on September 23rd.

- Hits issued a couple of team based "trading mini-colored paper" sets back in the spring.  Each of these sets featured "cards" of eight different players for the Hawks, Baystars, Carp and Swallows.  Hits is putting out a new version of the Baystars set called "Baystars ver 1.4" where they've now added cards for four new players to the original set.  I'm not completely sure of what's going on with this but I think that each box contains 10 "cards" - four cards of the new players and six of the eight of the original players.  The set comes out on September 9th.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Card Of The Week August 13

The 99th Japanese High School Baseball Championship (aka the Summer Koshien Tournament) kicked off this past week at Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya.  Koshien Stadium is the oldest professional baseball stadium in Japan - it opened in 1924, 10 years before there was professional baseball in Japan and twelve years before the team that calls it home - the Hanshin Tigers - were born.  I don't know why I hadn't realized this before this past week, but the stadium was actually built to host the tournament.  In the first two years (1915-16) the tournament was played in Toyonaka Park in Osaka  (near the site of Osaka International Airport) and then from 1917-23 it was played at Naruo Stadium in Nishinomiya.  (If you're wondering why this year is the 99th tournament when it started in 1915, it's because the tournament was canceled in 1918 due to the "Rice Crisis" and from 1941 to 1945 due to the war.) Koshien stadium was built to handle the crowds that the tournament attracted - when built it seated 55,000.  It's current capacity is around 47,500.

Here's a card of the stadium from the 1992 BBM set (#103).  BBM did a subset that year showing all the ballparks currently in use (there were 11 since the Fighters were still sharing the Tokyo Dome with the Giants then).

For comparison's sake, here's a photo of the ballpark from 1924.  Hard to believe the surrounding area was ever that open.

I swiped this photo from the book "Nostalgic Stadiums Of Kansai".

I've said this before but I'd really like to see BBM do another subset showing all the ballparks.  Of the 11 ballparks featured in 1992, only six are still in use (Chiba Marine, Koshien, Jingu, Tokyo Dome, Yokohama and Seibu) and one of those (Seibu) has gone through major reconfiguration - it has a roof on it now.

I'd also like to see a set commemorating the tournament - maybe along the lines of the OB college sets BBM did a few years back.  Something showing current NPB players in their high school uniforms and highlighting what they did at the tournament.  Perhaps this could be a tie-in with the 100th tournament next year.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Study Abroad - The Buffaloes Of Salt Lake City

The 1980's were the Golden Age of NPB teams sending players to the US to play in the minor leagues.  It started with the Seibu Lions sending players to San Jose in the California League in 1983 and by the end of the decade eight of the other NPB teams had sent players overseas to North America.  Only Lotte, Nippon Ham and Hankyu/Orix did not.  I don't know why this happened for sure but I can speculate.  First of all Seibu was by far the most successful team in Japan in the 1980's, winning six Pacific League pennants and five Nippon Series during the decade so it would make sense for other teams to emulate them.  Secondly the 1980's were when Japan was really flexing its muscles as a global economic superpower and I suspect that somehow sending players to learn in America tied into that although I don't think I know enough to understand quite how.

The first team to follow the Lions lead in sending players to America was the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1986.  Like Seibu the Buffaloes made an agreement with an independent team in the affiliated minors - the Salt Lake City Trappers of the Pioneer League (Rookie Classification).  Unlike San Jose however the Trappers were very successful on the field - they had won the league championship in 1985.

The Buffaloes sent two pitchers to Utah in 1986 - Tsuneto Fukuchi and Shintaro Yamasaki.  While neither player put up fantastic numbers (Fukuchi went 2-4 with a 5.43 ERA, Yamasaki went 3-5 with a 5.20 ERA) but both were mainstays of the rotation - Yamasaki had the most starts of any Trapper pitcher that year (14) and Fukuchi was tied for third most starts (with 12).  The Trappers ended up winning another Pioneer League Championship that season.

Kintetsu send two more pitchers in 1987 - Yasuhiro Hiyama and Koichi Ikeue.  Ikeue started the second most games of any Trapper pitcher (12) and went 6-3 with a 4.70 ERA while Hiyama started seven games and went 3-1 with a 5.57 ERA.  The Trappers had a record setting 29 game winning streak that season on their way to their third straight Pioneer League title.

The Buffaloes did not send any players to Salt Lake City in 1988 and the Trappers failed to win the league championship for the first time that season.  The two events are probably not related but just to make sure the Trappers got three players from Kintetsu for the 1989 season.  In addition to the now standard two pitchers (Akihiro Fukushima and Shigeki Taguchi) the Trappers also got a position player - Shingo Matsukubo.  Fukushima went 3-5 with a 5.10 ERA in 16 games that were split between the starting rotation and the bullpen.  Taguchi pitched almost exclusively out of the bullpen - he only made one start in the 14 games he appeared in, going 0-1 with a 8.57 ERA.  Matsukubo barely appeared for the team - he got one single in six pinch hitting appearances.  It's not clear to me that he ever actually played in the field.  The Trappers finished in second place but suffered their only sub-500 finish in the eight years they played in the Pioneer League.

1989 was the final season the Buffaloes sent players to Salt Lake City.  I don't know if either the Trappers poor finish or the Buffaloes winning the Pacific League that year had any effect on the decision to end the agreement - in fact I don't know who decided to end it.  The Trappers had their third straight second place finish in 1990 but made the playoffs which they ultimately lost to Great Falls.  They won the league championship again in 1991 and finished first one last time in 1992 before losing in the playoffs to Billings.

To some degree it was an embarrassment for MLB to have an independent team dominate a league of affiliated teams and the Trappers were ultimately eliminated by the AAA Portland Beavers moving to Salt Lake City in 1993, forcing the Trappers to move to Pocatello Idaho and become a Co-op team called the Posse.  The team moved to Ogden, Utah in 1994 and became the Raptors.  They picked up a Player Development Contract with the Brewers in 1996 and have been affiliated with the Dodgers since 2003.  It's probably not an unreasonable assumption that the success of the unaffiliated Trappers helped inspire the independent minor leagues like the Northern and Frontier Leagues which started in 1993.  In fact actor Bill Murray was involved in the ownership group of the Trappers and would be involved in the ownership group of the most prominent Northern League team - the St Paul Saints.

Here's a summary of the players the Buffaloes sent to Salt Lake City:

Year Name Draft Played For
1986 Shintaro Yamasaki 3rd round 1984 Kintetsu 1985-97, Hawks 1998-99, Carp 2000, Orix 2001-02
1986 Tsuneto Fukuchi 5th round 1985 Kintetsu 1986-90
1987 Yasuhiro Hiyama 1st round 1985 Kintetsu 1986-91, Ssangbangwool Raiders (KBO) 1992
1987 Koichi Ikeue 4th round 1985 Kintetsu 1986-98, Baystars 1999
1989 Akihiro Fukushima 3rd round 1985 Kintetsu 1985-93
1989 Shingo Matsukubo 3rd round 1987 Kintetsu 1988-96, Baystars 1997-98
1989 Shigeki Taguchi 3rd round 1988 Kintetsu 1989-03

1994 BBM All Stars #A49
Yamasaki by far had the most successful career of the seven players.  He spent 16 of his 18 year career at the ichi-gun level and went 87-92.  His best seasons were probably 1988 when he went 13-7 with a 3.10 ERA and 1994 when he went 12-10 with a 3.41 ERA and made the All Star team.  Yamasaki also has appeared on the most Japanese baseball cards of the former Trappers - including cards from Takara, Calbee, Lotte, Q-Cards, Konami, Epoch and of course BBM.

1993 Tomy #056
Ikeue made his ichi-gun debut in April of 1987, several months before going to America.  He's the only one of the seven players to play for the top team before playing for the Trappers.  He ended up spending most of his career working out of the bullpen - only starting 16 of the 167 NPB games he got in.  His best season was probably 1994 when he went 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA in a middle relief role.  He had around 10 Japanese baseball cards, mostly from Takara and BBM.

1996 BBM #457
Matsukubo only had 149 plate appearances in 79 games over six seasons with the ichi-gun Buffaloes but still managed to have five Japanese baseball cards - all from BBM except for one Takara card.  Hiyama did this one better - despite never making an appearance at the ichi-gun level, he had two Japanese baseball cards - Takara issues from 1986 and 1987 (neither of which I have).  I would guess this would be a function of him being the Buffaloes's 1st round draft pick in 1985.  

None of the other three players had any Japanese baseball cards.  Fukuchi is the only one of the three to play at the ichi-gun level - he made one appearance in 1987.  

According to Baseball-Reference, Salt Lake City was not the only minor league team that Shigeki Taguchi played for in 1989 - he also made 63 appearances for Salinas that season.  This seems a bit odd to me that Taguchi would get in that many games with Salinas and still appear in 14 games with Salt Lake City.  There's also the fact that Salinas' agreement was with the Hawks and Swallows.  Baseball America's 1990 Almanac lists the pitcher with Salinas as "Dragon Taguchi" which doesn't really help much.  I wonder if it's possible that the Salinas pitcher is actually Ryuji Taguchi, who was a left handed pitcher (like Shigeki Taguchi) and was the Hawks #1 pick in the 1984 draft.

There was no team set done for Salt Lake City in 1986 so there are no American minor league cards for Yamasaki or Fukuchi.  But there was a set in 1987 that was sponsored by the TacoTime chain of restaurants and Hiyama and Ikeue are both in it:

I don't actually own these cards - I swiped them from Trading Card DB where Jason had uploaded them.

There was also a team issued Salt Lake City set in 1989.  Fukushima, Matsukubo and Taguchi share card #12 in the set.  Unfortunately I have not been able to find an image of this card online anywhere. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Calbee Series Two Has Been Reins-tater-ed! (and other new stuff)

If you recall, a month ago I reported that Calbee's Series Two this year had been delayed by the fact that the potato crop in Hokkaido had failed this spring due to typhoons that hit the island last summer and that Calbee had had to halt production of much of its snack lines because they didn't have enough potatoes to make chips from.  I'm happy to report that Calbee's website is now reporting that the Series Two set will be released on or about September 4th.  The base set has 72 player cards (six per team), 12 "Draft Pick" cards featuring the 1st round draft pick for each team and four checklist cards for a total of 88 cards.  There's also the ubiquitous 24 card (2 per team) "Star" insert set.  The "Lucky Card" redemption set is a 12 card "Opening Pitcher" set that features the Opening Day starter for each of the 12 teams.  As always, Calbee has the checklist for the set available on-line.

With Series Two being delayed by roughly 2 1/2 months you may be asking yourself what this means for Series Three which typically is released in mid-September.  The answer is...I don't know.  I've sent a message off to Calbee this morning asking about Series Three but I've not gotten an answer yet.  It would be somewhat disappointing if there were no Series Three this season since that would also mean that there were no "regular" player cards for Shohei Ohtani, Tetsuto Yamada and Yuki Yanagita among others.

BBM has also recently announced a couple new team specific boxed sets - "Young Carp" and "Young Tigers".  Both of these box sets are from BBM's "Authentic Edition" series and contain 26 cards - 25 cards for the base set and one "special insert" card that's either a memorabilia card or an autograph.  The 25 players in the base set are all "young" players on the team - born after April 1990 in the case of the Carp and after April 1991 in case of the Tigers.  There are nine possible memorabilia cards for each set - I think they're all jersey cards in the case of the Tigers but there's a Seiya Suzuki bat card available with the Carp set.  The autograph cards include players who aren't in the base set (so they aren't necessarily young).  The sets will be out in late August and the MSRP on them is 6000 yen.  The sets are limited to 2000 apiece.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Card Of The Week August 6

Hitoki Iwase of the Dragons got into his 950th game today which now gives him the record for most pitching appearances in NPB history, passing Hall Of Famer Tetsuya Yoneda.  He got the save in the game against the Giants which extends his record for most career saves in NPB to 404.

Iwase was Chunichi's' second round pick in the fall 1998 draft (Kosuke Fukudome was the 1st round pick).  He had an outstanding rookie season in 1999 working middle relief for the CL pennant winning Dragons, going 10-2 with an ERA 1.57 in 65 games.  In another season that might have won him the Rookie Of The Year award however 1999 was also Koji Uehara of the Giants' rookie season and he went 20-4 and led the CL in strikeouts with 179.  Uehara won the award and I suspect Iwase finished a distant second although I haven't found the vote tally anywhere on-line.

Iwase did win the "Middle Relief" award in 1999 with a total of 28.15 points.  I don't know how this total is calculated but I think it has something to do with number of appearances, number of hold points and number of saves.  Here's his card commemorating this achievement from the "Leaders" subset of the 2000 BBM set (#26):

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Tokyo Rocks

BBM stopped doing card sets for the Tokyo Big Six collegiate league after 2013 but it turns out that there is kinda-sorta another outfit doing cards for the league.  The catch is that they are virtual cards that only exist on the league's official mobile phone app.

The app is called "Tokyo Rocks" and is available for both Apple and Android platforms.  Here's how it works.  You get 10 points every day by opening the app and basically checking in (I think you get 100 points if you check in at Jingu Stadium).  The cards cost 10 points each.  You cash in your points and you randomly get a card.  For the past two years there have been a total of 66 cards - 11 for each of the teams in the league.  The 2016 cards were available until early April this year (or until you updated the app on your phone).  Since then all you can get are the 2017 cards.  (The switchover corresponds to the start of the Tokyo Big Six season this year).

The cards do not have backs and there's no way to trade them with other people so they're just kind of a curiosity.

Here's some example cards from 2016:

And here's some example cards from the 2017 set.  You can see that the card design didn't change.  There's at least a couple players who have the same picture on both their 2016 and 2017 cards:

I didn't get the entire 2016 set but I pooled resources with Dani (who I had learned about the cards from) to generate a nearly complete list of cards.  Some of the players in last year's set were drafted last October and are currently playing in NPB.

We also pooled resources on the 2017 cards so I could generate another list:

There's a little weirdness in this year's checklist - some of the players don't have uniform numbers and there's a "blank" card for one of the Meiji cards - apparently they recalled one of the cards.

The league started doing these cards back in 2015.  Dani wasn't quite sure but she thinks there were eventually 13 cards for each team that year but they added more cards as the year went on.  Here's a screenshot she sent me of the 2015 cards - I didn't attempt to put together a list of the cards:

I want to thank Dani for all her help with teaching me how to get these cards and providing me with screen shots of all her cards so that I could create the checklists for the 2016-17 cards.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Card Of The Week July 30

Last Wednesday the Chunichi Dragons were cruising along with a 10-0 lead over the Swallows going into the bottom of the seventh when all the wheels fell off.  The Swallows scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh on a two run home run by Yuhei Nakamura then exploded for eight runs in the bottom of the eighth to tie the game up.  They ended up winning 11-10 on a walk off home run by pinch hitter Shoitsu Ohmatsu in the bottom of the tenth.  Here's a video with the painful highlights (if you don't know, I am a Dragons fan) courtesy of NPB Reddit:

This is only the fourth time in Japanese professional baseball history that a team has come back from a ten run deficit and the first time in almost 20 years.   This was the second pinch hit walk off home run Ohmatsu had hit this year - he's now the fourth player in NPB history (and first in 40 years) to have two pinch hit walk off home runs in one season.

This is Ohmatsu's first season with the Swallows after 12 seasons with the Marines.  Lotte let him go at the end of last season while he was recovering from a ruptured Achilles tendon suffered with the farm team in late May.  The Swallows gave him a tryout during spring camp and ended up signing him to a contract.  The only cards I know of him in a Swallows uniform are from the BBM and Epoch Swallows sets, neither of which I have yet.  I did recently pick up a Konami card of him from when he was with the Marines in a lot of assorted cards I got on Ebay.  This is a "Special" card (I don't know enough about Konami's cards to know if that's the official name of the subset or not) from the 2008 Baseball Heroes Black Edition (#B08S032):

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Card Of The Week July 23

Japhet Amador of the Eagles has been having a good weekend.  Yesterday the big fellow became the first Eagle ever to hit home runs in three consecutive at bats:

Then in today's game, Amador lead off in the bottom of the ninth in a tied game and proceeded to untie it:

I was surprised to discover that Amador did not have a card in BBM's 1st Version set this year (obviously I missed this fact when I was looking at who was missing from the set a few weeks back).   His only cards so far this year are in BBM's Eagles team set (which I don't have yet) and a team-issued Eagles set.   I expect that he'll show up in BBM's 2nd Version set next month.

Here's a card of him from the "Newcomer" subset from last year's BBM Eagles team set (#E74):

Saturday, July 22, 2017

More New Stuff

Here's some information on some recently announced sets...

- BBM's annual high end set Genesis will be released in mid-September.  It has a 120 card base set - 108 player cards (9 per team) and 12 checklist cards.  There are a number of parallels for each of the player cards but the website doesn't have any details.  There are three 12 card insert sets - Elite Of Nine (which apparently are plastic), Star Burst (holo foil?) and Cross Squall (Holographic processing).  I think that each of the insert cards are serially numbered to 50.  The big thing for Genesis of course is the "premium" insert cards - of which there is one in every 12,000 yen (~$108) box.  These include autograph cards, memorabilia cards (jersey, patch, hat, etc) and "booklet" cards.  Some of the cards have multiple autographs or multiple pieces of memorabilia.

- Epoch has announced two more of its modestly priced team sets - this time for the Tigers and the Giants.  The base set for each of them will have 36 cards.  The sets appear to have the same features as the other six Epoch team sets - photo variants for all the cards, a parallel version of the primary base set, some sort of insert cards and scratch off cards that give you points that can be redeemed for autographed cards.  I'm not sure but I think that both of these sets will have multiple parallels for the base set cards.  The Tigers set will be out on August 19th and the Giants set will be released a week later on the 26th.  This brings the total number of team sets done by Epoch this year to eight - they've done the entire Central League but only the Lions and Hawks from the Pacific League.  I am curious about whether they'll do any or all of the remaining four teams - the Marines, Fighters, Buffaloes and Eagles.

- Epoch is releasing a set on the more expensive side of the ledger in honor of the 35th Anniversary of the Seibu Lions winning their first Nippon Series in 1982 (their first Series under Seibu that is).  The set is sold in boxes containing two packs of three cards each for 14,040 yen (~$126).  Each box is guaranteed to contain at least two autograph cards.  The base set has 44 cards, all of which have a parallel version.  There are what looks like six different types of autograph cards.  All the players in the set have autograph cards.  The 44 cards include Lions players who were not on the 1982 team like Fumiya Nishiguchi and Kiyoshi Toyoda.  The set will be released on August 26th.

- I'm not entirely sure about some of the details about this next release, including who made it and when it's getting released but there's a set coming out dedicated to former Baystars pitcher Daisuke Miura who retired at the end of last season.  Since the set is described of consisting of "trading mini color paper" I think that it's being released by Hits, who issued a couple sets of "trading mini color paper" for the Baystars, Carp, Hawks and Swallows back in April.  It looks like the set contains 16 "cards" - 12 "normal" ones and 4 "special" ones which have foil autographs.  There's also a parallel version of the "special" cards available.  (It's possible that this set was released last winter but for whatever reason just showed up in Discount Niki's card listings recently.)

- Topps recently released their Allen & Ginter set for this year and it (like their Museum Collection last month) features a handful of WBC relic cards.  There are seven cards for Samurai Japan members - "World Baseball Classic Relic" cards for Shintaro Fujinami, Takahiro Norimoto, Tomoyuki Sugano, Tetsuto Yamada and Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh and "Mini World Baseball Classic Framed Relic" cards for Yamada and Tsutsugoh.  This is kind of disappointing as all five of the Japanese players with relics in this set had relics in the Museum Collection.  Still hoping for a decent WBC set but it's looking less likely with every release.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Georgia On My Mind

Back in 2010, BBM did some cards as a tie-in with Georgia Coffee, a coffee drink made by Coca-Cola in Japan that is sold in cans.  You would get two cards with each can you bought.  The cards were smaller than the standard card size.  Gen from YakyuBaka (which of course is now YakyuDB) did a post about the cards he got.  Apparently there were 60 possible cards which were issued in pairs - so for example the two cards that Gen got - Shohei Tateyama and Toshiya Sugiuchi - are always paired up together.  All 60 cards are for active players.

I never got any of these Georgia Coffee cards but I did get a couple cards from another set that they did.  Apparently they also did a "Legend" set containing all OB players.  I did a post on the pack that I had gotten back in 2010.  I picked up a couple more the other day in a lot of Japanese cards that I got on Ebay which made me look into these cards again.  The two new cards I got were for Yutaka Takagi and Kazuyoshi Tatsunami:

#L11 (Yutaka Takagi)

#L12 (Kazuyoshi Tatsunami)
The design of the cards is the same as the 2009 BBM Legends set, a set which I believe was distributed in a series of magazines (possibly Shukan Baseball).  I started wondering if BBM had done a miniature version of the Legends set for the Georgia Coffee cards but a little research quickly disabused me of this notion - first Takagi doesn't appear in the Legends set and second the cards in the Legend set use different photos:

2009 BBM Legends #073 (Tatsunami)
I really don't know much else about these cards.  There were at least 12 of them and I think that like the cards for the active players they were issued in set two card pairs since the pack I got in 2010 that contained Sadaharu Oh and Masayuki Kakefu also contained this little flyer:

I wonder if the pack that the Takagi and Tatsunami cards came out of had a little flyer with those two cards on it.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Card Of The Week July 16

Daichi Suzuki of the Marines had a pretty good game in yesterday's second All Star game (that's the second All Star game in 2017, not the second played yesterday) - he went 2-3 with a triple and a home run in the game played in his home stadium.  The Pacific League won the game 3-1 and Suzuki scored the second and third runs of the game for the PL which you would have thought would have been good enough for the MVP award for the game but the powers that be decided to give it to Alfredo Despainge of the Hawks instead who homered to provide the PL's first run.  Suzuki did get a "Fighting Spirit" award for the game along with Shogo Akiyama of the Lions (who doubled to drive Suzuki in for the second PL run and who won a "Fighting Spirit" award for the first game on Friday after leading off the game with a home run) and Seiji Kobayashi of the Giants (who homered for the CL's only run of the game - he homered on the first pitch of his first All Star at bat, becoming the fourth NPB player ever to do that).  Suzuki also lead the PL team in a on-field cheer after the game:

(H/T NPB Reddit)

Here's Suzuki's card from the 2013 BBM Marines set (#M50):

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Card Of The Week July 9

Friday night the Carp were down 8-3 going into the ninth inning against the Swallows at Jingu Stadium but it didn't stay that way for long.  Pinch hitter Xavier Batista lead off the inning with a home run, his sixth of the season (of those I think at least three of them were pinch hit homers).  After Kosuke Tanaka grounded out Ryosuke Kikuchi homered to make the score 8-3.  Yoshihiro Maru followed with a walk and scored two batters later when Ryuhei Matsuyama doubled.  Pinch hitter Ryoma Nishikawa then singled to put two on for pinch hitter Takahiro Arai.  Arai then launched a three run home run to put the Carp up 9-8 which was the final score.

Here's a video showing the three ninth inning home runs (H/T NPB Reddit):

To some degree lightning struck again today - the Swallows were up 3-2 going into the ninth but Arai came up as a pinch hitter again and this time hit a double to tie the game up.  Both ninth inning rallies were at the expense of Yasuhiro Ogawa whom it looks like the Swallows had been considering turning into a closer.  The ending was a little better for the Swallows - the game remained 303 after 12 innings and so goes into the books as a tie.

BBM's 2015 Carp team set had a two card subset called "Big Comeback" to commemorate Arai and Hiroki Kuroda returning to Hiroshima after having spent time with other teams.  It seems appropriate to share the Arai card (#C72) this week:

Friday, July 7, 2017

Study Abroad - Fall Instructional Leagues in the 1960's

Sometimes there's an odd path to discovering something. I was up early on Monday of this week and tuned into the Lions/Fighters game in time to see the first pitch ceremony (well actually it was a first pitch ceremony - they'd had a Star Wars themed one that I tuned in too late to see).  The ceremony featured Isao Harimoto in the same throwback Toei Flyers uniform that the Fighters were wearing for the game and another gentleman in a Hanshin Tigers uniform that I didn't immediately recognize.  For some reason I was thinking it was Masaaki Koyama but I wasn't really sure.  Then Pacific League TV sent out this tweet:

So OK, that's a clue.  I know Harimoto had 3085 hits but off hand I didn't know how many wins Koyama had.  So I did a quick search for Koyama on Baseball-Reference and did a double-take:

"Last played for DET"?  Wait...what?

Clicking on Koyama's page revealed (in addition to confirming that Koyama had 320 wins) that Koyama had pitched 3 innings in one game for the Detroit Tigers Florida Instructional League team in the fall of 1967.  A little more research revealed that there were three other Japanese players on that team as well.

Now I had known that there were Japanese players with a couple of the Giants Arizona Instructional League teams in the 1960's but I hadn't realized that there were other teams who hosted NPB players as well.  So I started going through all the teams that Baseball-Reference had data for in both Florida and Arizona and came up with a few more.  The Washington Senators hosted three Chunichi Dragons in the fall of 1965 with their Florida team.  In 1966 there were three teams with NPB players - the Dodgers in Arizona had three players from the Yomiuri Giants while in Florida the White Sox had two players from the Sankei Atoms and the Tigers had two players from Chunichi.  The Tigers hosted four players (including Koyama) from the Tokyo Orions in 1967 and four players from two different teams (the Orions and the Nishitetsu Lions) in 1968.

Here's a table with all the players

Year League Team Player NPB Teams Notes
1965 Florida Senators Tatsuhiko Kimata Chunichi 1964-82 All Star 1970-71, 1974-75, 1977-80; Best 9 1969-71, 1977, 1979
1965 Florida Senators Morimichi Takagi Chunichi 1960-80 CL Stolen Base Leader 1963, 1965, 1973; All Star 1966-67, 1973, 1979; Best 9 1963-67, 1974, 1977; Golden Glove 1974, 1977, 1979; HOF 2006; Meikyukai member, managed Chunichi 1986, 1992-95, 2012-13
1965 Florida Senators Tatsumi Yamanaka Chunichi 1962-70 CL Winning Percentage 1963, 1965; All Star 1966
1966 Arizona Dodgers Chiyosaku Hayashi Yomiuri 1966-69
1966 Arizona Dodgers Takeshi Ueda Yomiuri 1964-78
1966 Arizona Dodgers Takashi Yoshida Yomiuri 1964-84 All Star 1976-77
1966 Florida White Sox Tadakatsu Takayama Kokutetsu/Sankei/Yakult 1963-70, Hanshin 1971
1966 Florida White Sox Kunimitsu Yanoura Kintetsu 1960-65, Sankei 1966-67, Yomiuri 1968 All Star 1963-64, 1966; Played for Tokyo Dragons of the Global League in 1969
1966 Florida Tigers Isao Hirono Chunichi 1966-67, Nishitetsu 1968-70, Yomiuri 1971-73, Chunichi 1974 All Star 1969
1966 Florida Tigers Hiroshi Shintaku Chunichi 1966-78 All Star 1967
1967 Florida Tigers Reiji Iishi Tokyo/Lotte 1965-71, Hiroshima 1972-73 All Star 1966
1967 Florida Tigers Takenori Ikebe Daimai/Tokyo/Lotte 1962-1974, Hanshin 1975-78, Kintetsu 1979 All Star 1967, 1969-71; Golden Glove 1972, 1976
1967 Florida Tigers Masaaki Koyama Osaka/Hanshin 1953-63, Tokyo/Lotte 1964-72, Taiyo 1973 CL Leader Wins 1964, Winning Percentage 1962, Strikeouts 1962; All Star 1957-60, 1962-67, 1970; Sawamura Award 1962; HOF 2001, Meikyukai Member
1967 Florida Tigers Hiroyuki Yamazaki Tokyo/Lotte 1965-78, Seibu 1979-84 All Star 1969-70, 1972-77, 1980-81, 1983; Best 9 1969-71, 1974, 1980; Golden Glove 1977, 1980-81; Meikyukai member
1968 Florida Tigers Masayoshi Higashida Nishitetsu/Taiheiyo Club 1968-74, Nippon Ham 1975, Hanshin 1976-77 All Star 1971-72
1968 Florida Tigers Kazuto Kawabata Tokyo/Lotte 1967-70, Chunichi 1970, Hiroshima 1974-76, Hankyu 1977-78
1968 Florida Tigers Mitsuo Motoi Nishitetsu/Taiheiyo Club/Crown Lighter 1967-78, Taiyo 1979-84 All Star 1968, 1971-73, 1977, 1980; Best 9 1972, 1980; Golden Glove 1980
1968 Florida Tigers Yasuo Otsuka Tokyo/Lotte 1966-72 Listed in Baseball-Reference's page for the team as "Yashsheo Otsuka"

This is a pretty impressive list of players.  Out of 18 players, 13 were All Stars at least once.  There's also two Hall Of Famers and three Meikyukai members (which includes the two Hall Of Famers).

As you would probably guess there are no known baseball cards of any of these guys while they were with their respective Instructional League team.  Most of them have had baseball cards in Japan - I have cards of 12 of them:

1979 Calbee July Best #30 (Kimata)

1975/76 Calbee #446 (Takagi)

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #54 (Yamanaka)

1974 Calbee #359 (Ueda)

1973 Calbee #27 (Yoshida)

1960 Marusho 4 In 1 B&W (JBR6) (Yanoura)

2009 Epoch All Japan Baseball Foundation 15th Anniversary #15

2016 BBM Dragons 80th Anniversary #10

~1966 Mel Bailey Postcard (Koyama)

2010 Epoch 1977 #37

2011 BBM Lions Classic #50

1978 Yamakatsu JY6 (Motoi)
As far as I can tell Ikebe is the only one of the other six players who ever had a baseball card.  He has two cards in the 1974/75 Calbee set. 

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RIP Toshiharu Ueda

Hall Of Fame manager Toshiharu Ueda passed away last weekend.  He managed the Hankyu Braves from 1974-78 during which time the team won four Pacific League pennants and three Nippon Series Championships.  He came back and managed the team again from 1981 to 1990 - the last two years of which the team was known as the Orix Braves.  He also managed the Fighters from 1995-99.  He was elected to the Hall Of Fame in 2003.

I'd write more about him but it would be better if you just read Jim Allen's appreciation of his friend who was laid to rest today in Yokohama.

2009 BBM Hankyu Memorial #02

2014 BBM Orix 25th Anniversary #62

1995 BBM #518

Calbee And The Hokkaido Potato Crisis Of 2017

I've been asking around lately about what's going on with Calbee and why Series Two didn't get released in June when expected.  Last week I sent a message to the company using the "Contact Us" page on their international website and was surprised last night to get this message from them:

Thank you for your contacting us about Calbee baseball chips.
We were sold the first of it from 27,March on this year.
After that it was paused production temporarily by reason of
shortage of potatoes what effect of typhoon to Hokkaido last year.
However we decided to resume selling of the first from mid July,
because harvest of potato is favorable from Kyusyu.
We regret to inform you that it isn't possible to inform you of time
to release of the second.
However we prepare for selling it.
We would like you to wait for informing release date at Calbee HP.
Sincerely yours,
Customer Service Center
Calbee, Inc.

It turns out that there is a potato shortage in Japan right now.  Calbee uses potatoes from Hokkaido and the Hokkaido potato crop was disrupted by a typhoon (or several typhoons - the news stories I've seen don't agree on the number) last summer.  Calbee's had to stop production temporarily of a number of their products and that includes the "Professional Baseball Card" brand.  It looks like there are potatoes back in the pipeline both from Kyushu (which is what I think they meant by "Kyusyu" in their email) and Hokkaido so hopefully there will be news soon on when the cards will be out.

I had seen some items on Calbee's website talking about the crisis but since I don't think about the cards in conjunction with the potato chips, I didn't realize that it would affect the release of the cards as well.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Missing From 2017 BBM 1st Version

A few months back when I did a post on BBM's new 1st Version set I had made my usual complaint that with each team only getting 27 cards to cover their manager and players and each team having ALL their non-ikusei rookies included that there were bound to be significant players left out of the set although at the time I couldn't come up with anyone.  I took a look at the All Star rosters that got announced last week and came up a list of 2017 All Stars who are missing from the 1st Version set - Alfredo Despaigne and Seiji Uebayashi of the Hawks, Takumi Akiyama and Ryutaro Umeno of the Tigers and Kazuki Yabuta of the Carp.  Now to be fair I probably shouldn't include Despaigne on this list as he didn't officially sign with the Hawks until February 15th and he didn't show up in training camp until late March since he was playing in the World Baseball Classic with Cuba.  But there's really no excuse for the others to have not been in the set and I would expect them to be included in BBM's 2nd Version set coming out in August - either in the "1st Version Update" or in the regular player cards.

There were a couple other guys I was a bit surprised to realize weren't in the set - Tomohisa Ohtani of the Marines and Luis Mendoza of the Fighters.  I was also surprised that Rafael Dolis of the Tigers was not in the set but he didn't sign with Hanshin until February 23rd which was probably after the cut off date to make the set.  I would expect all three of them to be in 2nd Version too.

A couple other names I expect to see in 2nd Version who signed too late to be in 1st Version are Munenori Kawasaki of the Hawks and Ramiro Pena of the Carp.  It's possible that Xavier Batista of the Carp and Chris Marrero of the Buffaloes may have signed in time to be in 2nd Version.  Batista was actually an ikusei player who didn't get registered onto the official roster until June 3 so he was around and BBM should have photos of him.  Marrero registered on June 1 but I'm not sure when he actually put on an Orix uniform for the first time.  Guys like Wily Mo Pena of the Marines and Stephen Fife of the Lions most likely registered after the deadline for 2nd Version.  Hopefully BBM will do the Fusion set again and include a "1st Version Update" subset for them and any other foreign players who have signed or will sign with a team between 2nd Version's cut off date and the end of July (the last date an NPB team can add a new player).

Card Of The Week July 2

The big news this past weekend was that Shohei Ohtani made his first pitching appearance of 2017 with the Fighters' farm team on Saturday.  As I'm sure everyone already knows, Ohtani's been out with an injury for the better part of the last three months - until he made a couple pinch hitting appearances last week he hadn't been in a game since April 8th.

Ohtani started the game and struck out the first two batters (Shohei Suzuki and Nien-Ting Wu) before facing Hotaka Yamakawa:

Ohtani then walked Ryo Sakata and hit Masato Kumshiro before getting out of the inning by getting Shogo Saitoh to fly out.  He ended up only pitching the one inning, throwing 27 pitches (I think).

Instead of talking more about Ohtani with this post however I thought I'd write a little bit about Yamakawa.  Hotaka Yamakawa was the second round pick of the Lions out of Fuji University in the fall 2013 draft (one round after the Lions took Tomoya Mori).  Yamakawa spent most of his time with the Lions farm team until last season when got a chance with the ichi-gun team and took it - hitting 14 home runs in 157 plate appearances in 49 games.  Among other things this earned him an appearance in BBM's 1st Version set this year (his first appearance in one of BBM's flagship sets since his rookie year of 2014) and his first ever Calbee card.  It doesn't appear to have actually earned him a permanent spot with the top team however as he's been back with the farm team for most of this season, hitting .323 with 10 home runs (including the one off Ohtani) in 36 games.

Here's Yamakawa's Calbee card from this year (#023):

Thursday, June 29, 2017

RIP Shinji Mori

Stunning news out of Fukuoka yesterday - Saitama Seibu Lions pitching coach Shinji Mori has passed away from multiple-organ failure at the age of 42.  Mori had taken ill over the weekend while the Lions were in Fukuoka to play the Hawks and stayed behind when the team moved on to Okinawa this week.

Mori was a pitcher for the Lions from 1997 to 2005.  He was drafted by the Lions from Nippon Steel Kimitsu of the corporate leagues in the second round of the fall 1996 draft.  After a couple seasons working as both a starter and reliever for the Lions he became the closer in 2000 and had 23 saves with a 1.83 ERA.  He lost his closers job to Kiyoshi Toyoda in 2001 however and moved into a middle relief role that he excelled at for a couple seasons.

He asked the Lions to post him following the 2005 season and Tampa Bay won his rights for $1,000,000.  He tore his labrum during spring training with the Devil Rays in 2006 and ultimately never pitched for them.  Tampa Bay released him in the middle of the 2007 season and he spent another year or so attempting to heal and rehabilitate.

He joined the Ishikawa Million Stars of the independent Baseball Challenge League as a player/coach in 2009 and became the team's manager in 2010 after retiring from playing.  He lead the team to the BC League championship in 2010 and 2011.  He started pitching again for the team in 2013, becoming player/manager while leading the team to another championship.  He left the Million Stars after the 2014 season (giving the reigns of the team over to Julio Franco) and became the Lions farm team pitching coach.  He was promoted to be the ichi-gun pitching coach in the middle of 2016.

He pitched in four Nippon Series for the Lions (1997, 1998, 2002, 2004) and made five All Star teams (1998, 2000, 2002-04).  He won the Pacific League Middle Relief Award in 2002 and 2003.

1997 BBM #455

1998 BBM All Stars #A43

1999 BBM Lions 20th Anniversary #SL6

2000 BBM Diamond Heroes #26

2001 Broccoli #007

2002 BBM 2nd Version #685

2003 Calbee #129

2004 BBM Nippon Series #02

2005 BBM 1st Version #2