Sunday, May 21, 2017

Card Of The Week May 21

The Kintetsu Buffaloes were not one of the more successful NPB franchises over their 55 season lifespan (from 1950 to 2004).  They didn't finish higher than fourth until their 20th season (1969) and had finished last 14 times before that.  But they had a stretch in the mid to late 1970's where they were quite good for a few years.  They won the Pacific League pennant for the first time ever in 1979 and met the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in the Nippon Series.

The two teams split the first six games of the Series with the home team winning every game (the Buffaloes were playing their home games in the Series in Osaka Stadium because they were embroiled in a legal spat with their neighbors about adding lights to Fujidera Stadium, their home ballpark, that wouldn't get resolved until 1984).  In Game Seven, the Carp carried a 4 to 3 lead into the bottom of the ninth (the first bottom of the ninth to be played in the Series) with their ace reliever Yutaka Enatsu on the mound.  But things got difficult quickly.

Koichi Hada lead off the inning with a single up the middle.  Hada was replaced by pinch runner Shiro Fujise.  During the next batter Chris Arnold's at bat Fujise broke for second.  The throw from Carp catcher Shiro Mizunuma was short and bounced past shortstop Yoshihiko Takahashi into center field.  Fujise went to third on the error.  Enatsu then walked Arnold and Buffaloes manager Yukio Nishimoto replaced him with pinch runner Tokuichi Fukiishi who promptly stole second without a throw during the next at bat (for Mitsuyasu Hirano).  Hirano (who had homered earlier in the game) was then issued an intentional walk, loading the bases with nobody out.

The pitcher's spot in the lineup was due up next and Nishimoto sent pinch hitter Kyosuke Sasaki up to bat for pitcher Tetsuju Yamaguchi.  Sasaki hit a shot down the third baseline that was just foul as it crossed the base - a fair ball would probably have won the Series for the Buffaloes.  Instead Sasaki ended up striking out.  So now it was one out with the bases still loaded.

Next up was leadoff hitter Shigeru Ishiwata.  The Buffaloes attempt a suicide squeeze but Carp manager Takeshi Koba had anticipated this and called for a pitchout.  Enatsu's pitch comes in high and outside and Ishiwata misses it.  Fujise is hung up between third and home and Mizunuma runs him down and tags him out for the second out.  Ishiwata then strikes out and the Carp win Series, their first ever championship.

You can watch all of this in the following video - the fateful ninth inning starts at the 1:53 mark:

The Buffaloes would ultimately never win a Nippon Series.  They would lose again to the Carp in seven games in 1980, lose in seven to the Giants in 1989 (after being up 3-0) and lose in five to the Swallows in 2001.  1979 was the seventh time that Nishimoto had managed a team into the Series without winning it - his eighth and final time would be in 1980.

Calbee issued a 23 card series in late 1979 celebrating that Nippon Series.  The fateful suicide squeeze attempt was immortalized on one of the cards:

Here's another picture showing the play from the book "Nostalgic Stadiums Of Kansai":

Monday, May 15, 2017


I'm getting around to this kind of late but it looks like BBM has decided to stop publishing Sports Card Magazine.  Issue #121 which came out at the end of January was apparently the last issue.

A reader (LEWIS JOHN) had commented back at the end of March that #121 had contained a notice that it was the last issue.  I hadn't noticed the notice but since I don't read Japanese it was easy for me to miss.  I went looking through the issue and I found something that looked like it could be it on page 32:

I ended up contacting Deanna Rubin and asking her for the gist of what the text said (and to confirm that it really was something about the end of the magazine).  She said that it said "basically they are thanking all the people who were awaiting the next issue and apologizing for the trouble it will cause, but apparently they will be continuing online on Sportsclick".

This is a disappointing development to say the least.  Sportsclick is BBM's website (which still shows SCM #121) and while it will contain information for BBM's upcoming card releases, it does not have checklists for the sets or the JSCA price guide.  Or promo baseball cards for that matter.  I'm kind of hoping that BBM does continue publishing the magazine or something similar according to a different schedule (something other than bi-weekly).

I had also asked Ryan about the fate of SCM and he had confirmed at a card store (Mint Kanda I think) that they were finished publishing the magazine.

So that's it in a nutshell - no more Sports Card Magazine, at least for now.  Thanks to Deanna, Ryan and LEWIS JOHN for all the information they provided.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Card Of The Week May 14

For the second time this season the Tokyo Yakult Swallows today won a game on a walk off grand slam.  The first time was back on April 2nd when Atsushi Ugumori beat the Baystars in the bottom of the tenth.  This time it was Takahiro Araki beating the Dragons in the bottom of the ninth.  Here's a highlight video of the game - Araki's at bat starts at about the 0:50 mark:

Araki was the third round pick of the Swallows in the 2009 draft out of Kinki University.  He debuted with the ichi-gun team in 2010 but has spent much of his career with the farm team.  Here's a card of him from the "Recommended Hope" subset from the 2011 BBM 1st Version set (#404):

Saturday, May 13, 2017

2005 Calbee Title Holder Special Box Set

I picked up an odd little set off of Ebay a couple weeks ago.  It's a box set containing the "Title Holder" cards from the 2005 Calbee Series One set.  I'm not completely sure on this but I'm assuming that this was a set available as a mail-in redemption when receiving a "Lucky" card in a pack.

There were 21 "Title Holder" cards in the set.  As usual, they celebrate the players who either lead the league in a statistical category in 2004 or won one of the major awards (MVP, Rookie Of The Year, Sawamura).  Unlike the BBM "Leader" cards there was only one card for each player, even if the player won more than one award or lead in more than one category.

According to Engel, there were three different versions of each "Title Holder" card.  There was the "normal" version which had kind of a shiny lattice work background, a "kira" version which had a "sparkling" background and a "gold signature kira" version which had the "sparkling" background as well as a gold facsimile signature.  The cards in the box set are all the "gold signature kira" version which I'm assuming is the only way those parallels were available.

Here's the "normal" and "gold signature kira" versions of Ryo Kawashima's card:

The backs of the cards were identical:

I grabbed an image from the Calbee Collector's website to show the other version as well.  This photo shows the normal version a lot better than my scan above does:

As you might expect, there's a pretty good selection of players in the set.  There are eight guys who would go on to play in MLB - Ryota Igarashi, Kei Igawa, Hisashi Iwakuma, Kenshin Kawakami, Munenori Kawasaki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yoshinori Tateyama and Koji Uehara plus a bunch of big names like Nobuhiko Matsunaka, Tomoaki Kanemoto and Tuffy Rhodes.



The cards themselves look much better than they do in the scans.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

2013 Giants Players Card

I picked up an interesting item in a lot of cards I got on Ebay recently.  It's a Giants team issued card from 2013 that features Tetsuya Matsumoto on one side and Ryota Wakiya on the other, making it essentially a two sided card.  Each side is similar in design to the fronts of the other 2013 Giants Players Cards I have, except that the biographical info for each player is also on their side of the card.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Card Of The Week May 7

I picked up a couple interesting lots of cards off of Ebay recently.  The bulk of the cards were 1970's era NST, Yamakatsu and Takara cards but there were a couple older items also.  What I found the most interesting of the older items was a pair of cards from the 1960 Toshiba Matsuda Lamp Coupon Bromide set (labelled as JBR 23 by Gary Engel).

This was a 25 card set issued to celebrate the 70th Anniversary of the Matsuda Lamp corporation which would gradually through evolution and mergers become the Toshiba company around 1978.  The blank backed cards were issued with a coupon that could be detached from the bottom of the card and sent in to attempt to win prizes.  The big names in the set were Katsuya Nomura, Masaichi Kaneda, Kazuhisa Inao, Isao Harimoto and Sadaharu Oh.  Shigeo Nagashima was apparently not in the set which is kind of surprising for a set of this era.

The two cards I got no longer had the coupons attached.  They are Toru Mori of the Dragons and Ritsuo Horimoto of the Giants:

Friday, May 5, 2017

2017 Bowman WBC Cards

Topps has issued their first World Baseball Classic cards that can be found in packs this past week.  Last week Topps released the 2017 Bowman set.  This set includes a 150 card "Paper Prospects" insert set (which is 50 cards more than the 100 card base set) that features top prospects of the MLB teams.  It also contains five cards of players on their WBC teams.  Four of the five players are from Samurai Japan - Takahiro Norimoto, Tomoyuki Sugano, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo and Tetsuto Yamada.  The other player is Korean pitcher Yang Hyeon-Jong.

2017 Bowman "Paper Prospects" #BP97

2017 Bowman "Paper Prospects" #BP98

2017 Bowman "Paper Prospects" #BP62

2017 Bowman "Paper Prospects" #BP56

2017 Bowman "Paper Prospects" #BP141
There is a "Chrome" version of each of the cards as well as various different color parallels - blue, red, yellow, orange and gold.

It's a bit strange that the only WBC cards in the subset are from Japan and Korea but most of the potential prospects from the WBC who aren't in MLB organizations are from Japan and Korea.

It's kind of odd though that the first WBC cards that Topps has issued this year (other than the Topps Now and TBT cards that could only be bought on-line) are part of a larger subset rather than a subset dedicated to players from the tournament.  It will be interesting to see if this continues in other sets the rest of the year.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Memorial Event for Wayne S. Graczyk Noon to 2 PM., Saturday, May 20, 2017 Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan

The following text is from this post on NPB Reddit:

You are invited to celebrate the life of Wayne Graczyk, longtime columnist for The Japan Times and Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan (FCCJ) member. Wayne passed away on April 19, 2017 while in Kumamoto to help Nippon Television cover a countryside game between the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants and the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
He was a fixture in the Japanese baseball and English-language sports communities for over three decades.
Graczyk, born on July 9, 1948, was a native of New Jersey and came to Japan as a member of the U.S. Air Force in 1969. He was stationed in Fukuoka, where he eventually met and married his wife, Yoshiko. He later moved to Tokyo, where he attended Sophia University, graduating in 1977.
He began writing his "Baseball Bullet-In" column for The Japan Times in 1976, after mailing the paper's editors about mistakes in a game story he had read, and eventually ended up being hired to write a column.
He also served as the sports editor for the Tokyo Weekender for nearly 30 years. For the Nippon Television Network (NTV), Graczyk attended every Giants home game and interviewed the foreign players from both teams. He would then translate and report the information gleaned to that day's Japanese radio and TV announcers roughly 30 minutes before the end of the visiting team's batting practice.
Graczyk also contributed to Baseball America and other outlets during his long career in and around Japanese baseball. He called Giants games in English for NTV for several seasons and also served as a public address announcer for some NCAA college football games at Tokyo Dome.
He was best known to MLB scouts and teams for his Japan Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide. The guide was first published in 1976 and each edition has contained full rosters and the previous year's statistics for each team, some historical figures and other information.
Each season's guide has become essential reading for MLB scouts in Japan who secure multiple copies for themselves and team executives back home.
The media guide, which Graczyk compiled himself every offseason, was also snapped up by foreign fans living in Japan, tourists, and online orders throughout the world.
You can learn more about the guide and purchase it:
Graczyk is survived by his wife, Yoshiko; a son, Randy; and a daughter, Gayle.
If you are planning to attend, please inform the FCCJ reception desk by phone at 03-3211-3161 or by e-mail at so that the club staff can make appropriate preparations.
Please also let Marty Kuehnert know of your plans at
Please let them know as soon as possible of your planned attendance.
Here is info about the location:
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan Yurakucho Denki North Building 20F Yurakucho 1-7-1, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, 100-0006
Here is the web address of the FCCJ:
Marty, a close friend of Wayne and his family, has graciously been working with Wayne's family during this time. He notes that if you would like to send them anything you can do so at:
Randy Graczyk Tiaro Residence, Unit 4319 2-3-2 Harumi Chuo-ku, Tokyo, 104-0053 Japan
Marty also mentioned that there is no charge for this gathering, even though food will be provided, because Wayne was a long-term member of the FCCJ.
There was the thought of having a door charge, then giving that to Yoshiko, but the club does not allow such charges.
However, if you would like to bring a "koden" - 香典 (condolence money), it will be given to Yoshiko after the service. You can hand your envelopes to any memorial committee members who will be on hand. This is totally optional, Marty notes.
As Marty says, "We all look forward to seeing you on May 20th for a wonderful send-off for our beloved Wayne."
You are encouraged to circulate this information. The hope is to have large gathering to honor Wayne and his family.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

New Spring Releases

I've gotten a bit behind in listing the upcoming releases as usual so it's time to catch up...

- BBM has announced information about the next three of their pack-based team sets - the Carp, the Lions and the Giants.  All three sets have 81 card base sets.  The Carp's base set has 69 cards for the manager and players (and probably the mascot), a three card "Youngsters of Expectation" subset and a nine card "Title Holder" subset.  27 of the "regular" cards have a foil signature parallel.  The Carp set also has 36 insert cards split amongst six sets - "Starting Pitchers" (3 cards), "Faine of Carp"(?) (3 cards), "Reputable Veterans" (3 cards), "Relief Pitchers" (4 cards), "Scoring Sources" (5 cards) and "Phantom" (18 cards) plus four possible memorabilia cards (jersey cards for Yusuke Nomura, Kris Johnson, Ryosuke Kikuchi and Yoshihiro Maru) and many autograph cards.  The Lions' base set has 70 "regular" player cards and three subsets - Mega Impact (5 cards), High Velocity (3 cards) and New Energy (3 cards).  It also has 30 insert cards divided into four sets - "Bright Light" (6 cards), "Shutdown Relievers" (3 cards), "Center Stage Heroes" (9 cards) and "Phantom" (12 cards) plus the usual selection of autographed cards.  The Giants base set is split between 68 player cards, 1 mascot card, 6 "New Strength" cards, 3 "Seasoned Veterans" cards and 3 cards for a subset getting translated as "Pillars of Young Hit".  The player cards have gold, "holo foil" and red signature parallel versions.  The set also has a whopping 66(!) insert cards split between 6 separate sets, some of which are only available as serially numbered cards.  The unnumbered insert sets are the 14 card "Giants Pride 2017" and 4 card "Giant Future" sets - there's a parallel version for both of these sets.  The limited sets are "Cross Foil Signing" (18 cards numbered to 15), "Super Metallic Giants" (9 metallic cards numbered to each player's uniform number), "TripleX" (3 3-D cards numbered to 25) and "Phantom" (18 cards numbered to 25).  It looks like there are memorabilia cards but autograph cards are not specifically mentioned (the "Cross Foil Signing" cards appear to be facsimile autographs).  The Carp set will be out in mid-May and the Lions and Giants sets will be out in late May.

- The next team based box set from BBM is for the Dragons and will be out in early June.  It's called "Heat" and it appears to be the latest "Autographed Edition" set although I'm not sure BBM is still calling their sets that.  The set will contain 29 cards - a 27 card base set and 2 autograph cards.   The retail price for the set is 10,000 yen (roughly $100).

- Epoch is issuing several pack-based team sets of their own over the next couple months.  The twist here is instead of the ridiculously expensive high end sets they've been doing recently, these will actually be much more affordable - they will be issued in boxes of 20 4 card packs for 4,490 yen (roughly $45).  The first of these sets is for the Lions and is scheduled to be released on May 27th.  Epoch will release a set for the Hawks on June 3rd, the Baystars on June 17, and the Swallows on June 24.  The Lions, Hawks and Baystars sets will have a base set of 27 cards while the Swallows' base set will be 30 cards.  It looks like all the cards in the base sets have photo variant versions - the Lions ad sheets shows three different Yusei Kikuchi cards - one of which is a recropping of one of the other ones.  There's a parallel version of the base set cards as well but it's not clear to me if that means the photo variants or if there's some other parallel.  I think there are insert cards available for all four sets although I'm not positive what they are.  There also appears to be some sort of scratch off cards that give you points that can be redeemed for autograph cards.

- Nippon-Ham, the company that owns the Fighters, is again releasing baseball cards in conjunction with "Home Run Sausage".  Like last year's set, this year's cards are basically a Fighters' team set.  There are 72 cards in the set - 1 card for manager Hideki Kuriyama, 67 cards for Fighters' players and four cards for the Fighters' mascots.  I suspect that there will be more cards issued later in the season the way there were last year.  It looks like the pictures were all taken during early training camp so (again like last year) there are pictures that were taken in Arixona.  This set is already out - Deanna got some cards a few weeks ago at the Fighters' ni-gun ballpark in Kamagaya (and reported that the sausage was not very tasty).  Many of the cards can be seen at Jambalaya.

1st Version Photos From Arizona, 2017 Edition

Like last year, it looks like there's a handful of cards for the Fighters in the new BBM 1st Version set that appear to have photos that were taken during the Fighters' early training camp in Peoria, Arizona this past February.  As I've pointed out before, most of the cards in the set feature photos that were taken last year.  The main exceptions to this are rookies and players on new teams (either players who were on other NPB teams last year or players coming to NPB after playing somewhere else last year).
The Fighters only sent 40 or so of the guys on their 70 man roster to Arizona while the rest of the team trained in Okinawa, so that cut down on the number of guys who could have had photos taken at Peoria.  It looks like the only rookie that the Fighters brought to the US was 2nd round pick Kazunari Ishii.  The other new Fighters in Arizona were Edwin Escobar (new foreign player), Toru Murata (former NPB player returning to Japan from MLB) and Taishi Ohta (acquired from the Giants in a trade).  Here's the cards for these four players:

2017 BBM 1st Version #009

2017 BBM 1st Version #021

2017 BBM 1st Version #007

2017 BBM 1st Version #019

Clearly the Escobar photo was taken in Arizona.  Why do I say clearly?  Because the photo is in the Fighter's photo gallery for February 6th.  The other three photos were probably taken in Arizona but it's possible they were taken in Okinawa after the US contingent traveled there in mid-February.

I can state for certain that the Fighters' team card photo was not taken in Peoria - it was taken at Sloan Park in Mesa, Arizona, the spring training home of the Cubs.  The Fighters played an exhibition game there against the kt Wiz of the KBO on February 8th.

2017 BBM 1st Version #325
Dani and Deanna were at this game - I saw an Arizona Fall League game here last October.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

2017 BBM 1st Version set

2017 BBM 1st Version Set Summary

Size: 372 cards numbered 1-336, CS01-CS36
Cards Per Team:  28 (team card, manager + 26 players)
Team Card Theme:  Spring Training
Number Of Leader Cards:  N/A
Checklists:  None
Subsets:  Cross Squall (36)
Inserts:  Rookie Reprint (12), HyperNOVA (12), 3D Cross Squall (12) (#'d to 25)
Memorabilia Cards: Jersey cards for Shohei Ohtani and Seiya Suzuki (as well as a combination card with both of them).  Each individual jersey card is serially numbered to 200 plus a parallel patch version numbered to 20.  Not sure of the counts on the dual card.  There are a large number of autograph cards available as well - including ones with multiple autographs
Parallels:  12 regular player cards have a "secret" alternate photo version.  108 regular players cards have facsimile autograph parallels - silver, gold (#'d to 100), holograph (#'d to 50), red (#'d to 25) and green (#'d to 10) - this includes the "secret" versions of the cards as well.  Many (possibly all) of the rookie cards have two numbered parallel versions - one is numbered to 150 and the other (the "holo foil" version) is numbered to 50.  The "Cross Squall" cards have at least one parallel version that's numbered to 100 - I think there's also a "1 of 1" version as well.  The HyperNOVA insert cards also have a parallel that is numbered to 100.
Notable Rookies: Takuya Katoh, Sosuke Genda

For the third year in a row the details of BBM's annual 1st Version set have pretty much remained the same - 372 cards split into 324 player cards (including all 12 managers), 12 team cards and 36 cards from the cross set subset ("Cross Plasma" in 2015, "Cross Freeze" last year and "Cross Squall" this year) and the usual plethora of parallels.  My complaints about the set has pretty much remained the same as well - I miss the "Leader" subset that was standard from 1991 to 2013 (although BBM did add one in last year's Fusion set that at least covered the statistical leaders although not the award winners) and I wish the set was larger - at 27 player cards per team that has to include the manager and all the non-ikusei rookies there are somewhat significant players who don't have cards in the set (although like last year I don't have a good example of any).

There is one big new thing that BBM did this year that I actually like quite a bit.  They issued an "secret" version of 12 of the player cards (one per team) that features a different photo than the regular card.  I'm not sure how rare these are - from what I can see on Yahoo! Japan Auctions they don't appear to be getting a premium price.  The cards include several of the biggest stars in Japan - Shohei Ohtani, Tetsuto Yamada, Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh and Hayato Sakamoto.  I unfortunately don't have any of these yet - I was unable to get a complete set that include these and will have to get them one at a time.  Here's the regular and "secret" versions of Takahiro Arai's card (#177) - the one on the right is the "secret" version (I swiped the image from Yahoo! Japan Auctions):

The other thing I like about this set is the design.  It's a very clean design with full bleed photos.  The only thing about it is it seems very similar to last year's Topps Stadium Club design:

2016 Topps Stadium Club #44
And both sets I think owe something to the 1997 Fleer set:

1997 Fleer #10
Here's some example cards:





As is standard for this set the bulk of the photos used on the cards are from last year.  The only exceptions for this are for new players on teams (rookies, players who switched teams in the off season and new imports) and the Chunichi Dragons, who have new uniforms this year (and maybe some of the Orix Buffaloes?).  The photos for the exceptions were taken in early training camp.

The card backs are pretty much the standard BBM card back:

#110 (Yuki Matsui)
Speaking of early training camp, for the second straight year the photos on the team cards feature scenes from early training camp rather than the mascots.  While I applaud this I wasn't as impressed with the photos this time around as I was last year:

The sole subset in the set is the annual "cross set subset".  This year it's called "Cross Squall" and like all the other "Cross" cards it features the image of the player superimposed over some background (this year it has a rainbow) on the front and has the original image of the player on the back.  The cards are numbered separately from the rest of the set - CS01 to  CS36.  I'm assuming that the 2nd Version set will have 36 more of these cards.


Back of #CS27
Like the Calbee Series One set, this is a typical BBM 1st Version set so if you've liked other ones, you'll probably like this one too.

All the regular cards along with inserts and more common parallels (plus some of the rare ones) can be seen over at Jambalaya.

Meet Mashi In Tokyo

Rob Fitts asked me to pass along that he's doing a book signing in Tokyo with Masanori Murakami on May 30th.

Mr. Murakami will sign additional autographs at 3000 yen each.