Monday, January 22, 2018

RIP Shinsaku Katahira

Former Hawk, Lion and Whale Shinsaku Katahira passed away today from pancreatic cancer.  Katahira was the fourth round pick of the Nankai Hawks in the fall 1971 draft out of Tokyo Agricultural University.  He spent the first 10 years of his career with the Hawks although I don't think he really became a regular until the late 70's.  He was traded along with Masahiro Kuroda to the Seibu Lions after the 1981 season for Ritsuo Yamashita and Yoshinori Yamamura.  He had a couple good years with the Lions - helping them to win the Nippon Series three times in the next five seasons - before they traded to the Yokohama Taiyo Whales along with Tamotsu Nagai for Shintaro Hirose after the 1986 season.  He spent three years with the Whales (the final one as a player-coach) before retiring at the end of the 1989 season.  He made the All Star team in 1980 and won a Golden Glove (at first base) in 1983.  He played in five Nippon Series - with Nankai in 1973 and with Seibu in 1982-83 and 1985-86.  He played mostly a backup role in those Series although he did have a home run in the deciding Game 6 of the 1982 Series.

After retiring he coached with the Lions from 1990 to 1997 and again from 2008 to 2009.  He was also a TV commentator.  In 2013 he managed the East Astraia team in the Japan Women's Baseball League.  He returned to manage the team (now called Saitama Astraia) again in 2016.

1981 Calbee #36

2010 BBM Lions 60th Anniversary #33

1988 Takara Whales #2

2016 Epoch JWBL #40
H/T to Graveyard Baseball for their obituary which was the only English language source I've seen on his passing so far.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Card Of The Week January 21

BBM has issued three Anniversary sets for the Chunichi Dragons - a 70th Anniversary set in 2006, a 75th Anniversary set in 2011 and an 80th Anniversary set in 2016.  The most prominent player who was missing from the first two sets was the late Senichi Hoshino although he did show up in the last one (his two stints as Dragons manager was the theme of BBM's other OB team set for the Dragons - Dragons Legend).

Now when I say he was missing from the sets, what I mean is that there's no "regular" card for him that lists his name on the front and his biographical and statistical information on the back.  But technically Hoshino's in both sets - he's featured prominently on a couple pictures in the subsets from each set commemorating the history of the team.  In the 70th Anniversary set you can see him being tossed in the air on the card showing the do-age celebrating the team's 1988 Central League pennant.  In the 75th Anniversary set he can be seen on the far right of the card showing the team celebrating the 1974 Central League pennant - he's wearing uniform number 20.

2006 BBM Dragons 70th Anniversary #06

2011 BBM Dragons 75th Anniversary #04

Saturday, January 20, 2018

New Stuff From BBM

BBM has recently announced three sets that will be released in the next month or so.

- The annual "Retirement" or "Farewell" box set will be released in late January.  I never really know what to call this set since its Japanese title translates to something like "Regret at Parting Ball Players" but this set is dedicated to the players who retired in 2017.  Each box contains 34 cards - a 33 card base set plus one special insert card that could be an autographed card.  Players appearing in the set include Masahiko Morino, Tadahito Iguchi and Ryoji Aikawa.

- BBM's annual set dedicated to the other end of the player career spectrum - Rookie Edition - will be released in mid-February.  As usual this set is dedicated to the players who were taken in last October's draft.  This is a pack-based set that has a 126 card base set - 114 cards for the 2017 draftees and a 12 card "Early Days" subset (which if it's like the similarly named subsets from the past few years will feature one draftee per team paired with an OB or active player).  There are two insert sets - a 2 card "Rookie Of The Year" set (that I assume features Sosuke Genda and Yota Kyoda) and a 12 card "Next Generation" set.  There will also be various parallel issues for the cards of the draftees and autographed cards available.  Not completely sure if the autographs will be inserted into pack or available via some sort of redemption process (or both).  And looking at the sample cards I can now answer the question I asked last year about the shapes on the card.  After the 2016 set had the players in circles and last year's set had them in triangles, I wondered if this year would be squares, trapezoids or hexagons.  It turns out that they are pentagons.

- BBM is celebrating Shohei Ohtani's departure to MLB with a set called "Grateful Days".  This is a 20 card box set that will be released in mid-February.  The 19 card base set will highlight key events in Ohtani's five years in NPB including his signing with the Fighters, the Fighters' championship in 2016 and his farewell press conference on Christmas Day 2017.  The other card in the set will either be a 3D card, a memorabilia card or an autographed card.  The set will be limited to 3000 and will retail for 5000 yen.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Study Abroad - The Whales Of Montana

The Salt Lake City Trappers were not the only Pioneer League team to have a working agreement with an NPB team in the late 1980's.  The Butte Copper Kings had one with the Yokohama Taiyo Whales between 1987 and 1989.

Like the Trappers, the Copper Kings were an independent team.  Unlike the Trappers, the Copper Kings were very bad - they went 19-50 on the season and finished 29 1/2 games behind the first place Trappers.  The Whales sent four players to the Copper Kings that season.  Two were pitchers (Katsunori Kitano and Tomoyuki Tozuka) and the others were a catcher (Yasushi Takeda) and a third baseman (Katsuya Okubo).  Both Takeda and Okubo played tolerably well - Takeda was fourth on the team in batting with a .277 average while Okubo's 11 doubles was tied for the second most on the team.  The two pitchers didn't do very well however - Kitano went 1-9 with a 6.86 ERA and Tozuka went 2-8 with a 5.11 ERA.  Keep in mind however that the staff ERA was 5.43 so Tozuka was arguably one of the better pitchers on the team.

Butte would turn it all around in 1988.  The team became a Texas Rangers farm team that year and ended up going 44-26 and finishing first in the league's South Division before losing to Great Falls in the playoffs.  The Whales sent only two pitchers that season - Denney Tomori and Kenichi Shiozaki.  Both pitchers worked out of the bullpen and put up decent numbers - Tomori went 5-0 with a 2.51 ERA and Shiozaki went 1-0 with an ERA of 3.32.  The staff ERA was 5.45 so both pitchers were among the team leaders in ERA.

In many ways 1989 was a repeat of 1988 for Butte.  The team again won the South Division crown (going 41-25 this time) and again lost in the playoffs to Great Falls.  The Whales again sent two pitchers - Takaaki Matsumura and Koji Sugiura - but this time neither pitcher made much of a contribution to the team.  Matsumura appeared in four games and had an ERA of 9.35 while Sugiura appeared in six games with a 11.42 ERA.  The team was managed that year by Bump Wills who had spent two seasons with the Hankyu Braves in 1983-84.

The Whales and Butte parted company after the 1989 season.  As usual I don't know what happened - if the working agreement was only supposed to last three years or whether the Rangers didn't want to give up roster spots.  Butte would remain a Rangers farm team through 1992 before spending the next three years as an independent team again.  They were a Rays farm team in 1996 (two years before Tampa Bay fielded their major league team) and then an Angels farm team from 1997 to 2000.  The team moved to Casper, Wyoming in 2001 and became affiliated with the Rockies.  The franchise moved again for the 2012 season - this time to Grand Junction, Colorado where they still are today (and still are affiliated with the Rockies).

Here's a summary of the players the Whales sent to Butte:

Year Player Draft Played For
1987 Katsunori Kitano 4th round 1985 Whales 1986-89, Dragons 1990-98
1987 Katsuya Okubo 6th round 1985 Whales 1986-90
1987 Yasushi Takeda 5th round 1982 Whales 1983-90
1987 Tomoyuki Tozuka 5th round 1983 Whales 1984-88
1988 Kenichi Shiozaki 5th round 1986 Whales 1987-92
1988 Denney Tomori 1st round 1986 Whales/Baystars 1987-96, Lions 1997-02, Baystars 2003-04, Red Sox 2005, Dragons 2006-07
1989 Takaaki Matsumura 3rd round 1986 Whales 1987-90
1989 Koji Sugiura 5th round 1984 Whales 1985-91

Denney Tomori obviously was the most successful of this group of players.  He spent most of his career working out of the bullpen and was a very good middle reliever for the Lions in the late 1990's.  He made the All Star team in 1998 and pitched in the 1997 and 1998 Nippon Series (both in losing efforts).  He returned to North America in 2005 and spent the season in the Red Sox organization - he appeared in 19 games with AA Portland and 15 games with AAA Pawtucket.  He is now the pitching coach for the Chunichi Dragons (and was the guest on the Japan Baseball Weekly podcast a few weeks back).  There are many Japanese baseball cards of Tomori including cards from BBM, Calbee, Takara and Broccoli.

1989 Takara Whales #30

1999 Calbee #116

2004 BBM Baystars #YB25

2007 BBM Dragons #D036
Kitano had the longest career of the rest of the players.  He spent four seasons working out of the Dragons bullpen in the mid-90's.  All in all he pitched in 178 ichi-gun games between 1988 and 1997 and racked up a 3.62 ERA.  There are a small handful of Japanese baseball cards of him - almost all from BBM but he made one Takara set.

1994 BBM #61
Of the remaining six players only Kenichi Shiozaki and Koji Sugiura ever played at the ichi-gun level and they each only appeared in three games.  None of the other six players had any Japanese baseball cards.

There was no team set issued for Butte in 1987 so there were no American minor league cards for Kitano, Okubo, Takeda or Tozuka.  Sports Pro issued a set for the 1988 team however so there are Butte cards for Shiozaki and Tomori.  Shiozaki is one of those rare players who has an American baseball card but not a Japanese one.  I don't have the 1988 set but I was able to track down the image of the front and back of Shiozaki's card on

"Kenny" is actually from Ehime Prefecture and not Yokohama.

Not only is Tomori in the 1988 Butte set but he also has cards in the 2005 team sets for both Portland (Grandstand Update) and Pawtucket (Choice).  The only one of the three cards I could find an image for online is the Portland card:

Neither Matsumura nor Sugiura appear in the 1989 Butte team set issued by Sports Pro.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fighters In Arizona, 2018 Edition

For the third year in a row the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters will be doing the early part of their spring training in Arizona.  After two years using the Padres' facilities in Peoria, however, the team has moved to Scottsdale to Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, the spring training home of the Diamondbacks and Rockies (not sure which team's facilities the Fighters will be using).  The team will be there from February 1st through the 14th.  Their schedule is here but the important days are the off days on the 4th and 9th, an inter-squad game on the 12th and two games against KBO teams on the 10th (KT Wiz) and 13th (LG Twins).  All three games will be at 12:30.

The roster of who's coming was published today.  I've translated it below (with a lot of help from YakyuDB).  Most of the Fighters' stars will be in Scottsdale as will their top draft pick from last fall - Kotaro Kiyomiya.

In addition to the Fighters there are four KBO teams that are also training in Arizona.  Two of them you already know - the KT Wiz and the LG Twins - since they will be playing the Fighers.  KT will be training in Tucson at the Kino Sports Complex from January 29th until February 21st.  Then they'll move to San Bernardino, California from February 22nd until March 10th.  LG is training somewhere in the Phoenix area (I couldn't figure out which ballpark) from January 30th to February 21st.  The other two teams are the Nexen Heroes who will be in Surprise from January 31st until February 19th and then in Tucson (at the Kino Sports Complex) from the 19th until March 6th and the NC Dinos who will be in Tucson (I think at Hi Corbett field) from January 30th until February 22nd and then Los Angeles from the 23rd to March 10th.

There's at least one other Asian baseball team training in Arizona this winter as well - the Chinatrust Brothers of the CPBL will be in Tucson although I'm not entirely sure when and where.  They're listed on the Kino Sports Complex's calendar on February 21st and then from February 28th to March 4th which doesn't make a lot of sense.  I don't know if they're spending time training over at Hi Corbett field also or if the schedule is just wrong.

Another KBO team, the SK Wyverns, will be training in Vero Beach, Florida from January 30th to February 22nd.

I want to thank with the information on where the KBO teams will be training and Justin for the heads up on the Chinatrust Brothers.  I tried looking for information on the websites for the teams but I didn't find anything.

UPDATE - I was informed by @GOCPBL on Twitter that Chinatrust will be in Tucson for three weeks and they will likely be at Kino the entire time which makes more sense.

Monday, January 15, 2018

2018 Hall Of Fame Class

The 2018 Hall Of Fame inductees were announced today.  The inductees from the Players Division ballot were Hideki Matsui and Tomoaki Kanemoto.  Both players were inducted in their first year of eligibility.  Matsui is only the third member of the Hall Of Fame to have played in MLB (after Hideo Nomo and Kazuhiro Sasaki) and at 43 years and 7 months is the youngest Hall Of Famer ever elected.  Tatsunori Hara as the sole selection of the Expert Division - he had just missed being elected in 2015, his final year on the Players Division ballot.  The Special Division election selected long time high school and university manager Masao Taki.

The Hall Of Fame's English language press release is here (in pdf form).

Here are cards for Hara, Kanemoto and Matsui - I'm not aware of any cards for Taki.

Tatsunori Hara

1981 Yamakatsu Young Giants

1993 Kanebo #017

2010 BBM 20th Anniversary #224

 Tomoaki Kanemoto

1994 BBM #363

2003 Calbee #106

2012 BBM Tigers #T058 (Foil Parallel)

 Hideki Matsui

1994 Takara Giants #55

1999 Calbee #266 (Gold Signature Parallel)

2002 BBM Central League Champion Giants #YG38

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Card Of The Week January 14

I was surprised to discover last spring when I was researching NPB players who had been loaned to the San Francisco Giants organization back in the 1960's and early 1970's that Makoto Matsubara (who had played with San Francisco's Arizona Instructional League in 1969) had spent the last season of his career as a Yomiuri Giant.  Matsubara had spent 19 seasons playing for the Whales and hit 330 home runs and accumulated over 2000 hits (making him a meikyukai member),  He was traded to the Giants in early 1981 for Masaaki Koga.

I was further surprised to discover that I had a couple cards of Matsubara with the Giants from the 1981 Calbee set.  From looking at his stats that year I saw that he had only played in 36 games and hit .233 with only one home run.  I figured that he hadn't played well enough that season to have earned a spot on the Giants' Nippon Series roster that season which was a shame since the Whales never made the Series while he was with them.  I was incorrect however - he made the roster and made two pinch hitting appearances in the Series.  In fact his first pinch hitting appearance resulted in a game tying home run in the top of the ninth of Game One, making him the fifth player to ever homer in their first Nippon Series at bat and the first to do it as a pinch hitter.  (The Fighters ultimately won the game in the bottom of the ninth.)  His other pinch hitting appearance was a strikeout to end Game Three - so his only at bats in the Series were in the only two games that the Giants lost en route to winning the Series 4 games to 2.  He retired after the Series, a champion for the first time.

One of the 1981 Calbee cards I have of him (#412) shows him rounding third after hitting the home run in the Nippon Series.  As an added bonus, the third base coach congratulating him is Hall Of Famer Shigeru Makino who there are very few cards of.

Seung-Yeop Lee

One last retirement post (for now)...

Long time Samsung Lion (and one time Chiba Lotte Marine, Yomiuri Giant and Orix Buffalo) Seung-Yeop Lee retired at the end of last season.  I did a post for Lee when he hit his 600th home run in September of 2016 so I won't repeat his biography here.  Check out Dan Skrezyna's Korean Cardboard blog for a list of Lee's cards (and a really cool team giveaway set featuring Lee's top five home runs ever).

Here's another assortment of Lee's cards:

1999 Teleca "World Sports Card Show" promo

2004 BBM 2nd Version "Opening Game" insert #OB4

2005 BBM All Stars #A29

2006 Upper Deck Ovation Nation #ON-SL

2007 BBM Home Run Chronicle #45

2008 BBM 1st Version #023

2009 BBM Nippon Series #S20

2010 BBM Giants #G126

2011 BBM Legend Of Bs #12

2014 Superstar Baseball Season Two #SBC02-004

2015 Superstar Baseball Season One #SBC1501-112-N

2016 Forever Ace #PA03-SA002

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Yasuyuki Kataoka

Yasuyuki Kataoka of the Giants announced his retirement back at the beginning of October.  Kataoka was the youngest of three brothers to play for the Utsunomiya Gakuen High School baseball team. After graduating he spent three years playing for Tokyo Gas in the corporate leagues - one of his older brothers (Shogo) was playing for JR East in the corporate leagues as well.  After four seasons with Tokyo Gas Kataoka was drafted in the third round of the 2004 draft by the Seibu Lions. 

By the middle of the 2005 season Kataoka had become the Lions starting second baseman, a position he would hold for the next six seasons.  He lead the Pacific League in stolen bases from 2007 to 2010 and in hits in 2008.  He was named to the Best 9 team in 2008 and was elected to the All Star team in 2008 and 2010.  Injuries started taking their toll in 2011 - he missed time due to leg and shoulder injuries as well as a concussion - and he lost time in 2012 and 2013 as well due to wrist and knee injuries.

He left the Lions as a free agent after 2013 and signed with Yomiuri.  He was the Giants' regular second baseman in 2014 and 2015 and played in over 100 games both seasons for the first time since 2010 but he didn't hit particularly well and he lost his starting job to Luis Cruz in 2016.  Various injuries again cost him playing time the last two seasons and he spent all of 2017 with the farm team.

He played in one Nippon Series with the Lions in 2008 and played for Team Japan in the 2009 World Baseball Classic.

His first BBM cards were #2 from the 2005 Rookie Edition set (which I don't have) and #41 from the 2005 1st Version set.  His first Calbee card was #019 in the 2006 set.  He's also appeared in various sets from Konami, Bandai, Front Runner and Epoch.

2005 BBM 1st Version #41

2008 BBM Nippon Series #S20

2009 BBM 1st Version #443

2009 Konami WBC Heroes #W09R103

2010 BBM All Stars #A52

2011 BBM Lions Classic #36

2012 Calbee #159

2014 BBM Classic #040

2015 Front Runner Giants Game Used Bat Edition #11

2017 BBM Giants #G44

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Tomoya Yagi

Tomoya Yagi had a really good rookie year.  Yagi was drafted by the Fighters in the "preferred entry frame" (which I still don't quite understand) of the 2005 draft out of Soka University.  He went 12-8 with a 2.48 ERA his rookie season in 2006 and also made the All Star team.  He also threw a no-hitter in his fourth start ever (well, it was a no-hitter than went 12 innings and he only pitched the first 10 - Hisashi Takeda and Michael Nakamura pitched the other two).  And his team won the Nippon Series that year.  And he was named Rookie Of The Year.  All in all it was a great season for him.

Unfortunately this was the highlight of his career.  A shoulder injury limited his playing time over the next two seasons although he rebounded with a 9-3, 2.88 ERA season in 2009.  He again missed a lot of time over the next two seasons but came back somewhat in 2012 with a 6-3, 3.38 ERA record.  That was the end of his time with the Fighters though - he was dealt to the Orix Buffaloes in early 2013 as part of the Yoshio Itoi deal.

Orix pretty much buried him on the farm team - he only got into six games with the ichi-gun team in 2013 and 2014 and he didn't perform particularly well.  The Buffaloes released him after 2014 and he was picked up by the Dragons after he attended the 12-team tryout.  He got into 14 ichi-gun games in 2015, the most he had appeared in since 2009, and went 4-6 with an ERA of 3.92.  He was banished back to the farm team for the last two seasons, however, only getting into four games with the top team (one in 2016 and three in 2017).  He was released at the end of the season and announced his retirement in November.  I think he will become a scout for the Dragons but I'm not sure.

He pitched in two Nippon Series - 2006 and 2009 - and won a game in each of them.  2006 was the only season he was named to the All Star team.

Yagi's first BBM cards are #35 in the 2006 Rookie Edition set and #172 in the 2006 1st Version set.  Most of his cards were BBM cards but he had a couple Calbee cards in 2006 and 2007 as well as some cards in various Konami, Bandai and Front Runner issues.  (As always I'm using's list to supplement what I own.)

2006 BBM Rookie Edition #35

2006 BBM 1st Version #172

2006 BBM All Stars #A22

2007 BBM 1st Version #479

2007 BBM 1st Version #447

2009 BBM Nippon Series #S38

2012 BBM 2nd Version #410

2014 Front Runner Buffaloes Rookies & Young Stars #15

2017 BBM Dragons #D28