Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Year Of BBM Cards

I did a post way back when I first started this blog that listed all the baseball sets that BBM typically did in a year.  The shelf life on that post was pretty short - BBM stopped doing Climax Series box sets after 2007 and stopped the All Star and Nippon Series sets after 2012.  I thought it was time to update this list.  Now there's a couple things that I'm making a guess on based on only two years worth of data so it's possible that these really aren't annual sets.  Each set is pack-based unless I say it's a box set.

"Ultra High End" set - BBM did their first "Ultra High End" set back in 2015.  It was called "Masters Of Insert" and was issued in May of 2015.  It only featured OB players.  BBM issued their first "Ultra High End" set with active players in late December of 2016.  This set was called "Rising Sun".  They issued another "Ultra High End" set with active players called "Glory" a year later.  Both sets had a base set of 36 cards along with a plethora of premium insert and autograph cards.  Since these two sets were the first BBM sets to feature the new year (2017 and 2018) on their fronts I am treating them as the initial BBM set for each year.  I'm also making the assumption that BBM will continue to issue an annual "Ultra High End" each year.

"Time Travel" set - BBM has issued two "Time Travel" sets in the past two years - a "1975" set in late 2016/early 2017 and a "1989" set in late 2017/early 2018.  These are 99 card sets that highlight a particular season and are made to look like they were actually issued in the season they are highlighting.  Again I am making the assumption that BBM will continue to do these sets because they've done them two years in a row.

Retirement - Now we're getting into territory where I'm a little more confident in predicting BBM's behavior.  This is a box set that BBM issues in late January that features the players that retired the previous season.  This may include players who were playing in MLB or in the indy leagues in either the US or Japan.  Some of the bigger name players can possibly have multiple cards in the set.  Each box set contains the complete base set (around 30-ish cards) plus a "special" insert card that could be an autograph.  BBM has been producing this set every year since 2011.  I call this set "Farewell" or "Retirement" but its real name translates as something like "Regret At Parting Ball Players".

Rookie Edition - This set features all the picks from the NPB draft that is held the previous fall - it's been in late October the past few years.  Players are typically photographed at the team's introductory press conferences held over the winter so the photos on the cards usually show the player wearing the team's jersey over a suit or at least a dress shirt and tie.  BBM has been doing this set every year since 2003.  Typically it has a base set of around 120 cards and gets released in mid-February.  This set replaced the Preview set which BBM did between 1999 and 2002.  The last three editions of Preview featured "Draft Pick" cards for the top draft picks for each team which I assume proved so popular that BBM switched to doing "Draft Pick" cards for ALL the picks.

"Icons" set - This is a box set that BBM issues each March.  It has a different name/theme each year.  The first set was issued in 2013 and was called "Hope".  It featured young players (including Shohei Ohtani).  This set was followed in 2014 by "Big Guns" (sluggers), "Aces" in 2015, "Speed" in 2016, "Japan Pride" in 2017 and "Fanfare" in 2018.  Each box set contains the complete base set (the past few editions have had 36 card base sets) plus a "special" insert card that could be an autograph.  "Icons" replaced a set BBM did two years in a row called "Diamond Age" that highlighted 23 year old players.  The 2011 set was called "Diamond Age 1988" (and was an excuse to produce another card of Yuki Saitoh of the Fighters) and the 2012 set was "Diamond Age 1989".

1st Version - This is BBM's biggest set each year and is essentially their "flagship" set (or at least half of it).  BBM did a single annual "flagship" set from 1991 to 2001.  Starting in 2002 they started doing a 1st Version set and a 2nd Version set.  For the last few years this set has featured 372 cards with 27 players (and the manager) per team although earlier versions had more cards. 

Team sets - BBM does a "comprehensive" team set for each of the 12 NPB teams that features all the players on each team's 70-man roster (which typically has fewer than 70 players).  For the last few seasons all the team set base sets have been 81 cards but earlier sets were larger.  The team sets are published between March and July each year.

Dancing Heroine - Hana/Mai - BBM does two sets each year that contain cards for the cheerleaders and dance squads of some subset of the NPB teams.  I confess that I don't pay a lot of attention to these sets so I can't tell you what the difference between the "Hana" and "Mai" versions are or even if they feature the same women in both sets.  The base sets are usually somewhere between 80 to 100 cards in size.  BBM produced a single "Dancing Heroine" set in 2011 and 2012 and split the set into the "Hana" and "Mai" versions starting in 2013.  The "Hana" set is usually released in June and the "Mai" set usually comes out a month later.

2nd Version - This is BBM's continuation of their "flagship" set.  This typically contains a 36 card "1st Version Update" set that features players who either signed late, were traded or simply weren't included in 1st Version for some reason as well as 18 cards per team.  There is also a subset featuring celebrities throwing out the first pitch at NPB games (I know Topps has been doing this the last few years - BBM started doing it in 2004).  The base set has been around 312 cards for the last few years.  As mentioned above, BBM broke their "flagship" set into 1st and 2nd Version back in 2002.  This set is usually released in mid-August.

Genesis - This is BBM's 'high end" set.  The base set is usually pretty small - it's been 120 cards (9 players per team plus a team checklist).  The big draw of this set is the autograph and memorabilia cards that are seeded into the packs.  This set typically come out in mid-September.  BBM's original "high end" set was called "Diamond Heroes" and was published from 1996 to 2001.  They replaced "Diamond Heroes" with "Touch The Game" starting in 2002 - I think this is when they started to add more memorabilia cards and have fewer cards in the base set.  BBM rebranded the set as "Genesis" starting in 2012.

"Team Cheerleader" set - For the past four years BBM has published a box set featuring one particular team's cheerleader/dance squad.  The teams featured so far were the Hawks (2014 Honeys Flash), the Dragons (2015 Hippy Hippy Shake), the Giants (2016 Original Smile) and the Fighters (2017 Fighters Girl & B*B Family).  I think this set used to be released in October but last year's version came out in September.  They have somewhere between 40 and 60 cards in their base sets and of course have some sort of "special" insert card included in the boxes.

Rookie Edition Premium - This is a box set that features the top rookies of the current season.  I don't know for sure but I think it only includes players who were drafted the previous fall (and therefore appeared in the Rookie Edition set earlier in the year).  Each box set contains "special" insert cards that may include autographed cards along with a base set that's been 36 cards in size for the past few years.  BBM started doing these sets in 2007.  I think it usually comes out in October.

"Multi-Sport" set - This is another set that I'm assuming is going to continue.  For the past two years BBM has issued a set containing athletes from multiple sports.  Baseball is well represented in the two sets so far but other sports featured include soccer, wrestling, sumo, skiing, curling and gymnastics.  The sets contain both active and retired players.  The first set (with 128 cards) was issued in 2016 for BBM's 70th Anniversary as a magazine publisher and was called "Masterpiece".  Last year's set was called "Infinity" and had 114 cards.  The sets have been released in October so far.

Fusion - One more set that I'm assuming is now a staple after two years.  This 144 card set could almost be considered as a third part of the "flagship" set.  It has 9 "1st Version Update" cards that again feature players who didn't make it into the 1st or 2nd Version sets and 9 more "1st Pitch Ceremony" cards.  It also has a 24 card subset showing the statistical leaders of the season just completed.  The bulk of the cards are the regular player cards that are split between active and OB players.  This set is typically released in November (at least so far).

So currently* BBM issues 26 annual sets - 22 pack based and 4 box sets.  Additionally you can expect them to publish a number of other sets - usually team based box sets and historical sets like the recently released Hawks 80th Anniversary set.

*well, it's what they did in 2017 at least

Previous annual sets from BBM included the All Star box sets (1991-2012), the Nippon Series box sets (1991-2012), the Classic sets (2013-2016), and the "Historic Collection" sets (2002-16).  BBM also did box sets for the league champions annually from the late 90's until around 2008 - I think that will be the topic for another post.

5/21 UPDATE - updated the text to give some idea of the number of cards in each set

Card Of The Week May 20

The balls were flying in the Tokyo Done on Friday during the Baystars-Giants game.  Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh started it off with a two run shot in the top of the third but Yomiuri came back in the bottom of the inning with a three run dinger off the bat of Hayato Sakamoto.  DeNA tied the game up in the top of the fifth with a solo home run from Takayuki Kajitani.  The final home run of the game was hit by an unlikely hitter - Giants starting pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano, who led off the bottom of the fifth:


The Giants went on to win the game 6-3 - their other two runs scoring on a single by Shinnosuke Abe who was pinch hitting for Sugano in the next inning.  It was Sugano's first career home run.

BBM did a pitchers "Batting Scene" theme for the team checklists in the 2013 2nd Version set and Sugano was the player featured on the Giants team card (#662) although his is more a "Baserunning Scene":


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Yutaka Enatsu, Milwaukee Brewer

I've always been jealous of bloggers who can create their own baseball cards via PhotoShop or whatever.  I don't have the talent or the software to do it.  I had made a comment last night on Twitter that I wish there was a good color picture of Yutaka Enatsu pitching for the Brewers in spring training in 1985 so that someone could put together a fake 1985 Topps card of him.  @MistaMaxG took up the challenge and I awoke this morning to this waiting for me in my Twitter feed:


This is awesome.  Thanks Max!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Yutaka Enatsu

I was on Twitter last night and I saw a tweet from @thehanshintiger mentioning that it was Yutaka Enatsu's 70th birthday.  I was a little disappointed because I didn't think I'd be able to do a post about it but then I realized his birthday was the 15th and it was still the 14th for me.  So now it's the 15th for me and I can still do the post (and we'll ignore the fact that it's now the 16th in Japan...).

Enatsu is a fascinating character.  He was the first round pick of the Tigers in the 1966 draft and was a star starting pitcher for them for a number of years.  He was traded to the Nankai Hawks after the 1975 season after some poor years with Hanshin and Nankai manager Katsuya Nomura converted him to a relief pitcher.  He got sold to the Carp after the Hawks fired Nomura after 1977 and excelled in a relief role for them.  He won the Central League MVP in 1979 when the Carp won the first of two consecutive Nippon Series over the Kintetsu Buffaloes (that's not meant to be ambiguous - the Carp beat the Buffaloes in both the 1979 and 1980 Nippon Series).  He got traded to the Nippon Ham Fighters after 1980 and led them to the Pacific League pennant in 1981 - their first since 1962.  He was named PL MVP that year, becoming the first player to ever be named MVP in both leagues.  He finished his NPB career with the Seibu Lions in 1984 and then wrangled a invitation to spring training with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1985.  He retired after not making the team.

Enatsu's career had many ups and downs.  He holds the single season strikeout record in NPB with 401 in 1968.  He combined with a couple other pitchers to throw a no-hitter in one of the All Star games in 1971 (in which he struck out all nine batters that he faced) and had the ultimate DIY performance ever by a pitcher when he threw 11 no-hit innings against the Chunichi Dragons in 1973 and hit a solo home run to win the game in the bottom of the 11th.  On the downside he was involved in the "Black Mist" scandal in the late 60's/early 70's although he was not suspended.  He was arrested for possession of stimulants in the 1990's and served several years in jail.  I believe that he renounced his meikyukai membership after he went to jail but I haven't found a reference for that.  He has not been elected to the Hall Of Fame.  (I heavily referenced the biography of Enatsu on @thehanshintiger's blog for this post.)

Here's a variety of cards from Enatsu, both from when he was playing and from OB cards after he retired.  He's a bit unpredictable in appearing in OB sets.  He hasn't appeared in a BBM one since 2013 but he's shown up in several Epoch sets since then.

2004 BBM Tigers70th Anniversary #73

1975/76 Calbee #196

1976 Yamakatsu JY1

2004 BBM Golden Arms #035

1978 Yamakatsu JY6

2015 Epoch Red Helmet 40th Anniversary #34

1981 Calbee #375

2003 BBM Fighters #107

1984 Calbee #78

2010 BBM The Premium Malts #04

Monday, May 14, 2018

June Releases

Here's some information on some upcoming releases:

- The next two of BBM's annual "comprehensive" team set releases are for the Tigers and Buffaloes.  As usual, the base set for each set contains 81 cards.  For the Tigers set those 81 cards break down into 69 "regular" cards (for the manager and players) and four three card subsets - "Newcomer", "Great Record", "Starting Pitcher" and "Rising Stars".  I don't know how the Buffaloes cards break down because BBM hasn't put the information for the set up on their website - all I have is what's on Discount Niki's website.  The Tigers set has 36 insert cards broken up into five sets - "Growing Up" (4 cards), "Friendly Competitors" (5 cards), "Tiger's Fang" (6 cards), "Building Trust" (3 cards) and "Phantom" (18 cards).  The Buffaloes set has 30 insert cards - 12 of which are "Phantom" cards.  Both sets have a bunch of autograph cards randomly inserted into packs.  The Tigers set will be out in mid-June and the Buffaloes set will be out in late June.

- Not to be outdone, Epoch is also releasing two "comprehensive" team sets in June and one of those is for the Tigers also.  The other is for the Baystars.  Both sets have a 90 card base set along with various insert and autograph cards.  The Baystars set will be out on June 9th and the Tigers set will be released two weeks later on the 23rd.

- Seiichi Uchikawa of the Hawks got his 2000th hit last week and Hits wasted no time in announcing they were doing a "Mini color paper" set for him.  The set will contain a total of 16 "cards" for him - 8 "normal" and 8 "gilded print signed".  The set will feature photos of him as both a Hawk and a Baystar.  It will be out in late June.

- Kenny (aka Zippy Zappy) gave me a heads up a few weeks back about a food issue in Japan being given away with some sort of popsicle from Meito.  Meito makes ice cream bars called "Home Run Bars" normally (you can see some of their commercials here) but the cards are only being given away with the "Central League Soda Float Homerun Bars".  There are 36 cards in total and as the name implies they are only for the six Central League teams.  I assume there are six cards per team but I don't know that for sure.  I don't think these cards are being issued by either BBM or Epoch but I could be wrong.  I don't know if they've actually in stores yet or not - I did a quick look on Yahoo! Japan Auctions and didn't see any cards from it.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Card Of The Week May 13

I was watching the Orix Buffaloes game last Friday and I saw what looked like someone holding up a Bryce Harper t-shirt in the Orix cheering section.  I grabbed a screen shot:


He was doing this during the at bat of Masataka Yoshida who also wears uniform number 34 so I'm guessing it's because of that.  But I'm also wondering why it looks like there's an NPB logo at the top of the shirt - maybe this isn't a Nats shirt?  Did someone make a custom Orix shirt for Harper?  I know he's a free agent after this season but Orix is probably a long shot for signing him.  But I guess these are all clown questions, bro.

Anyway, here's Yoshida's card from this year's Calbee set (#023):


Thursday, May 10, 2018

1st Version Photos From Arizona, 2018 Edition

As was the case in both 2016 and 2017 there are a handful of photos from this year's edition of BBM's 1st Version set that were taken at the Fighters' early spring training in Scottsdale, Arizona this past February.  I've pointed this out numerous times before but most of the photos for the 1st Version set were actually taken last season.  For the most part the exceptions to this are players who are new to their team this year - rookies, free agents, traded players and new foreign players.

The only rookie that the Fighters brought with them to Arizona was Kotaro Kiyomiya, their first round pick from last fall.  They had four new foreign players with them - Michael Tonkin, Bryan Rodiguez, Nick Martinez and Oswaldo Arcia - and one player who had signed with the Fighters as a free agent over the winter - Shinya Tsuruoka.

Arcia doesn't have a card in the set but the other five do.  I know for sure that Kiyomiya's photo was taken in Arizona because the photo shows up in the team's gallery from Feburary 10th.

2018 BBM 1st Version #129
I don't know if the photo from the "secret" version of Kiyomiya's card was taken in Arizona but it may have been from one of the two exhibition games that they played there.

The photos of the three foreign pitchers all appear to have been taken in a bullpen.  In fact they all may have been taken at around the same time:

2018 BBM 1st Version #115

2018 BBM 1st Version #118

2018 BBM 1st Version #113
And all three of the pitchers ended up on the Fighters team card, also pitching in the bullpen:

2018 BBM 1st Version #329
This could be in Okinawa but I'm pretty sure that this is Arizona as it looks like the wall in the bullpen in some photos from the Fighters' gallery from February 14th.

Tsuruoka's photo is probably from Arizona but again it could be from Okinawa:

2018 BBM 1st Version #120