Monday, December 31, 2007

Card Of The Week December 30

I'm not sure who's the publisher of these cards, but there's a set of cards that commemorates each of Hideki Matsui's home runs in Japan, at least through the 2001 season. This card is for home run #182 on June 13, 1999 against the Tigers at Koshien:



Happy New Year everybody.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hiroki Kuroda of the Los Angeles Dodgers

In more old news, Hiroki Kuroda of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp has signed a contract with the Dodgers. Kuroda's BBM rookie card is #496 of the 1997 set. He's in the 2001, 2005, 2005 and 2007 BBM All Star sets as well as the 2003 BBM Japanese National team set. He also appears in the 1998 Takara Carp team set, and the 2001 Upper Deck and Victory sets. As usual, I don't know for sure if he has any Calbee cards - I don't have any and a quick look on eBay doesn't show any for sale. (Also as usual, this is not a complete list, just some of the highlights)

Some cards:




From top to bottom: 2000 Power League (#220), 2001 Victory Strike King subset (#SK5), 2003 BBM Rookie Edition (#111) and 2007 BBM 1st Era Leader (#463)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Card Of The Week December 23

Fukuoka Softbank Hawks star Nobuhiko Matsunaka turns 34 Wednesday. Here's his 2006 Upper Deck World Baseball Classic Inaugural Images card:

I'd just like to take this moment to say that the baseball card coverage of the WBC really sucked. There was a crummy 50 card box set from Upper Deck that did no team justice (and didn't even include Cuba), then a bunch of inserts for Upper Deck sets that would cost a fortune if they could all be tracked down. As far as I can tell, there were no Japanese sets at all, certainly not a cool team set like the 2003 BBM Japan National Team box set. Hoepfully, things will be better in 2009. But I'm not counting on it.

I'll try to get a post on Hiroki Kuroda up later this week.

2007 Nippon Series Set



The 2007 BBM Nippon Series set is out. BBM produces an annual box set dedicated to the Nippon Series. A typical set contains the cards for all the players for the two teams in the Series as well as their managers. There's also cards commemorating the winners of the Series MVP award, the "Fighting Spirit" award (basically, the MVP of the losing team) and the "Outstanding Player" awards (three awards to highlight players who were outstanding (duh!), but not quite MVPs. Typically they all come from the winning team, but occasionally a player from a losing team wins). A final card commemorates the winning team. In older sets, this was a posed team photo of the winning team, but lately it's a picture of the winning team celebrating.


This year's set contains 64 cards - 28 cards for the Dragons, 30 cards for the Fighters, the MVP card for Norihiro Nakamura, the "Fighting Spirit" card for Yu Darvish, "Outstanding Player" cards for Daisuke Yamai (hmm, wonder what he did that was so outstanding), Masahiro Araki and Masahiko Morino plus the winning team card. As always, the pictures used on the cards were all taken during the Series itself, so for example the card of Fernando Seguignol of the Fighters shows him reacting after hitting one of his two home runs in the Series and the card of Hitoki Iwase shows him with his arms raised up after getting the last three outs of the Series.

While I'm talking about new stuff, I want to mention that BBM's web site has listings for this winter's nostalgic set ("Back To The 70's") and the Rookie Edition. The "Back To The 70's" set may already be in stores in Japan, but I haven't seen it at Yakyu Shop yet. I think it contains cards of OB players from the 1970's as well as current players who were born in the 1970's. The Rookie Edition set contains cards of the players drafted in last month's draft. I believe that the set will actually be released in February.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Card Of The Week December 16

Former Lotte Orions (now the Chiba Lotte Marines) infielder Michiyo Arito turns 61 on Monday. Here's his 1979 Yamakatsu card:



(Thanks to Japan Baseball Daily's "Today In Japanese Baseball History" for the tip.)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Kazuo Fukumori Of The Texas Rangers

Kazuo Fukumori of the Eagles signed with the Texas Rangers this week. His rookie card was #574 in the 1995 BBM set. I'm not sure when his first Calbee card was (or even if he's ever had a Calbee card). Update: He is card #053 in the 2000 Calbee set, so he's had at least one. He appears in the 1998 Takara Baystars set and in the 2001 Upper Deck set. He is in the 1998 BBM Nippon Series set and the 2006 and 2007 BBM All Star sets. (Not a comprehensive list, but meant to be some of the highlights.)

Here's a look at some of his cards:





From top to bottom, that's his 2001 Konami Field Of 9 card (#34), his 2004 BBM 1st Version card (#66) and his 2005 BBM Tohuko Rakuten Golden Eagles Box Set card (#E07).

Kosuke Fukudome of the Chicago Cubs

Kosuke Fukudome, formerly of the Dragons, signed with the Chicago Cubs this past week. Fukudome's BBM rookie card is #310 in the 1999 set. He has a couple rookie cards (#079 and #222) in the 1999 Calbee set. He appears in all four of the Upper Deck sets in 2000 and 2001. He appears in BBM's All Star sets for 1999 through 2007 with the exception of 2000 and 2005, the BBM Nippon Series sets for 1999 and 2006 and the 2003 BBM Japanese National Team set. (As always, this is not a complete list, but some of the highlights.)

Here's some of his cards:





From top to bottom, that's his 1999 BBM Rookie card (#310), one of his 1999 Calbee rookie cards (#079), his 2003 Chunichi Sports Dragons Team Set card and his 2006 BBM Dragons' 70th Anniversary Set card (# 96).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Card Of The Week December 9

OK, I'm a few days late on this. Sunday, Chunichi Dragons (oops, I mean 2007 Nippon Series Champion Chunichi Dragons) manager Hiromitsu Ochiai celebrated his 54th birthday. Here's his 1993 Kanebow card:


Kanebow put out sets in 1993 and 1994. I've never seen a 1994 card, so I can't say much about it. The 1993 cards were similar to the Action Packed cards in the US around the same time in that the player's image was raised on the card.

Nostalgic And Draft Story sets

Deanna Rubin had a post a few weeks back that involved opening packs of Nostalgic Baseball and Draft Story cards (both BBM sets). Since these are two of my favorite sets from the past year or so, I thought I'd write up something about them.

The Nostalgic Baseball set was released in the summer of 2006. It contains 108 cards of players mostly from the 1930's - 1960's. What's really cool about the cards is that BBM colorized the pictures. Some of these players have never had a card in color before (hell, some of them may never have had a card before). There are a great many Hall Of Famers in the set - Nagashima, Oh, Kawakami, Sawamura, Nomura, Harimoto, Starffin, Yonamine, Nishizawa, Inao, Nakanishi among them, along with guys like Akira Ohgi and Hiroshi Gondoh who are better known as recent managers.

One of the other things that I find neat about the set is that they have some of the more obscure teams represented. The decade or so following World War II saw a lot of name changes in NPB as companies bought and sold teams, the two league system came along and teams merged with each other. Teams like the Shochiku Robins, the Taiyo-Shochiku Robins (a merger of the Taiyo Whales and Shochiku Robins that only existed in 1953 and who are an ancestor of today's Baystars), the Tokyo Senators, the Nishitetsu Clippers (today's Seibu Lions), and the Kyuei Flyers (today's Fighters) all appear in the set.


The Draft Story set was BBM's Historic set from last winter. Like the other Historic sets, this set contains a mixture of retired (OB) players as well as current players. There are 144 cards in the set, 72 OB players and 72 current players. Each card shows the player essentially in his rookie year, with the team that drafted him. Since NPB didn't institute a draft until the mid-60's (like the US), players like Nagashima and Oh are not represented in the set. Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui and Kenji Johjima are in the set (as OB players), which I believe marks the first appearence of any US players in a BBM set while they played in the US. There are some interesting photos in the set - Deanna mentioned a young Michihiro Ogasawara wearing catching gear. There's a similar picture of a young Akira Etoh.


Like the Nostalgic Baseball set, there are some obscure teams represented like the Yakult Atoms. I hadn't realized that Osamu Higashio had been drafted by the Lions while they were owned by Nishitetsu. That means he played for the Lions for Nishitetsu, Taiheiyo, and Crown Lighter as well as Seibu. I think my favorite two cards are of current Baystars pitcher Kimiyasu Kudoh from 1982 and a very young and slender Yutaka Enatsu from 1967.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Card Of The Week December 2

In honor of his new contract with Houston, Kazuo Matsui's 1994 BBM rookie card:

Trey Hillman

Having seen a bunch of Trey Hillman cards on eBay, I decided that I should do a post on him. In what is ridiculously old news, Trey Hillman has left the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters to become manager of the Kansas City Royals. Hillman's first card was #311 of the 2003 BBM 1st Version set. In addition, he has cards in the BBM 1st Version sets for 2004 to 2007 and the 2nd Version sets from 2003 to 2005. He also has cards in the 2005 and 2007 BBM All Star sets and the 2006 BBM Nippon Series set (and the soon to be released 2007 Nippon Series set). (As always, this isn't a complete list of what's out there, but some of the highlights.)

A small handful of Hillman cards:



From top to bottom, that his 2003 BBM 1st Version, 2004 BBM Pacific League Playoff and 2007 BBM 1st Version.

Yasuhiko Yabuta of the Kansas City Royals

In more somewhat old news, Yasuhiko Yabuta is now a Kansas City Royal. His BBM rookie card is #501 from the 1996 set. He also had a card in the Marines Takara set from that year (as well as the 97 and 98 sets). I'm not sure if he has ever had a Calbee card - I don't have one and I didn't see any listed in my version of Gary Engel's Checklist and Price Guide (although I may have missed it and I don't have the most recent edition). He didn't have any cards in any of the Upper Deck sets. He does appear in the 2005 and 2007 BBM All Star sets as well as the 2005 BBM Nippon Series set.(This isn't meant to be a comprehensive list of what's out there, but just some of the highlights.)

When I was trying to pick out some cards to post here, I discovered that it seems like BBM only has pictures of him throwing from left to right. His 2006 BBM 1st and 2nd Version cards show him in similar poses, only with his arms in different positions.


This trend continued with his 2007 BBM 1st and 2nd Versions as well as the All Star set. At least the uniform changed.



Seriously, I have something like 13 cards of his and all but his rookie card and this 2002 BBM 1st Version card show him in the middle of his motion, ball in hand, going from left to right. I've never noticed this with anyone else, but maybe I'll need to keep an eye on this now.

Update: I took a look at what was out there for Yabuta on eBay to see what cards I didn't have for him. Looks like this has been the default Yabuta pose for a lot of his cards. (The card on the far right of the middle row is his 2004 BBM Marines card. It's the same pose, but from a different angle.) However, his 2000 BBM card did not follow the pattern.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Masahide Kobayashi of the Cleveland Indians

OK, this is old news now, but Masahide Kobayashi of the Marines has signed a contract with the Indians. His BBM Rookie card is number 512 from the 1999 set. I don't think he has a card in a Calbee set until 2001 (card 062), but I could be wrong. He also appears in the 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2006 BBM All Star sets, the 2003 BBM Japanese National Team box set, the 2005 BBM Nippon Series set and the 2001 Upper Deck set. (This isn't a complete list of what's out there, but some of the highlights.)

Here's a smattering of his cards:





From top to bottom that's his 2000 BBM Late Series (#557), 2001 Upper Deck (#174), 2003 BBM Japan National Team (#12), 2005 BBM Nippon Series (# 06), and 2007 BBM 1st Version Record Achievers subset (#482).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Kamisama, Hotokesama, Inaosama


Hall Of Fame pitcher Kazuhisa Inao passed away today from cancer at age 70. His stats can be found here. Gary Garland has written a fantastic obituary/biography on his web site.

While Inao is amongst the career pitching leaders in many categories, perhaps his biggest claim to fame was his performance in the 1958 Japan Series, pitching for the Nishitetsu Lions against the Yomiuri Giants. The article in Mainichi Daily News states that Inao led the Lions back from a 3-0 deficit, starting and winning Games 4, 5, 6 and 7, along with hitting a game winning home run in Game 5. What the article doesn't mention is that he was the losing pitcher in Games 1 and 3. Inao actually appeared in 6 of the 7 games in the Series and got a decision in all 6 games. He pitched 47 innings of the 62 pitching innings in the Series. Needless to say, he was the MVP of the Series. He also pitched in all of the final 9 games during the regular season to help the Lions beat out the Hawks for the Pacific League pennant. All in all that year, he appeared in 72 of the Lions' 130 games. Lions fans came up with a special prayer for him - "Kamisama, Hotekesama, Inaosama" (God, Buddha, Inao).


(Some of the source material for this article came from "Japanese Baseball Superstars" by Gary Engel & Robert Fitts)

Hello


Hello and welcome to my blog about Japanese Baseball Cards. I've been collecting Japanese Baseball Cards for a few years now and I've been looking for an English language web site that can be a guide to what's out there. While I've found much useful information out there, I haven't found any place that can consistently tell me what something is or what new products are coming out. So I decided to take a crack at it myself with this blog.

A little about myself - I'm a computer programmer in the Baltimore area. I've been collecting baseball cards off and on for over 30 years now. I used to be heavily into minor league cards, but I grew tired of the "chasing the hot prospect" treadmill. I started seriously collecting Japanese cards in late 2000 (just before Ichiro signed with the Mariners) and pretty much stopped collecting anything else soon afterward. (BTW - when I talk about Japanese Baseball Cards, I am referring to cards for Nippon Professional Baseball, not for cards for Major League Baseball produced in Japan.)

I came up with a FAQ for the blog which I will list here (and sidestep the question of how there came to be frequently asked questions for the first post of a new blog...)

1. Who died and made you the expert on Japanese Baseball Cards?
I would not describe myself as an expert. I'm just a collector who's willing to share some knowledge. Hopefully, someone will find it useful.


2. Do you speak/read Japanese?
I can't read or speak Japanese. I would love to learn to, but with a family and a job (not to mention an hour commute each way to that job), I don't have time. Maybe someday.

3. Who are you a fan of?
I'm a fan of the Boston Red Sox and the Chunichi Dragons. And yes, I've really enjoyed this fall.

4. What can you tell me about some topic in Japan?
Probably not a whole lot. I've never been to Japan and I don't profess to know or understand a lot about Japanese culture. I grew up watching the Ultraman; Speed Racer; Kimba, The White Lion and Star Blazers TV shows as well as Godzilla and Gamera movies, but I don't think that that really helps much.

5. You do know that Star Blazers is really Space Battleship Yamato, don't you?
Yes.

6. Where do you buy your cards?
From three of the sites listed on the side -
Yakyu Shop, Rob's Japanese Cards, and Prestige Collectibles as well as eBay. (And for full disclosure - I'm planning on becoming an affiliate for Yakyu Shop so I'll have a vested interest in sending business that way.)

7. What are you going to blog about?
Like every one else who blogs, whatever I feel like. I'd like to be informative about what cards are out there for players who are coming to the majors from Japan as well as what new cards are out. I'll probably do a few posts talking about the different card companies and their histories. There are already blogs that do a much better job than I would talking about things happening in Japanese baseball itself, so I'll probably not post much on those topics unless I have some cards that relate somehow. Or I just feel like it.