Sunday, October 30, 2016

Card Of The Week October 30

This year's edition of the Nippon Series ended yesterday with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters defeating the Hiroshima Toyo Carp 4 games to 2.  The Fighters won their first championship since 2006 and only the third in franchise history (the other was in 1962 when they were known as the Toei Flyers).

I'm continuing the tradition I started a few years ago with highlighting the Series Award winners.  The winners of these awards used to have extra cards in BBM's annual Nippon Series set that was published from 1991 to 2012.

I have to show off the fact that Series MVP Brandon Laird was the first player who autographed a card for me last February in Arizona (and was actually the only award winner that I got an autograph from).

Series MVP Brandon Laird (2015 BBM 1st Version #067)

"Fighting Spirit" Brad Eldred (2013 BBM Bright Carp #13)

Outstanding Player Anthony Bass (2016 BBM Fighters)

Outstanding Player Sho Nakata (2011 Calbee Star insert #S-07)

Outstanding Player Haruki Nishikawa (2014 BBM WE LOVE HOKKAIDO #24)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Diamond Diplomacy

There's a Kickstarter running for Yuriko Gamo Romer's upcoming film Diamond Diplomacy.  It's been running for a couple of weeks now and will be active for another one.

Late New Stuff

As usual I've gotten behind on new stuff.  Three of the six sets I'm going to talk about were actually released this week.

- On Thursday BBM released a box set commemorating the Carp's first Central League pennant in 25 year.  I'm not quite sure what the set is called - the translation is coming back as something like "Realization Of A Great Ambition".  The set has 55 cards - 54 base set cards plus one large 3-D card (there are four possible).  Since the set has no autograph or memorabilia cards, it's priced much more reasonably than most of BBM's other box sets - the MSRP is only 2500 yen (roughly $25).  I ordered one through AmiAmi the other day for 2400 yen plus 790 yen for SAL shipping.  You can see the set at Jambalaya.

- This week BBM also released the annual Rookie Edition Premium box set.  This is a 38 card box set with 36 cards of the top rookies of the season (3 per team) plus two "special" cards - one autograph and one memorabilia card.  As you'd expect, the MSRP is a bit higher for this set than it was for the Carp set - 15,000 yen (around $150).  Jambalaya has all the cards online here.

- BBM is celebrating their 70th Anniversary as a magazine publisher this year and they are releasing a multi-sport set called Masterpiece.  I wrote a bit about this set when SCM 119 came out - it's a pack based set with 128 cards in the base set - 36 OB baseball players (3 per team with 2 Kintetsu Buffaloes and one Rakuten Eagle), 36 active baseball players (3 per team), 55 athletes from other sports and a checklist.  There's also four 18 card insert sets - Glorious 3D, Stay Gold, Super Star and Sparkling Hero) and a boat load of autograph cards.  The set was actually released today and can be seen online at Jambalaya.

- BBM has announced a set called Fusion that will be released in late November.  I think that this set is replacing the annual "Historic Collection" set that BBM has been doing since 2001-ish.  I'm a bit intrigued by this set but I'm not quite sure what to make of it.  Like the "Historic Collection" sets, the base set is 144 cards.  There's a 9 card "1st Version Update" subset, a 9 card "Ceremonial First Pitch" subset, a 102 card "Hall Of Fame" subset and a 24 card "Title Holder" subset.  I'm not sure that the "Hall Of Fame" subset is all Hall Of Famers - there's 192 members of the Japanese Hall Of Fame so that would leave out 90 guys and the example autograph cards on the website show OB players who are not Hall Of Famers - typically BBM doesn't have autographs from guys who don't appear in the base set.  I don't know what form the 1st Version update will take - it'd be cool if it included guys who signed after 2nd Version went to press in early June like Carlos Peguero and Felix Perez of the Eagles or Mike Broadway of the Baystars.  There will be two insert sets - a 24 card "Great Record" set and a 12 card "Legendary Player" set - as well as a bazillion autograph cards.

- The latest set from Epoch in conjunction with the OB Club (aka the Japan Baseball Promotion Association) is a follow up to the "League Leaders" set they did last summer.  "League Leaders Volume Two" will be released on December 10th.  Each 16,200 yen (MSRP) box contains five cards - two base set cards, one "hologram" signed card and two autograph cards.  There's 27 players in the set who are each represented by a card in the base set, a holograph parallel (including I think a "1of1" variation) and three different autograph cards including one on a baseball.  The list of players has some overlap with the first set.  Just quickly eyeballing the lists it looks like Shigeo Nagashima, Tatsunori Hara, Yutaka Enatsu, Kimiyasu Kudoh and Koji Akiyama are in both sets although the latter three were depicted with a different team in the first set.

- Calbee apparently has regained the license to do cards for the Japanese National Team for the first time since 2001.  They are issuing a 36 card set at the end of November showing players from (I think) both the Premier 12 last November and the couple exhibition games last March against Taiwan.  There's a card for team manager Hiroki Kuroda as well as most of the players you'd expect - Shohei Ohtani, Tetsuto Yamada, Yuki Matsui, Yoshitomu Tsutsogoh, Sho Nakata, Hayato Sakamoto and Shogo Akiyama among others.  The full checklist is here.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Sayanora Home Runs In The Nippon Series

As you probably have already heard, Game Five of this year's Nippon Series ended yesterday on a walk off grand slam by Haruki Nishikawa of the Fighters.  Nishikawa's blast was the second walk off grand slam in Nippon Series history and the second walk off Nippon Series home run in franchise history.

The first walk off grand slam in a Nippon Series was hit by Toru Sugiura of the Swallows against the Lions in Game One of the 1992 Series.  Sugiura was pinch hitting in the bottom of the twelfth inning.  Here's video of the entire inning - Sugiura's at bat starts around the 11 minute mark:

The first sayanora home run in a Series game in Fighters franshise history was hit by Koichi Iwashita of the then-Toei Flyers in Game Five of the 1962 Series off of future Hall Of Famer Masaaki Koyama of the Hanshin Tigers.  Iwashita's home run was a two run homer that was hit in the eleventh inning.  I found this video on YouTube that appears to be a biography of Hall Of Fame manager Shigeru Mizuhara who managed the 1962 Flyers.  Kinoshita's home run is around the nine minute mark:

There are a lot of baseball cards available for Sugiura.  He had a 22 year career with Yakult that ended in 1993 so he appears on a number of Calbee and Takara issues as well as the first three years of BBM's sets.  He has not appeared in many of BBM's OB sets however - I think he's only shown up in four of them (2002 All Time Heroes, 2009 Back To The 80's, 2009 Yakult 40th Anniversary and 2013 Greatest Games - 10-16-1985).  His 1992 BBM Nippon Series set card shows his bat flip after hitting the grand slam:

1992 BBM Nippon Series #S43
On the other hand there are very few cards of Iwashita available.  He was a rookie in 1962 and played until 1971 which means most of his career was in the post-menko, pre-Calbee dead zone of Japanese baseball cards between 1965 and 1972.  He has at least one menko card that I'm aware of (1964 Marusan JCM 11) and he also appears in the 1967 Kabaya-Leaf set.  He has no modern cards that I know of - I suspect that's partly because there's never been an OB team set for the Fighters that covers the time period before 2004.  Here's his Kabaya-Leaf card:

1967 Kabaya-Leaf #406
Don't read too much into Nishikawa's blast as a predictor for the outcome of the Series - Iwashita's Flyer's won the 1962 Series but Sugiura's Swallows lost the 1992 Series.

UPDATE - forgot I wanted to credit Deanna and tensaibaka of NPB Reddit with the information on Sugiura and Iwashita and my friend Hiro for sharing the video of Sugiura on his Facebook page.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Calbee Card Albums

I've been wanting for a while to talk about Calbee card albums.  Calbee has offered card albums as redemption prizes ever since they first started publishing cards in 1973.  Based on posts from Ryan and Sean it looks like the albums had photos on them in the 1970's, moved to more generic graphics in the 1980's and nowadays just have the team logos on them.  I have a couple from the 1970's and one from the 1980's.

This first one is from 1974 and depicts scenes from Shigeo Nagashima's retirement ceremony.  The album features 12 3 pocket cellophane pages so it could hold 36 cards if you wanted to read the backs or 72 if you put the cards in back to back.  It is held together by two metal "eyelets" and lies flat.

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside Back Cover

Back Cover
The next one is one that Ryan just sent me last month.  It's from 1976 and features Sadaharu Oh on the occasion of his 715th home run (which pushed him past Babe Ruth).  The interior covers contain a biogrpahy of Oh.  Like the Nagashima album, this one has 12 3 pocket cellophane sheets and lays flat.

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside Back Cover

Back Cover
The last album I have that has photos on it is from 1979.  Calbee made some changes between 1975 and 1979.  The album is not as wide as the earlier ones and contains 12 2 card cellophane sheets (dropping the number of cards it can hold to 24 or 48 back to back).  It also has a spine so it doesn't lay flat like the others.  The front is kind of an odd photo - there's two Sadaharu Oh's standing next to each other.  One of them is finishing swing a bat and looks like he's about to clock the Tigers catcher.  Calbee like this photo enough that they apparently used it on a least four different albums in 1979 (with four different border colors - red, yellow, green and blue) and at least one album in 1980 (with a yellow border).  The inside covers have a sequence of pictures of Tigers pitcher Shigeru Kobayashi and the back cover features a photo of Masayuki Kakefu of the Tigers (with Mike Reinbach in the background) and Koji Yamamoto of the Carp.

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside Back Cover

Back Cover
The 1988 album I have is roughly the same size as the 1979 album and also has a spine.  Instead of 12 2 pocket cellophane sheets, however, this album has four paper pages that unfold from the album.  Each page has 12 cellophane pockets on it so the album could take 48 cards total - but you wouldn't be able to read the backs of the cards without taking them out.  Sean has this album as well as the 1987 one which is nearly identical.  The only way I (and he) have labelled this one as being from 1988 is because the inside covers list all the Nippon Series winners up to 1987.  A previous owner of my album must have used it for his 1987 cards as someone has written "1987" on it in a couple places.

Front Cover

Inside Front Cover

Inside Back Cover

Back Cover
The 1973 Calbee book I picked up a few months back has photos of a number the 1970's albums in it:

pp 4-5

p. 7

pp. 8-9

pp. 10-11
The albums show up on Ebay every so often and usually aren't terribly expensive.  It is hard for me to decide to pick one up rather than get more Calbee cards however.

UPDATE 1/14/2017 - Someone on Ebay was selling the Calbee albums from 1987-89.  I didn't buy them (they wanted $60 for them) but I swiped the images:

Card Of The Week October 23

The first two games of this year's Nippon Series have been played and so far it's been all Carp.  Hiroshima has won both games by identical scores of 5-1.  The Series will resume on Tuesday in Sapporo.

The TV coverage showed footage of previous Nippon Series with the Carp and the Fighters a couple of times during Game One's broadcast.  Since the last time the Fighters won the Series was only 10 years ago in 2006, I wondered how many players on the Fighter's Series roster were on the Series roster back then.  I'm pretty sure that the answer is only one - Kensuke Tanaka.  There are three other layers from that roster that are still with the team - Yuji Iiyama, Hisashi Takeda and Masaru Takeda - but all three played mostly with the ni-gun team this year and I'm reasonably sure that none of them is on the Series roster.  What I was surprised to discover was that Daikan Yoh was not on the 2006 Series roster - he didn't play in a Nippon Series until 2007.  I caught glimpses of an outfielder with red-dyed hair playing the outfield in some of the clips of the 2006 Series, but that must have been Tsuyoshi Shinjyo instead.

Here's Kensuke Tanaka's card from the 2006 BBM Nippon Series set (#S15):

That's three weeks in a row that I've used a card from one of BBM's Nippon Series sets as Card Of The Week - I think I'm in a rut...

Saturday, October 22, 2016

2016 BBM Team Sets

After last year's experiment with buying each of BBM's pack based team sets went so well, I decided to do it again this year.  Like last year, the only way I was able to do this was because Ryan doggedly tracked down every set for me and tirelessly found good deals.  So once again I want to thank Ryan for all he does for me and again hope that I haven't exhausted his patience.

Like last year, this year's BBM pack based team sets (as opposed to the various team box sets) had 81 cards in their base sets (except one which I'll explain in a minute).  Each set featured the team's manager as well as all the players on the team's 70 man roster at the time the set went to press (which was never 70 players).  Each set also had several subsets plus at least one card showing the team's mascots (the Marines had four!).  Several of the sets also had a separate checklist card.  (Some of the sets had the set checklist on the back of the mascot card).  Here's a breakdown of the cards in each set:

Team Player/Manager Cards Mascot Cards Checklist Subsets
Chiba Lotte Marines 64 4 1 2015 Highlight (1), 2015 Honor (2), Strong Six Pack (6), Sonic Boom (3)
Chunichi Dragons 69 1 0 2016 Highlights(6), Key Player(3), Respectable(3)
Fukuoka Softbank Hawks 67 1 1 Triple Three (3), 2 (3), Road To Record (5), 2015 Champions (1)
Hanshin Tigers 68 1 0 The Brightest Hope(3), Empowerment(3), Franchise Player(3), Great Record (3)
Hiroshima Toyo Carp 68 1 0 Take The Mound(3), Rising(3), Show Time(3), Honor Of Carp (3)
Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters 66 1 0 Brilliant Stars (11), Early Sensation (3)
Orix Buffaloes 68 1 0 Newcomer(3), Bs Starters (3), Bs Backbone (3), Bs Leaders (3)
Saitama Seibu Lions 70 1 1 New Impact (3), Record Breaker (3), Gold Standard '15 (3)
Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles 68 1 0 Newcomer (6), Make A Headline (6)
Tokyo Yakult Swallows 68 1 0 Combination (3), 2015 Leaders (3), Newcomer (6)
Yokohama DeNA Baystars 68 1 1 Award Winners (2), Puzzle (9)
Yomiuri Giants 65 1 0 Speed Star (3), New Face (5), Force To Recapture (6)

If you do the math, you'll notice that the Giants set only has 80 cards.  Card number 10 (Kyosuke Takagi) was not issued.  Takagi was released by Yomiuri on March 24th, after the set had gone to press but before it was released.

Like last year, there's a number of "significant" players who had cards in the team sets but not in BBM's flagship sets - Daisuke Matsuzaka, Tony Blanco, Hotaka Yamakawa, Kam Mickolio and Yuki Saitoh for example (and obviously "significant" may have different meanings for different persons)  Here's an example card from each of the twelve sets showing a player who did not appear in either the 1st or 2nd Version sets this year:

2016 BBM Marines #M50

2016 BBM Dragons #D35

2016 BBM Hawks #H07

2016 BBM Tigers #T67

2016 BBM Carp #C66

2016 BBM Fighters #F11

2016 BBM Buffaloes #Bs54

2016 BBM Lions #L51

2016 BBM Eagles #E20

2016 BBM Swallows #S32

2016 BBM Baystars #DB31

2016 BBM Giants #G61
The sets were released between March and July.  Normally the Giants set is the last one to be released but I think BBM wanted to get a card of Yoshinobu Takahashi as manager out as soon as possible so instead the set came out in March.  You can see that each set has a different design.  I really liked the Dragons set this year and not just because I'm a Dragons fan.  I felt it had the most attractive design.  The designs that I liked the least were the Hawks, the Eagles, the Swallows and the Giants, simply because I don't really care for card designs that crowd the photos.

If Ryan's willing to help me out again (translation - do all the work again) next year, I think I'll do this again.  I really like feeling like I've got cards of everyone and this is the best way to do that.

2016 Calbee Series Three

Going to start getting caught up on posts I wanted to to while in testing hell but seeing as I'll be on the road next week, I don't think I'm going to get very far...

Calbee Series Three was released about a month ago.  At 88 cards, it's the same size as Series Two which was the smallest Calbee Series in recent memory.  There's 72 player cards (six per team, numbered 145 to 216), 12 "Exciting Scene" subset cards and four checklist cards.

While the first two Series of the year didn't have any duplication of players in the "regular" cards, the "regular" cards from the third Series has around 30 players who appeared in the first two sets, including Shintaro Fujinami, Yoshio Itoi, Sho Nakata, Hayato Sakamoto, Daichi Suzuki, Kazuo Matsui and Yuki Matsui.  Other players in the set include Ernesto Mejia, Takehiro Norimoto, Dennis Sarfate, Hideaki Wakui, Takeya Nakamura and Seiya Suzuki.  As usual, the photography for the cards is very good.

#164 Yuji Onizaki

#162 Yoshifumi Okada

#153 Sho Nakata

#187 Hayato Sakamoto

#175 Yuki Matsui

#201 Ryosuke Kikuchi

#198 Shintaro Fujinami
The "Exciting Scene" subset features an "exciting scene" (obviously) for each of the 12 teams during the first part of the season.  This includes Rick Van Den Hurk setting the record for most consecutive wins at the beginning of an NPB career, Shohei Ohtani setting the record for fastest pitch at 163 kph (which he has since upped twice), Chihiro Kaneko getting his 100th career victory and Kosuke Fukudome and Takahiro Arai getting their 2000th hits.  Here's the card of Tetsuto Yamada which commemorates him hitting home runs against each of the other 11 NBP teams this year:

The four checklist cards (numbered C-9 to C-12 as a continuation of the checklist cards in the earlier two Series) show highlights from the early part of the season - Yoshihisa Hirano's 100th save, Kazuki Yoshimi getting his first win in 379 days, Louis Okoye's first hit and (I think) Yoshitomo Tsutsugoh's two home run game vs the Dragons on May 10th.  Here's the Hirano card:

As always you can see all the cards in the set (including the "Star" premium insert set and the "Lucky Card" box set) at Jambalaya.