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Old 05-08-2018, 11:38 AM
nat's Avatar
nat nat is offline
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 562
Default Japanese HOF Project

I've decided to take my collection in a different direction. My new goal is to get one playing-days card of each Japanese hall of famer. It's been exciting so far, as it provides an opportunity to learn not just about new sets of baseball cards, but an entirely new world of baseball.

Anyhow, I'd like to document this project. We have pick-up threads, but this is different enough that I thought it might merit its own thread. The plan is to post a picture of each card and a little bit of history about the player pictured to give you, dear reader, an idea of who this guy is and his place in Japanese baseball. The tread is on this side of the board because professional Japanese baseball didn't start until 1936, and although there are pre-war Japanese cards (which I'll have to track down eventually) they are very rare.

We'll start with these two guys.

On the right is Kazuhisa Inao. He pitched from 1956 to 1969 for the Nishitetsu Lions. All Japanese teams are owned by corporations, and they are identified by the name of the company that owns them and then their nickname. Nishitetsu is the national Japanese railroad. The team plays in Fukuoka, down on the southern end of Japan. Inao had a relatively short career, but few were better than he was at his peak. He's sort of the Japanese Sandy Koufax. He won 42 games in 1961, pitching more than 400 innings. He surpassed 30 wins several other seasons. He set a record with a 1.06 ERA as a rookie and won 20 consecutive games in 1957.

On the left is Takehiko Bessho. Bessho played from 1942 to 1960, taking a couple years out for the war. He spent most of his career with the Yomiuri Giants. It's hard to over-state how dominant the Giants were up until the 1980s. They were like the Yankees only more so. At one point they won the Japan series nine consecutive years, and have won the series 22 times in total. (It was first held in 1950.) He won 310 games, fifth all-time according to Baseball Guru (although parts of their website are out of date and this one may be as well). He wasn't quite as good as Inao, but he had a longer career and was one of the greatest pitchers in Japanese history.

The card itself is a menko card. Menko is a card-flipping game. The idea would be familiar to American kids, although menko has been around for centuries. You can find menko cards featuring all sorts of things, athletes, animals, cars, and many others. Menko cards tend to be colorful with lots of designs that are intended to appeal to kids. Early menko cards had these designs on the fronts of the cards, by the 1950s the designs were relegated to the back. The set is catalogued as JCM 28a and was issued in 1957 (so this is Inao's rookie card). There were hundreds of sets of menko cards made, but relatively few of each one (either that or they didn't survive at a very high rate). Gary Engel, who literally wrote the book on Japanese baseball cards, says that this set is relatively uncommon, with around 100 to 250 examples of each card known.

I'll post more cards later.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg Inao and Bessho back small.jpg (40.9 KB, 522 views)
File Type: jpg Inao and Bessho small.jpg (36.2 KB, 521 views)

Last edited by nat; 05-08-2018 at 02:05 PM.
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