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  #1  
Old 05-08-2018, 11:38 AM
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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 He won 310 games, fifth all-time according to Baseball Guru (although parts of their website are out of date and this one may be as well).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, 531 views)
File Type: jpg Inao and Bessho small.jpg (36.2 KB, 530 views)

Last edited by nat; 05-08-2018 at 02:05 PM.
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  #2  
Old 05-08-2018, 12:54 PM
darkhorse9 darkhorse9 is offline
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I love the casual note for Bessho where he took a couple years off for the war....TO TRY AND KILL US!!!!!!
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  #3  
Old 05-08-2018, 12:54 PM
Rickyy Rickyy is offline
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Nice!!! I am starting to get interested in Japanese cards...and have a few I have acquired over the years. I grew up in Japan until I was 10 yrs old and it was during the glory days of Oh and Nagashima's Giants so I got to actually seem them play as a youngster. Didn't collect them though (except for some menko cards) until I came to the US and discovered MLB cards.

I don't know if you can get one of all HOF... I'm not up on all of the cards issued, but if you can find one of Eiji Sawamura of the Yomiuri Giants. that will be something. I don't believe there is one. He was killed in WW2, and at age 17 of course he gained fame when struck out Babe Ruth and Gehrig at an exhibition game. The Japanese Cy Young Award equivalent is named in his honor.

Ricky Y
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  #4  
Old 05-08-2018, 03:05 PM
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Default Noburo Akiyama

Well, to be fair, Bessho was stationed in China, and then re-deployed to the home islands.

And yes, I realize that this goal is probably impossible. (Although if you get a lead on a Sawamura card let me know.)

But, eh. It's still an ideal to shoot for.

Anyway, next up is Noburo Akiyama. Akiyama was a good pitcher on a bad team with a short career. He pitched for the Taiyo Whales from 1956 to 1967. This card is from the same set as the last one, so this is also his rookie card. He was a workhorse early in his career, reportedly throwing 1000 pitch training sessions in college. He was certainly a good pitchers (career ERA 2.60, although I'm pretty sure in a lower run-scoring environment than we're used to), but only briefly a great one. And he managed just under 3000 IP for his career. Sort of a peculiar choice for the hall of fame - it would be sort of like electing Roy Oswalt - but the American hall of fame also has plenty of questionable inductees.
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File Type: jpg Akiyama small.jpg (72.6 KB, 520 views)
File Type: jpg Akiyama back small.jpg (47.7 KB, 525 views)
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  #5  
Old 05-08-2018, 07:54 PM
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Awesome cards!

I live in Japan and collect Japanese vintage cards too (I'm more of a set builder, working on stuff from the 70s mostly these days). Its nice to see others are collecting them too!

Menko are amazing, its one of the vintage card collecting areas where Japan has something totally unique in comparison with the US.

If you need any help tracking stuff down let me know (not sure I can always help but might be able to!)

(Also a minor correction - Nishitetsu is not the national railroad, it is a private railroad that runs in Fukuoka. I lived in Fukuoka for four years and used to take their trains all the time!)
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Last edited by seanofjapan; 05-08-2018 at 08:31 PM.
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  #6  
Old 05-09-2018, 01:27 AM
Rickyy Rickyy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seanofjapan View Post
Awesome cards!

I live in Japan and collect Japanese vintage cards too (I'm more of a set builder, working on stuff from the 70s mostly these days). Its nice to see others are collecting them too!

Menko are amazing, its one of the vintage card collecting areas where Japan has something totally unique in comparison with the US.

If you need any help tracking stuff down let me know (not sure I can always help but might be able to!)

(Also a minor correction - Nishitetsu is not the national railroad, it is a private railroad that runs in Fukuoka. I lived in Fukuoka for four years and used to take their trains all the time!)
I checked out your link. Looks great! I am trying to slowly track down some cards...esp the early 70's Kalbee's of some of my favorite players. Is there check lists for those issues? I know some sets are huge.

Ricky Y
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  #7  
Old 05-09-2018, 02:07 AM
Jeff Alcorn Jeff Alcorn is offline
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Hi,

I have been collecting Japanese cards since the late 1970s, and it is very enjoyable to learn about their players, teams and history. Ricky- if you need help with Calbee checklists just let me know, I have them all. Sean- thanks for getting me that 1976 Calbee Matty Alou "Lions vs. Braves" card and sending it to our friend Jay Shelton.
Nat- your knowledge of Japanese cards and baseball sounds pretty good for someone just starting out.

If any of you need help or information, just let me know. I love to share my knowledge and learn from others.

Jeff
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  #8  
Old 05-09-2018, 02:32 AM
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seanofjapan seanofjapan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rickyy View Post
I checked out your link. Looks great! I am trying to slowly track down some cards...esp the early 70's Kalbee's of some of my favorite players. Is there check lists for those issues? I know some sets are huge.

Ricky Y
Hi,

Thanks!

If you register on Sports Card Forum (https://www.sportscardforum.com/private.php) some of the complete Calbee checklists from the 70s are available there, the guy who does Clyde's Stale cards did all the work on those a while ago (https://clydes-stalecards.blogspot.jp/)

And yeah, the sets from the mid-70s are huge. I'm working on the 1975-76 Calbee set right now and it has 1472 cards! And some series of it were only issued in single cities (two series in Hiroshima, one in Nagoya) so they are extremely hard to find, (kind of like if part of the 1972 Topps set was only sold in Cleveland and another only sold in Denver). Its got to be one of the most difficult sets in the world to put together (though fortunately prices don't reflect this for the most part).
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Last edited by seanofjapan; 05-09-2018 at 02:41 AM.
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  #9  
Old 05-09-2018, 01:25 AM
Rickyy Rickyy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post
Well, to be fair, Bessho was stationed in China, and then re-deployed to the home islands.

And yes, I realize that this goal is probably impossible. (Although if you get a lead on a Sawamura card let me know.)

But, eh. It's still an ideal to shoot for.

Anyway, next up is Noburo Akiyama. Akiyama was a good pitcher on a bad team with a short career. He pitched for the Taiyo Whales from 1956 to 1967. This card is from the same set as the last one, so this is also his rookie card. He was a workhorse early in his career, reportedly throwing 1000 pitch training sessions in college. He was certainly a good pitchers (career ERA 2.60, although I'm pretty sure in a lower run-scoring environment than we're used to), but only briefly a great one. And he managed just under 3000 IP for his career. Sort of a peculiar choice for the hall of fame - it would be sort of like electing Roy Oswalt - but the American hall of fame also has plenty of questionable inductees.
Awesome card!

Ricky Y
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  #10  
Old 05-16-2018, 11:02 AM
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Big Six Big Six is offline
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I donít have much to add but seeing as Iím a big Lefty OíDoul fan, here ya go...




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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I collect Hal Chase, Diamond Stars (PSA 5 or better), 1951 Bowman (Raw Ex or better), 1954 Topps (PSA 7 or better), 1956 Topps (Raw Ex or better), 3x5 Hall of Fame Autographs and autographed Perez Steele Postcards. You can see my collection by going to http://www.collectorfocus.com/collection/BigSix.
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  #11  
Old 05-16-2018, 11:38 AM
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Default Sachio Kinugasa

Kinugasa is most famous for his consecutive games-played streak. He didn't miss a game for 17 years. He began his career (in 1965) at first base, and moved to third in 1975. (Moving up the defensive spectrum is quite unusual.) He spent his entire career with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, retiring in 1987. Amazingly, when he retired his consecutive games-played streak was still intact. He surpassed Gehrig, although Ripken would later pass him. Kinugasa rarely led the league in anything, and didn't make any best-nines until late in his career (since he was usually blocked by Oh or Nagashima). He was, however, often among the league leaders in many offensive categories, and places in the top 10 or so in many career statistics. His style was aggressive; he was a big slugger (504 career home runs) famous for a max-effort style of swing.


Inevitably mentioned in (western) Kinugasa biographies (of which this is one, so here's the mention), Kinugasa's father was an African American service man. He left the family when the future ball-player was young, and he was raised by his mother.


Kinugasa's nickname was 'Ironman'. One would think that the reasoning behind it was obvious, but the ever-reliable Wikipedia claims that it was taken from a manga.


He died less than a month ago.


This is also a Calbee card, although somewhat newer than the Oh posted above. This one is from 1982. Calbee cards tend to be slightly smaller than American cards, but for a while in the 80s they made them very small. This one is Goudey-sized or smaller.
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File Type: jpg kinugasa.jpg (45.6 KB, 305 views)
File Type: jpg kinugasa back.jpg (33.0 KB, 305 views)
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  #12  
Old 05-17-2018, 01:19 PM
Rickyy Rickyy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post
Kinugasa is most famous for his consecutive games-played streak. He didn't miss a game for 17 years. He began his career (in 1965) at first base, and moved to third in 1975. (Moving up the defensive spectrum is quite unusual.) He spent his entire career with the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, retiring in 1987. Amazingly, when he retired his consecutive games-played streak was still intact. He surpassed Gehrig, although Ripken would later pass him. Kinugasa rarely led the league in anything, and didn't make any best-nines until late in his career (since he was usually blocked by Oh or Nagashima). He was, however, often among the league leaders in many offensive categories, and places in the top 10 or so in many career statistics. His style was aggressive; he was a big slugger (504 career home runs) famous for a max-effort style of swing.


Inevitably mentioned in (western) Kinugasa biographies (of which this is one, so here's the mention), Kinugasa's father was an African American service man. He left the family when the future ball-player was young, and he was raised by his mother.


Kinugasa's nickname was 'Ironman'. One would think that the reasoning behind it was obvious, but the ever-reliable Wikipedia claims that it was taken from a manga.


He died less than a month ago.


This is also a Calbee card, although somewhat newer than the Oh posted above. This one is from 1982. Calbee cards tend to be slightly smaller than American cards, but for a while in the 80s they made them very small. This one is Goudey-sized or smaller.
Great card. As a posthumous tribute to him, NHK Japan recently re ran his documentary from the time he was pursuing his ironman streak. Along with Koji Yamamoto he was the mainstay of those great Carp teams.

Ricky Y
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  #13  
Old 05-17-2018, 03:00 PM
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Default Yutaka Ohno

Let's continue with the Carp.

Ohno was Kinugasa's teammate for about ten years. He's another lifetime Carp, pitching for them from 1977 (when retired only one batter but gave up five ER) to 1998.

He's got an absurd winning percentage: .597. Just for some perspective, an American team with a .597 winning percentage would end up with a record of 96-66. Pretty good. He was a Sawamura award winner and 10-time all-star. I'm not sure why, but in 1991 the Carp decided that he should be a relief pitcher, and he started striking out everybody and their brother. His K/9 rate jumped from an already-respectable 8.5 to 11.3. In 1995, as a 39 year old, he returned to being a starting pitcher. His career, therefore, has something like the shape of John Smoltz'.


I just noticed, look at that grip. Did Ohno throw a knuckleball?

Also, let's talk about intellectual property for a minute here. I realize that Cincinnati and Hiroshima are a long distance apart, but surely the Reds have a lawyer filing lawsuits any time the Carp try to sell gear or licensed merch over here. Admittedly this doesn't happen much, but I had a Kintetsu Buffalos cap when I was a kid, so I imagine there are some Carp hats out there somewhere.
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  #14  
Old 05-17-2018, 03:35 PM
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What about Wally Yonamine the First American / Japanese to be in the Japanese HOF The card is one of his 1951 rookie cards
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File Type: jpg wallyjga11b.jpg (80.9 KB, 294 views)
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  #15  
Old 05-17-2018, 10:12 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post

Also, let's talk about intellectual property for a minute here. I realize that Cincinnati and Hiroshima are a long distance apart, but surely the Reds have a lawyer filing lawsuits any time the Carp try to sell gear or licensed merch over here. Admittedly this doesn't happen much, but I had a Kintetsu Buffalos cap when I was a kid, so I imagine there are some Carp hats out there somewhere.
They might. Trademarks are territorial so its not a problem for the Carp to use the same logo as the Reds in Japan, but if they sell that in the US they would run afoul of Cincinnati's TM. I'm guessing they might have some sort of arrangement worked out to avoid disputes (and also to sell Reds stuff in Japan, where it could be in breach of the Carp's trademark).

A lot of the older teams here have uniforms, etc obviously modelled off of MLB teams (Tigers, Giants, Dragons) but its only the Carp which has the same initial as their US counterpart!
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