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  #61  
Old 06-10-2018, 10:29 PM
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Default Kenjiro Tamiya

Nice Starffin. Thanks for letting us see that one. I don't have any of his cards yet.

But I do have Kenjiro Tamiya and he's the subject for today's post. He played 15 seasons, from 1949 to 1963, mostly with Osaka. He was a pitcher as a rookie, and a bad one. Surprisingly, it wasn't his terribleness that ended his pitching career, it was a shoulder injury. After that he converted to the outfield, although he still pitched a few innings here and there for the next several seasons. As a batter he had strong on-base skills and moderate power. From his stat line he looks like a "double into the gap" kind of guy, and he was reasonably fast, often among the league leaders in SB. Although he was a 7-time all-star and made five best-nine teams, his career totals are not especially impressive. If I needed an American player to compare him to, I come up with someone like Enos Slaughter, although that's probably not fair to Slaughter, as he missed what would have been some of his best seasons for the war.

The card obviously belongs to one of a bunch of very similar menko sets released in the late 1950s. This one is probably from 1959, but I'm not sure which set it's from. None of the candidate sets has Tamiya paired with 90001 as a menko number. My guess is that this is an uncatalogued card from one of those very similar and (as far as I can tell) very common late 50s sets. It has a back stamp, but I don't know why. Sets that were imported to the US often were stamped on the back, and some sets similar to this one were imported, but I had this card shipped directly from Japan, so that's not it. Sometimes back stamps were part of a contest - if you got a stamped card you would win a premium card. That could be what's going on here, but it's really impossible to know.
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  #62  
Old 06-13-2018, 01:41 PM
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Default Atsuya Furuta

Atsuya Furuta was one of Japan's greatest catchers. He was a two-time MVP, a nine-time best-nine, and a 17-time all-star. He played 18 seasons with the Yakult Swallows. Despite the long career, he actually got a relatively late start. He was undrafted out of college, and went to play for Toyota's team instead. He did well enough in the industrial leagues that Yakult drafted him in the second round in 1990. He appeared in 106 games that year. Furuta excelled at every aspect of the game (well, except running, he was a catcher after all), winning a batting title and topping 30 home runs in a season (and more than 200 for his career). He was mentored by the great Katsuya Nomura, about whom more later.

In addition to his work on the field, Furuta was both a manager (indeed, a player-manager) and the head of the Japanese Player's Union. He led a strike against the proposed merging of the Kintetsu Buffalos and the Orix Blue Wave. The merger went through, but the players got the owners to agree to add a new team to the league (and so not eliminate any roster spots). The length of the strike: two days.

The card is from the 1992 BBM set. I don't care for the design: the brown border makes it look like 1987 Topps (one of my least favorite), but it's not even faux wood, it's brown with little bits of text saying 'BBM'. Anyway, this was close to the beginning of Furuta's career, he wouldn't retire until 2007.
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  #63  
Old 06-14-2018, 10:49 PM
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Default Katsuya Nomura

Katsuya Nomura is probably Oh's strongest competition for the greatest-of-all-time crown. He was a catcher who played 26 seasons, amassing 2901 hits, 657 home runs, and a 277/357/508 slash line. Did I mention that he was a catcher. I'm pretty sure that those hit and HR totals would be all-time records in America for a catcher. He walked almost as much as he struck out. His career lasted from 1954 to 1980, and was mostly spent with the Nankai Hawks. (Who play in Osaka, on the Pacific coast sort of on the southern half of Honshu.*) Nomura led the Pacific League in HR for eight consecutive seasons. Now, the impression I get is that the Pacific League is the Central's little brother, but eight in a row is damn impressive. Imagine Ralph Kiner, but have him lead the league in HRs another year, then make his career two-and-a-half times longer than it was, and then make him a catcher. That's Nomura.

In addition to all that, he also had a long career as a manager. He took over managing Nankai when he was 35, and managed them until he left the team in 1977 (at age 42). He seems to have been retired through the 1980s, but in 1990 he took over managing duties at Yakult, moving on to Hanshin, and finally managing the Ratuken Golden Eagles until 2009, when he was 74. Nomura has a reputation as a difficult manager, and his teams' winning percentage is just about .500.

*Funny note: I was looking around Google Maps and found that Google will let you review pretty much anything. The island of Honshu, yes the whole thing, has an average review of 3.9/5.

The set is JCM 14g. The JCM 14 sets (there are many variations) get called the "Japanese T206", but I don't think that the nickname is very apt. They're really quite similar to many of the other 1960s menko sets, and don't have the iconic appeal of the T206 set. That's not to knock them, really. They're nice cards, with good color photographs (or at least colorized photographs, I'm not 100% sure).

Regarding the project: I'm 35% of the way there, after picking up six new players today, so I'm running a bit behind on keeping this updated with my progress.
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  #64  
Old 06-14-2018, 11:06 PM
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seanofjapan seanofjapan is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post
Katsuya Nomura is probably Oh's strongest competition for the greatest-of-all-time crown. He was a catcher who played 26 seasons, amassing 2901 hits, 657 home runs, and a 277/357/508 slash line. Did I mention that he was a catcher. I'm pretty sure that those hit and HR totals would be all-time records in America for a catcher. He walked almost as much as he struck out. His career lasted from 1954 to 1980, and was mostly spent with the Nankai Hawks. (Who play in Osaka, on the Pacific coast sort of on the southern half of Honshu.*) Nomura led the Pacific League in HR for eight consecutive seasons. Now, the impression I get is that the Pacific League is the Central's little brother, but eight in a row is damn impressive. Imagine Ralph Kiner, but have him lead the league in HRs another year, then make his career two-and-a-half times longer than it was, and then make him a catcher. That's Nomura.

In addition to all that, he also had a long career as a manager. He took over managing Nankai when he was 35, and managed them until he left the team in 1977 (at age 42). He seems to have been retired through the 1980s, but in 1990 he took over managing duties at Yakult, moving on to Hanshin, and finally managing the Ratuken Golden Eagles until 2009, when he was 74. Nomura has a reputation as a difficult manager, and his teams' winning percentage is just about .500.

*Funny note: I was looking around Google Maps and found that Google will let you review pretty much anything. The island of Honshu, yes the whole thing, has an average review of 3.9/5.

The set is JCM 14g. The JCM 14 sets (there are many variations) get called the "Japanese T206", but I don't think that the nickname is very apt. They're really quite similar to many of the other 1960s menko sets, and don't have the iconic appeal of the T206 set. That's not to knock them, really. They're nice cards, with good color photographs (or at least colorized photographs, I'm not 100% sure).

Regarding the project: I'm 35% of the way there, after picking up six new players today, so I'm running a bit behind on keeping this updated with my progress.
Nice Nomura card!

He is also interesting due to his family - his wife Sachiyo Nomura (who passed away a few months ago) was very famous as an outspoken TV personality in Japan. She actually sunk his career as a manager with Hanshin - he had to resign after she was arrested (and later convicted) for tax evasion in 2001. She is also the mother of the agent Don Nomura who brought Hideo Nomo to the US (though Katsuya Nomura is his stepfather, not his biological father).
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  #65  
Old 06-15-2018, 04:43 PM
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Default A couple Nomura cards for your consideration

The first card is from the 1963 JCM 14f collection. It can be tough to figure out what card is from what set, looking for clues like border or no border, color or tint of stock, text or no text on front, location of text, etc. And then there is the back of the cards. I must admit the backs got me interested. Kinda like dealing with the different back combos of the (in)famous T206 set which drove me batty for a few years before I came to my senses and moved on.

The second card is of both Nomura and player number five with his back to Nomura, the runner. I understand the player is Katsuya. But I could easily be wrong about that. From the 1958 Doyusha Team Name Back borderless, catalog JCM30a. Love the color on this card, such a menko thing to do for a card.

Perspective:

In 1963 I was an eleven year old (terrible) little leaguer in San Bernardino, CA. Our field had a fence but zero grass. The field got sprayed once a year with asphalt oil to keep the dust down between the rocks.


I hated playing the infield.

In 1958 I was six playing on a homemade field in an empty lot, El Centro CA. It was toooooooo hot to wear shoes, and worse not to wear them. You could find me out there every day I was not in school.
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File Type: jpg 2018_06_15 14-23-15.jpg (69.5 KB, 43 views)
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Last edited by drmondobueno; 06-15-2018 at 04:47 PM. Reason: Sorry for the image size!
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  #66  
Old 06-17-2018, 10:16 PM
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Default Isao Harimoto

Thanks for posting those Nomura cards! I especially like the bright red one.

The player I've got for you today is Isao Harimoto. Japan's all-time hit king. In total he collected 3084 hits, and is the only player to pass 3000. Nomura is second and Oh is third. The record is in no danger, the active leader (Takahiro Arai) is 1000 hits behind him and is 40 years old. Kaz Matsui (yes, that Kaz Matsui) is second among active players. He spent most of his career with the Toei Flyers (who play way up north in Hokkaido). He was with them from 1959 to 1972. After that he bounced around for a bit, before retiring in 1981. This card is from relatively late in his career - 1976 - when he was with the Giants. Unlike Pete Rose, Harimoto was a big slugger. He finished his career with 504 home runs. He hit .319 for his career and walked more than he struck out.

Harimoto's record is full of black ink. His .383 batting average was a Japanese record that stood for 16 years. He captured seven batting titles, and led the league in OBP nine times. Despite being fast (with more than 300 stolen bases) he as with many great offensive players, was not much of a fielder. Apparently he played a rather indifferent left field. Strangely he was only a one-time MVP (in the year that the Flyers won the Japan Series), but I suspect that the blame for this can be pinned on the fact that Japanese MVP awards, even more than American ones, tend to go to players on championship teams.

Each player is, of course, unique, but I find thinking about comparable players as a helpful shorthand, since I know so many American players so well. It gives you a general impression, which can then be filled in with the details of the particular player's career. All that said, I think that a fair American counterpart for Harimoto would be Stan Musial.

He is of Korean descent, and has worked as a commentator in the Korean baseball league. His parents moved to Japan while Korea was still a part of the Japanese Empire. Harimoto was five years old and living in Hiroshima when it was hit with an atomic bomb. He survived (his house was shielded by a mountain), but he lost a sister in the blast. On a related note, I've been fear-binging on this blog. It's written by a historian of science who studies the Manhattan Project, and it's both fascinating and terrifying.

The card is from the enormous 1976 Calbee set.
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  #67  
Old 06-18-2018, 01:41 PM
paleocards paleocards is offline
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This really is a fascinating thread, thanks for sharing all of this biographical information and the cards, almost all of which I've never seen. It seems like a real labor of love, and I can definitely relate to and respect where you're coming from.
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  #68  
Old 06-18-2018, 07:43 PM
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Originally Posted by paleocards View Post
This really is a fascinating thread, thanks for sharing all of this biographical information and the cards, almost all of which I've never seen. It seems like a real labor of love, and I can definitely relate to and respect where you're coming from.
Thanks for the kind words! I've been having a lot of fun with it. Frankly, I've been having more fun with Japanese cards than with American ones lately. I recently picked up a 34 Goudey Jimmie Foxx, which is a big pick-up by my standards, but it just felt like checking off a box. Having an excuse to learn about a completely new world of baseball, with it's own records and legends and quirks and so on, has been a lot more enjoyable.

I'll post another update soon (probably tonight). And I've got several more cards on hand (and dozens more to get) so I plan to keep this going for a while.
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  #69  
Old 06-18-2018, 09:52 PM
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Default Tsuneo Horiuchi

Tsuneo Horiuchi pitched for the Giants from 1966 to 1983. This was exactly the right time to be a Giant - he got in right at the start of their nine consecutive Japan Series wins. He broke in at 18 and was great immediately. In his rookie year he won both the Rookie of the Year Award and the Sawamura Award. As might be expected from a teenager who was suddenly a huge star, Horiuchi was a bit cocky and immature. Tetsuharu Kawakami, the Giants manager who sailed a famously tight ship, sent him to the minors to teach him a lesson, even though he was the reigning Sawamura winner. (source) The exile didn't last long. As a 19 year old Horiuchi was 12-2 in 149 IP. It was a hard pace to keep up: his last really good year was 1974 (when he was 26), he pitched his last full season at 30, and hung around until 35. This is a problem faced by any professional athlete, but it's got to be hard to retire at 35 and then have to figure out what you're going to do with the rest of your life.

Anyway, Horiuchi did better with that than most. After retirement he was a coach with the Giants for years, and briefly their manager. And that's only the beginning. In 2010 he ran for parliament. Japan has a proportional representation system (like almost every democracy except the US): you vote for your party of choice, and then if, say, your party get 10% of the vote then they get 10% of the seats in the legislature. Horiuchi's party won 12 seats, but he was listed 13th on the party list. So he just missed out on getting a seat in parliament. BUT WAIT THERE'S MORE! Hirohiko Nakamura, one of the members of his party who did win a seat, died while in office, and Horiuchi was named as his replacement. So he got a seat in parliament after all.

Here is a neat video of a game from 1966, Horiuchi's rookie year. He comes in as a relief pitcher at about 1:55, he's the guy wearing #21.

The card is from the 1973 Calbee set. This was their first foray into baseball cards. In Japan 1991 marks the line between vintage and modern cards, so 1973 is much longer-ago for the Japanese hobby (such as it is) than it is for American card collectors. Calbee almost had a monopoly on baseball cards through the 70s and 80s - and they're still making cards today. This is the set where it all began, the 52 Topps of Japan, if you will.
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Last edited by nat; 06-18-2018 at 09:54 PM.
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  #70  
Old 06-20-2018, 08:37 PM
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Default Kazuhiro Sasaki

You guys probably know this guy. Kazuhiro Sasaki was one of the more successful Japanese imports into the American game (and he saved my fantasy team's bacon in 2002). He was a two-time all-star for the Seattle Mariners, but before (and after) that he was a relief pitcher for the Yokohama Bay Stars, for whom he was a 6-time all-star. Sasaki had a 2.41 ERA in 627 NPB innings, and a 3.14 in 223 American League Innings. Once in America he continued a Japanese training program, which is much more intensive than the American version, and didn't endear him to the powers that be in Seattle.

Sasaki isn't a great hall of fame choice. He was a dominant relief pitcher, but his career was short (by HOF standards), and he didn't pitch many innings. If you want an American to compare him to, I'll nominate Bruce Sutter. But then if it had been up to me they wouldn't have put Sutter in the hall either.

Outside of baseball Sasaki seems to be an interesting guy. He was married to a singer and left her for an actress. He appeared as a witness for the defense when his friend, and former ballplayer, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, was arrested for possession of drugs. Jay Buhner taught him a bunch of dirty words. And he is now the general manager of the D'Station Racing Team (they drive Porches).

But my favorite fact about Kazuhiro Sasaki is that he recorded and released a single of him doing vocals over canned electronic beats. It's terrible.

The card is from the 2005 BBM set, after he returned to Japan and just before he retired. It's one of the newest cards in my collection.
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