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  #41  
Old 05-23-2018, 09:31 PM
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Kudoh - he is the second player you listed after Koji Akiyama who went on to be a great manager of the Hawks (he is their current manager and led them to the Japan Series in 2 out of his first 3 seasons).

About menko, that is cool that you have memories of playing with them as a kid Ricky. Most of them don't have baseball players on them, anime characters are much more common to find on them (hence your childhood recollection!)

I might buy some menko for my kids to see if I can get them into them. I have some vintage ones but have never played with them (well, I'm not going to give those to the kids, but you can still buy generic new ones pretty cheap at some shops).
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Last edited by seanofjapan; 05-23-2018 at 09:32 PM.
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  #42  
Old 05-24-2018, 08:26 AM
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There are menko like cards all across Asia. I have similar boxing cards from Malaysia and the Philippines (where they are called TEKS). Plus Bruce Lee cards from Thailand and China.
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  #43  
Old 05-25-2018, 09:28 PM
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Default Oshita, Wakabayashi, and Aota

Three hall of famers in this post.

Starting in the upper left we have Hiroshi Oshita. Oshita played for several teams from 1946 to 1959. The last half of his career he spent with the Nishitetsu Lions. Oshita grew up in Taiwan, but was recruited to play for Meiji University, one of the early powerhouses of Japanese baseball. During the war he attained the rank of second lieutenant, and, according to Wikipedia he trained as a kamikaze pilot. (I have not been able to confirm this report from any other sources, and Wikipedia is not, in general, to be trusted.) Anyway, Oshita quickly became one of Japanís biggest sluggers. He famously used a bat that was painted blue, although he once went to bat with a stick of bamboo and was fined 100 Yen for it. His 20 home run season in 1946 set a record, although one that would not last long. (He himself nearly doubled that mark just three years later.) He also boasted strong on-base skills, hitting .383 in an abbreviated 1951 campaign. (My guess is that an injury was involved.) Rob Fitts reports that he was something of a bon vivant, with a taste for sake and women. Oshita tried his hand at pitching early in his career, but it didnít go well. He tried his hand at managing late in his career, and it went worse. (The Flyers posted a 30-46 record before he was relieved of his duties.) His career .490 slugging percentage looks good-but-not-great to American eyes, but one must remember that context is everything. In 1949 he slugged .626 against a league average of .398. By comparison, the American League slugged .414 last year and, except for 2014, hasnít had a league-wide slugging percentage below .400 since 1992. I would really really really like to find historical context-neutral statistics for Japanese baseball, even if itís just OPS+ and ERA+. Iíd even be happy to calculate them myself, but I havenít been able to locate park factors, nor the home-vs-road splits that would be necessary to calculate park factors. You can compare a playerís OPS (or whatever stat you want) to the league average (which is available), but given the significance of park effects, this leaves out a lot of information and can be very deceiving. (For example, comparing Todd Heltonís OPS to league average doesnít tell you much of anything at all.)

Next to Oshita you will see Henry ďBozoĒ Tadashi Wakabayashi. He pitched from 1936 to 1953, missing 1945 and 1952. He pitched for Hanshin, Osaka, and Mainichi. Heís pitching for Hanshin on this card, as it helpfully has his team name given in English. I donít think Iíve seen any other Japanese cards this old (or even close to this old) with English on them. The writing is almost always in Kanji. Wakabayashi had a career 1.99 ERA, which is certainly impressive, but, as noted above, context is important. If the league is slugging below .400 itís easier to post a low ERA. Wakabayashi was born in Hawaii and was one of the first members of the Japanese baseball hall of fame. Okay, he was 16th, but thatís pretty good. Grover Cleveland Alexander was the 16th member of the American hall. In fact, if youíre looking for a fair comparison with an American player, Alexander wouldnít be your worst choice. Both relatively early pitchers with long and successful careers, although overshadowed by some of their contemporaries. (Matty, in Alexanderís case, Starffin for Wakabayashi.) He was of Japanese descent, and was recruited to play college ball in Japan when one of his teams in Hawaii visited to play the local teams. Incredibly, video of him pitching still exists. He apparently threw sidearm and had a crazy windup.

The third hall of famer on this sheet is Noboru Aota, on the lower left. Aota was an outfielder who played from 1942 to 1959. He hit .355 in an abbreviated debut as a 17 year old with Tokyo. After the war he spent a couple season with Hankyu before spending the bulk of his career with the Giants and the Whales. He was a slugger with a little bit of speed; basically the same kind of player at Oshita. Indeed, there were off-field similarities too. Like Oshita, Aota had a reputation for hard living. He missed time for the war, serving in the Japanese air force, but he did not see combat. At his retirement Aota held the all-time record for home runs (265), although it would be eclipsed just four years later.

The fourth player is Takeshi Doigaki. Heís not in the hall of fame, but he was a standout catcher in the post-war period. When I was a kid I always like cards of catchers Ė with all their armor they looked like maybe they were part insect, or part baseball-playing robot. Anyway, lots of Doigaki cards show him in his full catcher gear, unfortunately this one has only got him with his glove. Offensively he was somewhat better than average, with a Yogi Berra-like ability to avoid striking out.

These cards are catalogued as JCM 75. They were issued in 1947. Engel calls them Menko cards, although I donít really believe it. To begin with, they have neither a menko number, nor a rock-paper-scissor symbols. That may not be dispositive evidence, but itís pretty good. On top of that, these cards are made of very thin stock. Almost a rough paper. Itís hard to imagine these flipping over once they were on the ground, and itís even harder to imagine that anything would flip over if hit with one of these. I think itís best to simply think of them as trading cards. The catalogue doesnít mention the Tarzan back on the Wakabayashi card. Iíve seen two uncut sheets, however, and in both cases Wakabayashi has this back and not a ďBase BallĒ back, so I suspect that itís not an unusual variation or anything. Iíve never encountered single cards from this set, only the uncut sheets, which is probably explained by the fact that the cards are very flimsy. Any that were distributed to kids would have been destroyed pretty quickly.

I like the immediately post-war cards. One of the nice things about baseball cards is that they provide a connection to world that can be very different than the one that we live in. For example, Goudey cards were issued during the depths of the great depression. Thereís every possibility that the Jimmie Foxx that sits comfortably ensconced in your PSA holder was some kidís prize possession in 1934; pennies were hard to come by back then. Iím not an historian, and canít tell you how extensive the war damage was to Japanese industry, but it was pretty extensive. Cards like these might have been the first toys produced after the fighting stopped, and one of the first signs of life getting back to normal.
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File Type: jpg sheet.jpg (41.4 KB, 162 views)
File Type: jpg sheet back.jpg (53.5 KB, 161 views)
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  #44  
Old 05-28-2018, 11:03 AM
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Default Makato Kozuru

Makoto Kozuru was an OF/1B-type-player who played pro ball from 1942 to 1958. In the early part of his career he changed teams with some frequency. In 1953 he joined Hiroshima and spent the rest of his career there. (Baseball-referenceís bullpen section says that Carp fans took up a collection to raise money to sign him). Kozuruís case for the hall of fame is obviously one based around peak performance. In 1950 he became the first Japanese player to hit 50 home runs in a season, and his marks in total bases (376), runs (143), and RBI (161) are still Japanese records. By contrast his career totals are rather mediocre (at least, for a hall of famer). Jim Albright ranks him as the 50th greatest player in Japanese history. He was a member of the all-star team that played against the Seals on their 1949 tour through Japan.

This is my first die-cut menko card. The shape is very common for a die-cut card, and Iíd always assumed that it was intended to look something like a person. But, on the other hand, Iíve seen military menko with images of battleships and the like in the same shape, so who knows. The set is not catalogued, although it bears obvious similarities to a number of late 40s sets. Fortunately it is possible to date it quite precisely, as Kozuru is wearing a Stars uniform, and 1949 was the only season that he played for them.
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File Type: jpg kozuru back.jpg (78.0 KB, 148 views)
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  #45  
Old 05-28-2018, 05:11 PM
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Here are a few more some repeats Hiroshi Ohshita Kaoru Betto Wally Yonamine from the 1952 Yamaktasu and Tadashi Wakabayashi
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File Type: jpg Japanese HOF 002.jpg (73.7 KB, 144 views)
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  #46  
Old 05-28-2018, 10:07 PM
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Wow, those are great cards! I love the round glasses that seem to have been super popular in Japan in the 40s and 50s.

I still don't have a Yonamine card. He's really popular (at least by the standards of vintage Japanese players), although I'm not 100% sure why. He was certainly good, but it's not like he's noticeably (or even: any) better than Oshita, or a number of other contemporary players. Is it that he was also a pro football player? That he was American probably helps explain his popularity with Americans, but it's not like he was the first. Wakabayashi, for example, pre-dated him.
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  #47  
Old 05-29-2018, 05:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post
Wow, those are great cards! I love the round glasses that seem to have been super popular in Japan in the 40s and 50s.

I still don't have a Yonamine card. He's really popular (at least by the standards of vintage Japanese players), although I'm not 100% sure why. He was certainly good, but it's not like he's noticeably (or even: any) better than Oshita, or a number of other contemporary players. Is it that he was also a pro football player? That he was American probably helps explain his popularity with Americans, but it's not like he was the first. Wakabayashi, for example, pre-dated him.
My opinion about Wally Yonamine is that his style of playing baseball was made known by Rob Fitts in his book and also being an American along being associated with the 49er's in football
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  #48  
Old 05-31-2018, 10:38 PM
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Default Hiromitsu Ochiai

Hiromitsu Ohiai was the best player of the 1980s. He was a fearsome slugger who clobbered 510 home runs on the way to putting up a 311/422/564 slash line. Over 20 years he played for Lotte, Chunichi, Yomiuri, and Nippon Ham. (An aside: I know 'Nippon Ham' is the company's name and 'Fighters' is the team nickname, but it's still my favorite team name.) Ochiai had some truly amazing seasons. In 1985, for instance, he slugged .763. For some perspective, that season would rank 9th all-time in America, sandwiched between Ruthís 1923 and Hornsbyís 1925. The only Americans to have ever posted a higher slugging percentage are Ruth, Bonds, and Gehrig. (Although, as always, context is important.) He is 12th all-time in Japan in runs scored, and 5th in RBIs. Ochiai is an all-time great.

He was, however, a late bloomer. He dropped out of college and went to play in the industrial leagues, from which he was drafted by the Orions. He was not a regular until age 28, but he caught up after his late start. Ochiai was a 3-time triple crown winner (1982, 85 and 86). Here he is hitting an opposite-field home run.

Beyond his great performances, Ochiai was known for his rejection of traditional Japanese baseball culture. He would skip workouts (which are notoriously rigorous in Japan), refuse coaching help, show up late to warm ups, that sort of thing. This was, apparently, something of a scandal in Japan. I think that Americans would write it off; obnoxious, sure, but we almost expect a star to be a bit of a prima donna.

This card lists him as an ďinfielderĒ which is a bit generous. He started his career at second and quickly switched to third. But by 1991 he was a full-time first baseman, and would never again appear at another position. In total he played about 1500 games at 1B and 650 at third.

The card is from the inaugural BBM set, in 1991. By contemporary standards it looks pretty plain, but this set was the first Japanese set to be modeled on American baseball cards, and it kicked off a period of intense innovation (with all of the parallels, inserts, etc., that you find in American cards) in the Japanese card market. YMMV on the merits of these developments. Personally I like the old menko cards the best.
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File Type: jpg ochiai back.jpg (67.2 KB, 113 views)
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  #49  
Old 06-01-2018, 05:16 PM
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There are many people in the Japanese hall of fame. Most of them were not players. I didn't actually keep track, but a shockingly high percentage of the members of the Japanese hall of fame were executives. The Americans also induct executives, but not nearly to the same extent that the Japanese do. If you were vice president of the Giants for more than couple weeks, you are probably in the hall of fame.

Anyhoo, I went through the list of hall of famers and sorted out those who were not primarily players. Now, the Japanese hall of fame recognizes people for play as amateurs as well as professionals, so there are some members of the hall who were stars in college but who didn't play professionally. There are some early menko issues that feature amateur players, but not many. I've never seen one. There are plenty that feature amateur teams, but that's another matter. If I can get cards of the amateur hall of fame players, that's great, and I'll buy them if I see them (and if they exist), but I'm going to treat them as extra credit. So I sorted out these folks as well. That left 87 hall of famers who are in the hall primarily for their play as professionals. Almost all of these guys played post-war (although many began their careers before the war started). These guys are my targets.


Of those 87 I currently have 22 in hand (as well as several more in the mail from Japan, but I'm not going to count them until they're here). That's a little bit over 25%. I've been at this for a month and a half. Oldest cards are from 1947, and my newest are from 1993. It's nice that Japanese cards are so much less expensive than American ones. I mean, it's true that last month I went way over my regular baseball card budget, but I've still spent more on single American cards than I've spent on 1/4th of the Japanese hall of fame.
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  #50  
Old 06-03-2018, 06:39 AM
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My understanding that there are two Japanese Hall of Fames the Meikyukai the Golden Players Club and the Yakyu Dendo the Japanese Hall of Fame
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