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  #81  
Old 07-08-2018, 08:31 PM
steve B steve B is offline
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I really have to scan mine. I have all of one baseball player menko, the rest of the handful are non-sports. I'd really like to be able to at least name the subjects.

I think they're late 50's. I found the baseball player at one point a few years back, but have forgotten who he is. Got to remember to write it down next time I find out.
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  #82  
Old 07-08-2018, 08:38 PM
Jeff Alcorn Jeff Alcorn is offline
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Hi,

I have enjoyed following this series very much, and have a few notes that might be helpful (I hope)-

1973 were not Calbee's first cards, they actually produced some in the early 1950s that are quite difficult to get (I don't have any).

On Keith's Katsuya Nomura card from 1958, the other player wearing #5 that is greeting Nomura at home plate is not Katsuya (that is Nomura's first name) but outfielder Yoshio Anabuki. Anabuki later managed the Hawks and he also appears in the 1967 Kabaya-Leaf set.

Isao Harimoto played his entire career in the Tokyo area with the Flyers/Fighters, Giants, and Orions. The Flyers/Fighters were always in Tokyo until moving to the Sapporo Dome on Hokkaido in recent years, and the Orions were in Kawasaki which is in the Tokyo area.

The Koji Yamamoto card is from the 1976 All-Star Series and shows him scoring for the Central League with Pacific League catcher Katsuya Nomura in the background.

The Morimichi Takagi card cannot be from the 1960s since the Dragons first wore the uniform with the shoulder and side blue stripes in their pennant winning year of 1974. There are a number of anonymous menko issues from the mid-70s, and many of them were made using pirated Calbee photos that had already been issued as Calbee cards. The photos will usually lack clarity since they are photos of photos and will never have a printer's name on them.

Finally, I would like to make a comment about the cutting of menko cards. These cards that were issued from the mid to late 1950s through 1964 were not released as singles but came in uncut form in various amounts- 2, 4, 6, cards etc. The cutting was done by the purchaser, and some can still be found in uncut form. The cover of Gary Engel's 6th edition guide shows a display of uncut cards as they would have been available in a shop.

As an obvious result, the cards have various dimensions and can be found with wider borders on the sides or top, angled cuts, etc. As a general rule, the cards that were not imported to the USA in the 1960s tend to have less uniform dimensions and the cuts can range all over the place. However, the sets that were imported in the 1960s were carefully cut and are much more standardized in size and overall condition. They were sold in set form to collectors here and many remained together as sets for decades and were never played with by Japanese children.

The collectors that brought these menko cards here at the time they were released in Japan, along with the 1964 Morinaga Top Star cards, Fujiya Gum cards and the 1967 Kabaya-Leaf cards, were Bud Ackerman and Mel Bailey. Bud was responsible for the menkos that came here and Mel brought the Morinaga, Fujiya, and Kabaya-Leaf.

The Shinichi Eto card shown in the graded holder has the stamped number 9 on the back. Bud and his family cut these cards and stamped a number on the back of each card. When they sold the sets a numbered checklist that corresponded to the stamped number on each card was provided to the purchaser. Anytime one of these cards is found with the stamped number on the back it went straight from the shop to the Ackerman's house where it was cut, stamped, and bundled into sets of 40 different and sold to collectors in the USA that way.

The result is ,of course, that the imported menkos, Kabaya-Leaf cards, Morinaga Top Star and Fujiya Gum cards are usually in pretty good condition since they were never owned by the general public but were bought by Bud Ackerman or Mel Bailey from shops in Japan or direct from the producer (in the case of most of the Kabaya-Leaf cards). There should be no fear that this card was cut down from a ragged form to get a grade. All of the imported menko cards I have are in the same condition, and the cuts are quite uniform with only a few variances. This should also account for why the cards found by Steve at a flea market were cut so well- if they were some of the imported cards brought in by Bud or Mel in the 1960s.

I hope that this information is of interest, and please continue this great series, I love seeing cards I do not have and reading everyone's contributions.

Jeff
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  #83  
Old 07-09-2018, 11:55 AM
steve B steve B is offline
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Very interesting Jeff.

I only have a few Japanese cards, less than 10 baseball for sure. But they're interesting and I like learning more about them.

I'm guessing mine were brought in, as they're cut well enough I'd always thought they were factory done.
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  #84  
Old 07-09-2018, 10:23 PM
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seanofjapan seanofjapan is offline
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Great post Jeff, that is particularly interesting about Bud Ackerman and Mel Bailey.
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My blog about collecting cards in Japan: https://baseballcardsinjapan.blogspot.jp/
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  #85  
Old 07-10-2018, 09:37 PM
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Default Tatsunori Hara

Hi Jeff - Thanks for all the info! So my Takagi card is a mid 70s rip-off from Calbee? That's pretty interesting (and late for a baseball menko). Thank you also for the information about the Eto card. I knew that some sets were imported in bulk, but I usually buy cards directly from Japan so it didn't occur to me to check to see if this set was one of the ones that was imported. (Guess I should do that when buying cards from Americans.) Cards sold directly to Hobbyists is still too capital-H Hobby for my tastes, but I'm glad that it wasn't cut down for grading purposes.

Today's card is of the newest hall of famer. Tatsunori Hara was inducted just this year. Hara played 15 seasons (1981 to 1995) for the Giants. He was a third baseman - a contemporary of, and with basically the same offensive profile as, George Brett. Like Brett, he was a 1x MVP and many-time all-star (11x in Hara's case).* Despite a career that eventually landed him in the Hall of Fame, Hara was considered something of a disappointment. He was one of the hottest prospects ever, and was expected to replace the production of the recently-retired Oh. He was good (and won the rookie of the year award his first year), but, come on, he wasn't that good.

*The Brett comparison is the first one that came to mind, but Brett was actually the better player. Hara couldn't manage the kinds of batting average that Brett could, and unlike Brett he struck out more than he walked.

Post playing days, he became a manager, holding the reins for the Giants for ten seasons, as well as managing Japan in the World Baseball Classic.

Hara's production as a player was not quite enough to get him into the hall. In his final year of eligibility he topped out at 73% of the vote - just missing the cut off for induction. He was elected by Japan's version of the veteran's committee, which is allowed to consider his accomplishments as a manager in addition to his performance on the field. Hara himself downplayed his own accomplishments as a player:

"As a little boy, I loved baseball," Hara said. "And naturally, I dreamed of being a pro. But even in my wildest dreams I didn't imagine this. I was nothing special as a player, but I think the managing may have had something to do with this."

And here's a video of Hara from 1992, batting against Akimitsu Ito of the Swallows.

The card is from the 1985 Calbee set.
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File Type: jpg hara.jpg (32.6 KB, 192 views)
File Type: jpg hara back.jpg (73.2 KB, 191 views)
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  #86  
Old 07-11-2018, 10:33 PM
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Default Tokuji Iida

Tokuji Iida was a Hawk and a Swallow over a 17 year career, from 1947 to 1963. He just missed collecting 2000 hits (no Golden Player Club for you, not that it existed when he retired). Iida was a slugging first baseman who played through Japan's deadball era. His raw home run totals don't look impressive (after 1955 he never even made it into double digits), but no one at the time was hitting home runs, or much of anything else. For example, in 1957 he slugged .417 against a league average of .329. Last year the National League slugged .423. Iida's slugging percentage was 88 points better than league average; you would have to slug .511 to top last year's average by 88 points. That's, basically, Anthony Rizzo. But raw comparison's aren't really the way to do this. In 1957 (a year in which he hit 9 home runs) Iida had a slugging percentage that was 27% higher than league average. To match that in last year's National League you would need to slug .537, exactly what Kris Bryant did. So one way to think about Iida is that, even in the years in which he was hitting home runs in the singe-digits, he was, in context, hitting as well as Kris Bryant.

Lest you think that maybe he was a one-dimensional power hitter (like, e.g., Rob Deer), note that his on-base percentage was 25% better than league average that year as well. Which is, again, a perfect match for Bryant.

So, basically, Iida was Kris Bryant, albeit at 1B rather than 3B, for 17 years. He won the 1955 MVP award, but he does not seem to be well-remembered. He doesn't even have his own Wikipedia page. People who follow Japanese baseball apparently regard him highly though - thehanshintigers.com ranks him as one of the Hawks' five best players, and Jim Allen ranks him as the second best defensive first baseman of all time. (Although seventy year old defensive statistics should always be taken with a pretty good spoonful of salt.) Allen also ranks him as the 60th greatest player of all time. He was famous for a long consecutive-game streak (this is basically the only thing that the Japanese Hall of Fame website says about him), but he missed a bunch of games late in his career, presumably with injuries. Maybe a day off now and then would have been a good idea.

I like to find video of the players that I write about, but youtube has nothing for Iida. If you search "Tokuji Iida" on youtube the only hit you get is from an old Japanese movie called "The Burden of Life", which sounds a bit heavy for a baseball message board.

The Iida card is from the JCM 31b (type II) set. I forgot to take a picture of the back, but I think you folks can deal with just a photo of the front.

Also, it's time to report some progress. I'm now 51% of the way to my goal! On June 1st I was at 25%, so I've picked up another quarter of the hall of fame (at least, those who are in as pro players, and so for whom there are probably cards) in the past 41 days. I'll call that progress. Surely it helps that most of my cards are low grade, but this remains a (relatively) inexpensive project. I still have a couple American cards that cost more than my entire Japanese collection.
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  #87  
Old 07-13-2018, 10:13 PM
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Default Manabu Kitabeppu

Manabu Kitabeppu pitched for the Carp for 19 seasons, 1976 to 1994. He broke in when he was just 18 years old. It's got to be crazy being that young and playing on the biggest stage. (Then of course there's Joe Nuxhall. I doubt anyone else had eight years between big league appearances.) Kitabeppu won 213 games with a 3.67 career ERA. I don't know of any website that has league ERA for ranges of seasons available; it's possible to calculate it from the data available for individual seasons, but that sounds pretty tedious. Suffice it to say that, looking over a bunch of years during Kitabeppu's career, 3.67 is a bit better than league average, but not super impressive. He's got a weird career shape. He was super good occasionally - he won an MVP award and a pair of Sawamura awards - but he mixed in a bunch of clunkers. Sort of like Zack Greinke, or, to take a much more extreme example, Steve Carlton. He was sent to the minor leagues for the first time in 1989, when he was 31 after a rough patch. He would post two more good years, but he was done at 36. Albright does not list him on his ranking of the top 115 (what a weird number to stop at) Japanese players. In all he's kind of an unexciting hall of famer. The Greinke comparison is probably a good one. They're both fine pitchers, if what's his name who is on the Phillies now hadn't gone bonkers in the second half Greinke would have two Cy Young awards also. But they're not the kind of guys whose starts I make it a point to watch.

On the other hand, Wikipedia says that he was one of the most popular right-handed pitchers ever. Now, it's possible that that was written by his mother, but it's also possible that he was a much more exciting pitcher than his statistics indicate.

YouTube doesn't seem to have any videos of him playing. Which is a surprise, given how recently he retired. It does have a short and boring interview with him from 2012, filmed a charity golf tournament. I'll spare you the link, but basically he tells kids that if they want to be good at baseball they need to practice every day.

The card is from the inaugural 1991 BBM set. Looking at his card I just noticed that the kanji for "strikeout" just means "three", which is commendably to the point. The symbol that they use for "walk" - Nishi - means "west". I guess home plate is to the north?

Eventually I'll probably end up with some more BBM cards, but I've now posted all of those that I've got on hand. It'll be back to menkos and bromides (and a few Calbees) for the near future.
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File Type: jpg kitabeppu back.jpg (70.8 KB, 177 views)

Last edited by nat; 07-13-2018 at 11:24 PM.
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  #88  
Old 07-15-2018, 06:00 AM
Rickyy Rickyy is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post
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.
Thanks for posting this. Great looking card of a key member of those great Giants teams!

Ricky Y
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  #89  
Old 07-16-2018, 10:36 PM
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Default Yoshio Yoshida

Yoshio Yoshida played shortstop for the Tigers from 1953 to 1969. He had good speed but limited power, and was known for defense and bunting. About what you expect from a shortstop. Given his speed, the Tigers usually used him as a lead-off hitter. He finished with around 1800 hits, and offensive records that are… okay. But his hitting isn’t the main reason that he was on the team. A comparable American player might be someone like Willie Randolph, positional differences aside. He was better-appreciated in his time than Randolph was, however, as he was a 9x best-nine selection. (SABR types sometimes say that Randolph should probably be given a closer look by the HOF, but that’s a much more tepid endorsement than being named the league’s best SS nine times.)

Yoshida came from a poor family, and was orphaned while he was still young. (He was raised by his older brother after his parents died.) Unable to afford tuition he didn’t plan on attending college, until his baseball prowess gained the attention of recruiters and he was offered a scholarship. He was scouted by the Braves, but a large offer from the Tigers convinced him to drop out of school and go pro.

The really interesting thing about Yoshida, however, isn’t what he did on the baseball diamond. After he retired he managed the Tigers on-and-off, but he also went to France to develop a baseball program. Yes, France. He said that when he arrived in France the level of play was abysmal, comparable to high school ball in Japan. But under Yoshida’s influence the French national team now participates in the World Baseball Classic, the European Baseball Cup, and other international competitions. In fact, France hosts an international competition (open apparently by invitation to a few European nations and Japan) called the “Yoshida Challenge”. Yoshida is an honorary member of the French Baseball and Softball Federation. He recently (c. 2014) arranged to have some French players train with Hanshin. The French national baseball team is now ranked 23rd in the world. Which might not sound very impressive, but it’s a lot better than high school ball.

As you might expect, thehanshintigers.com has a very good biography of Yoshida. Much better than what I’ve got here. You might want to go read it.

I'm not sure what set the card belongs to. It resembles JBR 17 and JBR 29. But it has a border. It could be from a related but uncatalogued set.
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  #90  
Old 07-19-2018, 04:05 PM
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Default Jiro Noguchi

Jiro Noguchi pitched for a few teams from 1939 to 1943 (the Japanese Wikipedia page seems to indicate just two teams that changed their names, but I'm not super confident about how I'm reading it), and for Hankyu from 1946 to 1952. The beginning of his career was the best part. As a rookie he posted a 2.04 ERA (against a league average of 2.50), and then proceeded to post sub-1 ERAs for the next two seasons (at ages 20 and 21). Pitching for Taiyo in 1942 he had his most remarkable season. Noguchi pitched 527 innings (!) and notched a 40-17 record. But his 1.19 ERA was only fifth in the league. At one point in 1942 he pitched a 28 inning complete game. In 1944 he was drafted and went to war. He wouldn’t have had an opportunity to pitch in 1945 even if he wasn’t enlisted, as the season was simply canceled. After the war he was still good, but declined quickly. Although he hung on for a couple years afterwards, he was essentially done at age 30.

The entire Noguchi clan was athletic. His older brother Akira was a star baseball player: he made four all-star teams and had one best-nine selection. Younger brothers Noboru and Wataru made brief appearances as professional ball players as well. To be fair, though, Noboru didn’t get much of a chance. He was drafted into the Army and died in the Philippines in 1945. Apparently someone made a television special about the family.

Jiro enrolled in Hosei University (one of the notable University teams in early baseball; maybe not equal to Waseda or Keio, but good). He did not finish his studies, however, as he was lured away by the Tokyo Senators. The Japanese Wikipedia page says that he was nicknamed “Astro Arm”. (I’m not 100% confident on this. I ran the Japanese Wikipedia page through Google Translate. It transliterated the hiragana, and then I ran the transliteration through Google Translate again. So who knows what it actually says. Unfortunately Noguchi doesn’t have an English Wikipedia page.)

In addition to being one of Japan’s great pitchers, Noguchi was a good hitter for a pitcher. Some seasons he was simply a good hitter, no “for a pitcher” required. For instance, in 1946 he posted a .708 OPS against a league average of .676. In fact, he was fourth in his team in OPS, among those who had a significant number of at bats.

The card is an early post-war menko card. It’s from the JCM 22 set, issued in 1947. This was the first year after the war that any baseball cards were issued. And it has definitely seen some play: the edges, especially at the top, are kind of squashed. It looks like it flipped over a fair number of cards in its day.
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