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NPB: Hanshin Tigers 1985 Memorial Card Set (Japanese Baseball Card Review)

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The Hanshin Tigers are a team known to come so close in various seasons but have been unable to finish strong.

While the team have won five Central League pennants (1962, 1964, 1985, 2003, 2005), they have won only one Japan Series.

While there are Japanese who blame the Curse of Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders, the truth is that the Hanshin Tigers have had very awesome teams (as they have a strong team right now in 2015 in the very tight race in the Central League), they will be remembered for their 1985 team.

In the 1985 Japan Series, the Central League champion Hanshin Tigers went against the Pacific League champions, the Seibu Lions and beat the Seibu Lions 4-2.

From star players such as Randy Bass, Munehiko Shimada, Akinobu Mayumi, Masayuki Kakefu, Keiichi Nagasaki, to name a few, 1985 was the year of the Hanshin Tigers.

And to celebrate the 80th Anniversary of the team, Epoch has released a Hanshin Tigers 1985 Memorial Card Set for Y9800.

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Featuring a total of 45 cards (43 regular + 2 checklist) + random signed card, each box is numbered, while each card features  a Nippon Champions 1985 logo on the bottom right corner, Hanshin tigers logo on the upper right and photo, jersey # and name of the player and their position.  Reverse features information about the player.

The cards have that shiny sheen on both sides and for the most part, are very cool!

For the hardcore collectors, there are 153 cards total, if you intend to get all the signed cards (good luck on that!), with the VC-YOY and VN-YOY signed celebration cards (only ten made and only one signed).  So, those two cards alone are rare!

For me, I purchased this set for nostalgia but also, I wanted a baseball card set of the only Hanshin Tigers team to win the Japan Series.  So, I wanted to have this set in my NPB card collection!

So, while Hanshin Tigers have hopes of winning the Japan Series in 2015…If you are feeling nostalgic of that 1985 win, then definitely enjoy this video from 1985:

BBM Cards of the Week: Yomiuri Giants Baseball Card Set – 2015 Giant Step

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With every start of the season, BBM releases baseball card sets showcasing a team.

While in Japan, for the first game of the season, I saw the release of the “BBM Yomiuri Giants Baseball Card Set 2015 – GIANT STEP” which costs about Y2,500 and only 3,000 sets created.

The baseball card set features a total of 27 cards + 1 special card (there are a total of 9 special cards) and created in collaboration with Baseball Magazine Sha and to my satisfaction, the card that I received was one of my favorite players in the NPB, shortstop Sakamoto Hayato (#299 of #333).

The cards themselves are cool.  Infield backgrounds removed and visual effect in the background.  Fortunately, the backgrounds were removed with care, so no chopped out uniforms or anything problematic.

The rear end of the card features the players statistics and information on each player.

It’s important to remember that this was a late March 2015 release, so you are not going to find Mikolas or Donoue cards.

But these BBM sets are for the fans, one can expect a more expansive set to come out this month with the more expensive BBM 2015 Yomiuri Giants Baseball Set.

NPB CARD OF THE WEEK: Clarence Jones – BBM Hawks 75th Anniversary

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While looking at my collection of BBM cards for the Hawks 75th Anniversary, I saw a card for infielder Clarence Jones.

While you do see foreign players show up on other sets, you don’t see that many African American players from the past showing up on Japanese anniversary sets, unless they were special players.

As I did my research for Clarence Jones, I read about how he was a right fielder and first baseman for the Chicago Cubs (1966-1968).

By 1970, he left to Japan to play for the Nankai Hawks.

But it’s his 1974 year with the Kintetsu Buffaloes in which he made his name known as he hit 38 home runs and won the home run title in the NPB, repeated that feat. in 1975 with 39 home runs and led the Pacific League again in 1976 with 36 home runs.

And by the end of his career in Japan, he amassed 250 home runs in eight seasons.  Helped a Mexican League team win a pennant and also became a booking agent for the late comedian, Redd Foxx.  While Jones didn’t stay in the entertainment industry too long, his son Richard would eventually pursue a career as an actor.

But where Clarence Jones’ name shows up is his relationship with former MLB player David Justice.  Clarence Jones became a roving batting instructor thanks to Hank Aaron, who was the head of the Braves farm team at the time.  By 1985, he was promoted to the big leagues by Braves manager Eddie Haas.

While Clarence Jones may not have had a long career in the MLB, he gave it his all in Japan and became one of the most successful foreign players in the NPB.

Japanese Baseball Card of the Day: Shigeo Nagashima’s retirement card (Epoch’s Shigeo Nagashima Memorial Treasures)

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Shigeo Nagashima, the legendary #3 and the third baseman who along with Sadaharu Oh, dominated the game of baseball as the one-two punch or better known in Japan as “On Hou”!

In 1958, his rookie year would have him leading the league in home runs (29) and RBIs (92) and also taking home the “Rookie of the Year Award”.

Nagashima would win the MVP Award five times, the Best Nine Award for 17 years straight and would become part of the Yomiuri Giants Dynasty that would win nine league championships from 1965-1973.

Nagashima would eventually retire as a player on October 14, 1974 and would become the coach of the Yomiuri Giants, with his best years being 1994, 1996 and 2000, in which they won the championship.  He would also be known for drafting Hideki Matsui (which both would receive the People’s Honour Award on May 5, 2013).

While I could have chosen many other cards in the wonderful and elegant Shigeo Nagashima Memorial Treasures cards from Epoch, the 1974 retirement speech and goodbye is one of the most memorable of Nagashima moments.

Here is a video of the retirement:

Japanese Baseball Card Pick of the Week – BBM 2013 – Historic Collection – Hideki Matsui

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My pick for Japanese Baseball Card of the Week goes to Hideki Matsui from the BBM Historic Collection 2013.

The 2013 Historic Collection celebrated the players with a certain number and in Japan, Matsui was known for his #55.  Which also represents the single-season home run record held by Sadaharu Oh.

While the card is nothing special in terms of rareness or being valuable, I selected the card primarily for bias as a fan.  He was one of my favorite players in the NPB and MLV and was always impressed how this right hander hit left-handed and threw right-handed.

Matsui played 10 years with the Yomiuri Giants (where he one the Central League’s MVP award three times) and played the next seven seasons with the New York Yankees (2003-2009), winning the World Series MVP for the Yankees in 2009.  Matsui also played for the Los Angeles Angels, Oakland Athletics and Tampa Bay Rays.

I will always remember when his team played at Koshien and the opposing team used the strategy of throwing five consecutive walks.  His team lost Koshien and drew a lot of attention of unsportsman like conduct on the opposing team, despite that team winning Koshien. But it will be a memorable game, especially fans showing their displeasure and throwing their megaphones out to the field in anger.

But being the stoic guy that he is (including his first grand slam with the New York Yankees, which was his first game at Yankee Stadium), he is not a complainer and takes things as they are.

He led the Yomiuri Giants to four Japan Series and winning the title in 1994, 2000 and 2002 and that final year, he had 50 home runs.

And yes, I still sport my Godzilla #55 Yankees jersey to this day!

Japanese Baseball Card of the Week: Yoshida Eri from the BBM Real Venus Cards 2013

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For this week, I’m going to go a different route and showcase a female baseball player.

And this week goes to Yoshida Eri (for those who found this page on a search engine, Yoshida is the family name, Eri is her first name and for this site, I go by the Japanese style of showcasing family names first).

Yoshida Eri plays for the Ishikawa Million Stars (for the Baseball Challenge League) and back in 2008, at the age of 16, was the first female drafted by a Japanese men’s professional baseball team.

She is also the first female professional baseball player in the U.S. since Ila Borders to play professionally in two countries, as she signed a contract with the Chico Outlaws in 2010.

She is also known for pitching a really cool sidearm knuckleball.

For those not familiar with BBM’s Real Venus Cards, they showcase a female athlete.  You get their profile photo, a player’s sport photo with them in action and a fashion photo of the player outside of the sport in normal or fashionable clothing.

Japanese Baseball Card Pick of the Week – BBM 2012 No-Hitters baseball card – Eiji Sawamura (沢村 栄治)

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One of my favorite BBM card releases was back in 2012 with the NO-HITTERS release.

The baseball cards were printed on  a thicker card stock and would feature classic photos of pitchers from long ago.

As Cy Young is recognized for his achievements in the United States and awards that go to the best pitcher each year for the National and American League since 1956.

In Japan, the equivalent would be the Sawamura Eiji Award (established in 1947) in which pitchers such as Kintetsu Buffaloes’ Nomo Hideo (1990), Yomiuri Giants’ Saito Masaki (1995-1996), Seibu Lions’ Matsuzaka Daisuke  (2001), Yomiuri Giants’ Uehara Koji (1999, 2002), Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters’ Yu Darvish (2007), Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles’ Tanaka Masahiro (2011, 2013), to name a few, have won.  And in Japan, only one pitcher can win that award.

But the man behind the award, Sawamura Eiji is a legend but also a pitcher who died way too early.

In 1934, a 17-year-old Sawamura faced MLB powerhouse sluggers Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Charlie Gehringer and struck out nine batters in five innings pitch, until Gehrig hit a home run in the seventh inning.

Sawamura would join the Yomiuri Giants in 1936 and pitched his first no-hitter on Sept. 25, 1936 and his second no-hitter would come in May 1, 1937 against the Hanshin Tigers, which is the card I have selected for this week’s card of the week.  That year, he was 33-10 and had a 1.38 ERA.  From 1937 through 1943, in 105 games pitched, he had 554 strikeouts and a 1.74 ERA.

As most players were enlisted in the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II, Sawamura was killed in the battle in 1947 near Yakushima when his ship was torpedoed.

Sawamura is still remembered today for his outstanding pitching and also each year with the Eiji Sawamura Award given to the best pitcher of that year in the NPB.

Japanese Baseball Card Pick of the Week – BBM Baystars 20th Anniversary autograph baseball card – Haru Toshio (波留 敏夫)

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My Japanese baseball card pick of the week goes to the authentic autographed baseball card of Haru Toshio (20/60) of the Yokohama Baystars as part of BBM’s Baystars 20th Anniversary Baseball Cards.

Haru is a former Nihon Professional Baseball stars and is currently a outfield, defense, base-running and hitting coach for the Chunichi Dragons, a job he served for the Yokohama DeNA Baystars from 2006-2013.

But he is best remembered for being part of the machine-gun offense of the Japan Series winning Yokohama Baystars of 1998, the team’s first championship since 1960 (second Japan Series win overall), back when the team was known as the Taiyo Whales.