Friday, August 17, 2018

Cool Card: 1973 Calbee Sadaharu Oh (143)

In my previous post I complained a bit about how monotonous Calbee's photography is these days.  I've been going through my old cards from the 70s when Calbee photography was anything but, and thought I would do a few posts highlighting some of the gems.

The first (in no particular order) is this one, #143 from the 1973 set of Sadaharu Oh.  I like the fact that:

1) it shows him on the "agony of defeat" side of things for a change, his flamingo swing having twisted him around so bad after missing the ball that his helmet went flying.

2) horizontal cards are a nice variation on the vertical every now and then!

3) They cropped the photo so as to keep the catcher, ball that Oh missed clearly visible in his hand, in the shot. Not too sure but I think it must be Koichi Tabuchi, who appears on a huge number of cards of other players from the 1970s since he was the Tigers catcher and they took a lot of shots during Tigers games.

4) The packed stands of faces in decent focus watching Oh twist is a nice backdrop.

5) The yellowed color of everything in the photo makes it feel very 1973 to me for some reason.

6) Unlike most Calbee cards from the 1970s this one actually is close to a "regular" card of Oh rather than from some topical subset - the back features a lot of biographical information and no text.  Oddly it doesn't include any statistics, but it does tell you that he weighs 79 kg.

This photo would almost certainly never have appeared in the 2018 set and not just because it was taken 45 years ago, but because it was chosen by someone with a bit of imagination, which is no longer allowed in baseball card photo selection in Japan (judging by recent standards, alluded to in the previous post).

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

The Problem with Calbee: 2018 Series 2 is here! And has the worst photo selection Ever

Series 2 of this year's Calbee set was released a little while ago and as with Series 1 I decided to put the set together all in one go from a re-seller on Yahoo Auctions.

I got them in the mail on Monday and.....much though I love Calbee I have to say that I'm not impressed.  Something has been bothering me about Calbee cards for a while now and I had a tough time putting my finger on it until yesterday when flipping through them I realized the problem: consistently unimaginative photo selection.

The photographs in this year's set are the most abysmally predictable ever (I think, they seem to have been doing this for a while now).  I flipped through the entire set of regular cards and realized that the photograph selection progress is entirely governed by three rules which just make this set frustratingly boring.

Rule #1:  All position players are to be shot at home plate in some stage of a swing.
The above are all the position players from the Hawks in the set.  Everyone of them is photographed taking a swing, all of them in the exact same location - that same damn pink sign is visible in the background of all of them.

This is repeated throughout every single team - they are all pictured taking swings, all of them in the exact same spot, with the exact same background.  There is not a single picture of  a position player actually playing the field at his position (except for covered by Rule #2 below).  Or running the bases.  Or in the dugout, or anything else.  Its insanely monotonous to flip through these horrible cards.

Rule #2: The only Exception to Rule #1 is for catchers.
For some reason catchers are allowed to appear at their position in their catching gear.  They are the only position player so honored, though only five of them get that treatment, the rest being pictured in generic swing pictures.

Rule #3: Every pitcher is to be shot at some point in their windup.

Batters have to be batting, so I guess they decided pitchers also always have to be shown pitching.  This again however creates a uniformity of backgrounds that makes the cards boring and monotonous to flip through - all the Nippon Ham Fighters pitchers have that same boring green wall in the Sapporo Dome and bit of artificial turf as the backdrop, all the Buffaloes pitchers have the same....boring blue wall in the Osaka Dome as the backdrop, etc etc.

There are no pictures of pitchers doing anything other than being at some point in their wind up - nobody fielding a ground ball, nobody running over to cover first, nobody batting or running the bases or even just posing....its so insanely boring.

Of the seventy base cards in the set there is only ONE which does not slavishly follow these three rules.  It is this card of Takahiro Norimoto celebrating his 1000 strikeout:

Its stands out so much from the other cards in the set that it is refreshing to look at and see....something other than the dugout or bottom of a boring outfield wall as a background.

This photographic laziness is frustrating given the awesome backdrops that they could work with at places like Koshien or Hiroshima's Mazda Stadium.  Its also frustrating given how quirky and awesome photography on Calbee cards used to be, even in the era where they sometimes resorted to taking stills off of TV screens to fill in their needs.

I wonder what the cause of this is.  One thing I notice is that all Calbee photographs are taken either of a player at home plate or on the mound, both of which can be taken from a single location near the dugout.  This suggests either extreme laziness or perhaps the teams have started limiting the access of Calbee photographers to just taking pics from one spot, though I could not imagine why that would be the case. Even if true this also doesn't really explain why they couldn't just take a few pics of guys fielding balls or running the bases to mix things up a bit, as such shots could easily be obtained from the same location.

Whatever the reason, I am quite disappointed.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

This Week in Crime Cards: Takahiro Kakizawa

I've decided to take my earlier post on recent upskirt voyeur Koji Yamawaki a kind of series - featuring cards of players who have recently been caught committing crimes.

This week's entry is (now former) Giants 2 gun outfielder Takahiro Kakizawa, who was released over the weekend after it was discovered that he had committed 110 acts of theft against his fellow Giants team mates.  

It seems Kakizawa had started a side gig which involved stealing gloves, bats and other things from Giants players and selling them to a couple of stores in Tokyo, netting about a million Yen.

The scam was busted up when Giants players started noticing their stuff appearing for sale on line, and someone had a look at the security camera footage and found Kakizawa hauling said stuff out of the locker room.

Kakizawa was drafted by the Eagles and traded to the Giants in 2016, though it should be noted he has never played (and now never will play) a game at the Ichi gun level.  Apparently he needed the money to pay off some debts, which I guess would explain the extraordinary stupidity of ruining a career for, relative to the potential earnings from even just playing part  of a single season at the Ichi Gun level, a crime with such a low payoff.

I don't own the card at the top of this post, put out by BBM in 2013 (the image is from an online auction) and I don't think Kakizawa has many.  I should also mention that his cards may not fall perfectly into the crime committing subset genre depending on how you define it.  Theft is definitely a crime, but the article doesn't actually say he was arrested, merely that he was fired after the Giants own investigation.  Whether he faces criminal charges is a separate issue that doesn't seem to have been decided yet!  Given the pathetic nature of the crime and the fact that his career is over at such a young age I would be inclined to say he has already been adequately punished.

Monday, June 25, 2018

My New Favorite Thing: Yamakatsu Blue Train Full Box!

 I was browsing around Yahoo Auctions last week looking for Yamakatsu baseball cards when suddenly something I had never seen before showed up in the list - a full box of Yamakatsu Blue Train cards.  In addition to baseball I am a huge train fan and I just love it when something has interdisciplinary appeal across my various hobby interests so I put a bid in and won.

"Blue Train" is a generic name that describes all long distance sleeper trains in Japan, whose cars are blue (though sometimes the engines that pull them are not).  They used to be extremely common sites, even as recently as the late 90s when I first arrived in Japan.  The spread of the Shinkansen network to almost every corner of the main islands from Kyushu to Hokkaido has basically made them redundant and the last one, the Hokutosei, retired in 2015 to much bittersweet fanfare.
 The box is great, it shows a picture of the "Fujii" - each blue train has its name and distinctive logo on the plaque on the front of the engine.  Inside the box you find right on top you find a mini album which would have been given out to recipients of atari cards.  The one I got features the Hayabusa, which looks similar to the one on the cover of the box but is actually a completely different train.

Two other recipients of atari cards would get these beauties, erasers shaped like Blue Train engines.
 The packs are wrapped in paper, very similar to the 1980 Yamakatsu baseball packs I have, and are stapled shut at the top.  The box contains 30 packs with 2 cards each, which retailed for 20 Yen back in the day.  I'm not sure what year the set was released in but I am guessing late 1970s.  The cards are small size, about the same as 1980s era Calbee baseball cards (or 1950 Bowman baseball cards for American collectors). The packs with atari cards in them are wrapped in plastic so the store owner could know which ones they were.
 I decided to open a pack.  These would be extremely easy for unscrupulous collectors to search through if there were any valuable single cards to chase, since the staples can be easily pried off the pack without damaging it and then resealed.  Not that I plan on doing that, but I wanted to keep the pack looking nice.
 Inside, there they are, about to see daylight for the first time in their 40 years or so of existence.
 Score!!!  I got the Myoujou (the red engine) and the Suisei!
 The backs of the cards show you the train's logo that appears on its engine, how far it travels (967.4 km and 965.9 km respectively), how long it takes (16:23, 15:43) and its average speed (59.3 kmph, 65.6 kmph).

It doesn't actually tell you where the train went from, but a little research reveals that the Myoujou went from Osaka to Kagoshima until the line was discontinued in 2008 (shortly before the Kyushu Shinkansen was introduced).  The Suisei went from Kyoto to Miyazaki and was discontinued in 2005 (ridership having fallen from 93% in 1989 to a mere 30% in 2004 - quite the rapid decline).

I'm not too sure how big the set is or how close I am likely to get by opening the box, but I am quite motivated to find out more.  The Japanese language internet doesn't turn up much information on them, save for this blog entry by someone who, like me, just bought a box and was quite excited by them!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Upskirt Photo Taker Card of the Week: Yamawaki Koji

This is kind of a random thing.  Koji Yamawaki was a utility infielder for the Hanshin Tigers in the late 80s-early 90s.  His claim to fame is that he had all of 5 at bats during the 1985 season (getting 2 hits for a .400 average) and thus merited an appearance on this commemorative card honoring the Tigers' championship that year.  He never played a full season, though did appear in about half of the Tigers games in 1990.  He retired after the 1993 season and became a scout for the Tigers, a job he held until Tuesday this week.

On Tuesday he was in Sendai casually riding an escalator behind a 25 year old woman wearing a short skirt.  He then pulled out his phone and started trying to take pictures up said skirt.  The plan apparently worked well until she turned around, saw what he was doing, yelled at him and then a passerby subdued him until police arrived.

"I was simply trying to take a photo from behind her" Yamawaki told police, who were unconvinced and placed him under arrest.

I just read this news and became curious if Yamawaki had any cards, but I wasn't able to find him in any of my Calbee sets.  He had a regular card in the 1991 BBM set, but most of the other cards I could find of him via Google searches were commemorative cards like the above produced well after his retirement (funny how utility infielders appear on so many commemorative cards, I guess its a revenue stream for them).

So if anyone is working on a "guys who have been arrested" themed collection (for whatever reason....) you can add Koji Yamawaki to your want list.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Sadaharu Oh's Mirror

One of the more interesting cards from the 1974 Calbee set is this one (#405) which shows Sadaharu Oh practicing his swing before a game in front of a mirror.

According to the back of the card, when Oh switched to using his famous one legged batting stance on July 1, 1962, Shigeo Nagashima expressed doubt as to whether he could hit using it.  But it notes that Oh persevered and (of course) developed it well (it uses a metaphor about blooming flowers that sounds pretty hackneyed when translated into English so I'll just leave it at that).

Anyway, its one of those cool cards that shows an element of Oh's legendary attention to detail in his swing.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Sachio Kinugasa Rarities: 1975-76 Calbee Hiroshima Regional Issue

As I mentioned last week I am seriously pursuing the monster 1975-76 Calbee set as an active collecting project.  To prove my determination I present my latest pickups: Sachio Kinugasa cards #146 and 180 from the set.

These only get me 2 cards closer to the 1472 in the set, but these are important ones as they are both from the rare series that runs from card #145-180 which were only distributed in Hiroshima and (along with the other Hiroshima and Nagoya only regional issues) are the hardest to find and most expensive in the set.
The card designs are the same as the rest of the set.  Each card features a scene from a specific game in which the Carp defended their lead in the Central League (which is the theme of the series).  Card 146 features a game played on August 26, 1975 in which Hiroshima defeated Yakult 3-2, interestingly played at Okayama Kyujo, which is home to neither team.  Japanese teams often play a few games each year in local stadiums in their region which don't have their own teams and Okayama is right next to Hiroshima so this must have been one of Hiroshima's local series (hence Kinugasa in home uniform).  The image itself was taken during pre-game fielding practice.

Card 180 features a game played on September 13, 1975 in which the Carp defeated the Giants 7-1 at Hiroshima.  The card back also tells us that Kinugasa is one of the Carp's sluggers along with Kouji Yamamoto and that his dynamic running style is impressive to spectators.

This is the sort of hyper-detailed card - commemorating individual games - that goes along with a 1472 card set!