Monday, January 14, 2019

Getting so close on the 1987 Calbees

2019 is off to a strong start in terms of progress on completing my vintage Calbee sets.  I wish I had thought to make that a new years resolution when I had the chance.

I picked up three more cards for my 1987 Calbee set, the first that I have scored since last May.  This leaves me with just 15 cards to go out of 382 in the set.  Tantalizingly close!!
These were pretty decent ones, including Hall of Famers Sachio Kinugasa and Kimiyasu Kudoh.  I particularly like the Kudoh card, that all blue Seibu road uniform looks pretty awesome, I wish teams still did that (my beloved Expos home uniforms did the same in the 80s).

The card on the right (367) is of Kaname Yashiki and commemorates his leading the league in stolen bases (for the second time in a row as the back of the card says).  That card has been in my crosshairs for a long time as it was the last of the gold-bordered cards (which feature league leaders and award winners) that I needed.

So my updated wantlist for the 1987 Calbee set is now:


So close....yet so far.  I've been in the "home stretch" on this set for about 3 years now, as the last few cards are always the hardest to find.  Maybe this year I'll get these?  We'll see!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

1975-76 Calbee Progress: Sadaharu Oh Japan Series Card

Over the past few weeks I've made a bit more progress towards completing my monster 1975 - 1976 Calbee set.  The above card, #1261, arrived in the mail yesterday from a Yahoo Auctions seller.  It was one of four that I bought to fill in checklist needs, but I think it is the highlight.

The card is one from the series that covers the highlights of the 1976 Japan Series. Think about that for a second, a card set featuring highlights of the 1976 Japan series released in....1976!  That is almost real time.  Its another cool thing about Calbee cards from the 70s, Topps World Series cards always featured the previous year's Series.  This sort of both highlights how good Calbee was at churning out cards in a timely manner and how lazy Topps was.

As the text on the back of the card notes, the 76 Series was an unusually exciting one.  The Hankyu Braves won the first three games straight and looked like they were cruising to victory.  But then the Giants fought back and won three straight of their own to tie the series.  They then.....lost game 7 and the Braves took the series.  In keeping with the heavy bias towards the Giants that permeates the Japanese baseball world, the text on this card says nothing congratulatory about the Braves performance and merely assures readers that Nagashima will manage his best to try to win next year.

The photo on the front of the card is what I really like though.  Sadaharu Oh about to swing at a pitch.  The angle from which the picture is taken is interesting, you almost never see baseball card photos taken from behind the umpire like that.  You almost never see dirt infields like that anymore either.

I'm a bit curious about the Braves pitcher, who is not mentioned on the card back.  He is obviously a side-arm thrower which makes me think he must be Hisashi Yamada, the Braves ace (and Hall of Famer) who threw side arm and appeared in the Series.  But every picture I've seen of Yamada shows him wearing uniform #17, while the pitcher in this photo is wearing #18.  So I am not sure who that is up there.

Its kind of cool though, a batter with an unusual stance facing a pitcher with an unusual windup, all captured in one photo.

I hope to have a few more posts about cards from this set in the coming weeks, I'm making a concerted effort to plug holes in my want list!

Monday, January 7, 2019

2000 Calbee Gold Signature Parrallels

The 2000 Calbee set seems to be one of the easiest Calbee sets to put together.  I'm not sure why, but Calbee cards from that year seem to have been produced in higher quantities than other years and you can find big piles of them on Yahoo Auctions for pretty cheap.  This was also the last year that Ichiro appeared in a Calbee set, which probably stoked a lot of interest in it as he was rumored to be going to the majors, which might explain why so many were purchased back in the day.

Due to its easy availability this was also one of the first Calbee sets I was able to complete, basically through bulk purchases of lots.  Among my piles I have a few with gold signatures printed on the front, like Tony Fernandez and Shinya Miyamoto in the above picture.

I assumed these were insert cards, but I'm not totally sure as they seem to have also been issued in sets as mail in prizes.  They might have been both?  Sports Card Magazine doesn't mention them in their 2000 Calbee listing, and the usually thorough Calbee Collector also doesn't mention them in his write up about 2000 Calbee.  Looking at Yahoo Auction listings it seems Calbee issued similar parallels for the 1998 and 1999 sets as well.  Google searches just get me a gaggle of ads for irrelevant Calbee stuff.

Anyway, if these were just given out as mail in prizes....that is pretty awesome.  But I also kind of wonder how I came to have several random singles mixed in with the lots I have purchased over the years.....

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Why is Yahoo Auctions Japan so Lazy?

My first post of the new year and I'm using it to complain about a really minor but extremely irritating point!

The above grainy photo of my computer screen says it all.  This is the category list for all Calbee single cards available on Yahoo Auctions Japan.  I hate it so much because for some reason from 2002 to 2013 they divide the listings year by year, which is great.  Looking for a 2007 Calbee single?  No problem, they have a category for that.

Then for some reason in 2014 I guess they found making a new category each year was getting too tedious - I mean, god they must have to push at least 3 or 4 buttons to do that once every 12 months - and so they decided to just put everything after 2014 in the 2014 category.  They don't just do this with the Calbee cards but also with BBM and others.  It drives me nuts.

This is making a mockery of the whole system.  They average about 1,000 listings or so for each year from 2002 to 2013.  But the accumulation of 5 years worth of stuff has driven the 2014 category to 12, 268 listings which is just way too many to conveniently navigate.  It has become a pain in the neck to me since I have to search through that stupid oversized category every few months when a new Calbee series is released and I want to find lots or complete sets but have to wade through 5 times more stuff than I should need to.

My only consolation is that I am not a BBM collector - the 2014 category for them has bloated to 53,657 listings you'd have to manually go through to find anything issued in the last 5 years.

This is definitely a spoiled first world person problem, but it irritates me because the laziness is just left there for everyone to see.  They could have just hidden this decision to no longer list everything by year by creating a decade category.   But instead they left the old individual year categories up almost as if to remind you that they used to put some effort into organizing their listings but no longer deign to do you that favor, peasant card collectors.

Also, looking at the pre-2002 listings is pretty frustratingly inconsistent too.  For the 1970s and 1990s you can browse listings organized by year too, which is lovely.  They even created individual year categories for the 1970, 1971 and 1972 Calbee sets which don't even exist (yet the actually have some listings!!). But for the 1980s you can't, they just have a single 1980-1989 category for those years.  And for 2000 and 2001?  For reasons that I can't understand, they have a single 2000-2001 category for just those two years.

Anyway, happy new year to everyone except those responsible for organizing the baseball card listings on Yahoo Auctions!

Monday, November 12, 2018

OMFG Don Mattingly is here! And I can't see him!

Don Mattingly was my favorite player when I was a kid in the late 80s/early 90s.  This is an understatement.  He was like a god to me.  My walls were covered with Mattingly posters and cards, my whole room circa 1989 was like a shrine to the man.  It was infectious.  I even became a devoted Magnum P.I. fan because Tom Selleck had a very Mattingly-like moustache.  That's how much I liked Mattingly.

But I never got to see him play live.  I watched Yankees games on TV all the time (even though as a Canadian my favorite team since I was 4 years old was the Expos) but that was as close as I got.

The year he retired (1995) was also the year that I graduated from High School and by then I wasn't into baseball cards anymore and, though I still followed the game and Mattingly, he had been reduced to something approaching mortal in my pantheon (largely replaced by a spiritual void that most former Mattingly fans carry to this day).  

23 years later I'm on the other side of the Earth in a city, Nagoya, that nobody in their right mind ever comes to and I realize while reading the news about the 2018 MLB All Star tour of Japan something that blows me away:  The great one is COMING TO NAGOYA TOMORROW!

I hadn't really been paying much attention to the tour, but Mattingly is the manager of the team and tomorrow they are playing at the Nagoya Dome.  The Dome is just a couple of kilometres from where I am sitting right now as I type this.  I pass near it on my way to and from work everyday. Tomorrow, my former idol is going to be in that really ugly building that I mostly ignore as I ride past it.

My brain isn't really capable of processing this information right now.  I can't go to the game - no tickets and no time (got a baby at home and ton of work to do....) and I just feel like I'm missing something that was meant to happen.  I mean, how often are Don Mattingly and I going to be in Nagoya at the same time together?  Like except for the next couple of days, never.  Its weird.  I'm a grown up adult but the fact that this guy I thought was a god 30 years ago is going to be in the same city as I am has me thinking like an 11 year old again.  I mean:  Holy crap, Don Mattingly is going to be breathing the same polluted Nagoya air that I am for the next two days!  I can't go see him, but I'll take that any day!

Nobody else in the world could actually get me excited about simply being in the same city at the same time as I am but Mattingly.  And really I don't know anything about the guy except that he was a really good first basemen for about 6 years, and he was in a particularly good episode of the Simpsons.  OK, even that isn't true.  I have retained a TON of Don Mattingly trivia in my stupid head that I learned as a kid (like he used to own a restaurant called "Mattingly's 23"), but none of it really tells me anything of substance about what kind of person he is.  But who says you have to be rational about your favorite player when you were a kid? It is f'in Don Mattingly I am talking about!

Sorry, this post is a rambling mess.  I can't think straight. Don Mattingly is here!!!  Probably some other guys too but who cares about them?  DON MATTINGLY IS HERE IN NAGOYA!  Whoa!!

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Collecting the 1986 Calbee Set

 I have been so obsessed over the past couple of years with trying to finish my 1987 Calbee set (92% of the way there!!) that it kind of escaped my attention that I am also closing in on that set's predecessor: 1986 Calbee.  So I thought I would do a little post on how that project is going since I have started to really get earnest about knocking this one off the wantlist and I might even complete it before I finish the 87s.

From the Calbee mini card era of the 1980s, the 1986 set is probably the easiest to complete (unless you count the 55 card first series of 1990 Calbee as a set on its own).  At 250 cards it is significantly smaller than the 1985 set (465 cards) or the 1987 set (382 cards) that flank it in the Calbee catalogue. It is also super helpful that, unlike those sets, the 1986 set does not have any short printed series, so all the cards are about equally as hard (or easy) to find.

Design wise the set is basically the same as all the others from the 80s and not much need be said about that.  The set is sort of notable for having one of the earliest hot rookie cards in the Japanese hobby, featuring the rookie card of Kazuhiro Kiyohara.  Sports Card Magazine identifies card 81 in the set as his official rookie, but he actually has several regular cards in the set, this one is #97:
 There is a really interesting parallel between the Kiyohara rookie and the other hot rookie card of 1986, Jose Canseco.  I remember when Canseco's 86 Donruss reached a high water mark of 100$ in Beckett and was probably the most popular card in the hobby around 1990 or so.  Kiyohara's rookie card reached a similar peak (8000 Yen).

Canseco of course had his career sidelined by injury and his well known use of performance enhancing drugs.  Despite putting up impressive career numbers (462 home runs, 1 ball bounced off of head to give opposing team home run) these kept him out of the hall of fame and he is basically an outcast in the baseball world today, a perennial weirdo who is probably just as well known for not being able to beat Danny Bonaduce in a celebrity boxing match as he is for being baseball's first 40/40 man.

Kiyohara is something close to a Japanese equivalent of Canseco.  Like Canseco Kiyohara was a power hitting superstar in the late 80s - 90s who had a mix of injuries and drug problems sideline him in the latter half of his career.  And despite finishing with even more impressive numbers than Canseco - being a member of both the 500 home run and 2000 hit clubs - he hasn't been inducted into the Japanese baseball hall of fame and may never be.  In 2016 he made headlines by being arrested and convicted of drug possession.  Since that he has basically been shunned by the baseball world, even having his high school bat removed from an exhibit covering the history of the Koshien tournament.

So the 1986 Calbee Kiyohara rookie is about as prized today as a 1986 Donruss Canseco - kind of a neat throwback card but not one anybody pays serious money for anymore.  Which is a big win for those of us putting this set together on a budget!!!

As with any set from the mid-late 80s, my favorite cards are always those of Randy Bass in one of those awesome 80s Tigers batting helmets!!!

My set is actually quite well along, I have 180 out of the 250 cards, which leaves me just 70 to go.  I added a few of those last week and am scouring Yahoo Auctions to get some more to scratch off my checklist!

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Fun Fact: The B-52s video for Roam has Sumo Menko in it!

Quick post with a fun fact that I just randomly discovered: the video for the hit song "Roam" by the B-52s has sumo menko in it.

I absolutely love that song and remember it getting heavy airplay when I was a teenager in the early 1990s.  I hadn't seen the video in decades and was just watching it when I noticed a bunch of sumo menko in the background which I thought was really neat.  They appear really prominently from 2:39 in the video when 8 of them are in a kind of artistic background arrangement while Fred Schneider dances in front of them.  They also appear a bit later in the video among a bunch of other random stuff.

I'm not sure who the wrestlers are that are depicted, maybe SumoMenkoMan might be able to identify them?

Even if you aren't a sumo fan, its worth checking it out because you can never get enough of Roam.