Sunday, December 21, 2014

2002 Calbee: Tough Set, Nearing Completeion

 I picked up a large lot of about 500 Calbee cards on Yahoo Auction last week.  It was a mixed lot and I didn`t know what cards would be in it until they arrived (the photos were pretty grainy and the seller`s description was pretty vague). I kind of like buying cards that way, it builds anticipation in me that is similar to opening a wax pack.  Sometimes you get screwed with a bunch of damaged cards, but sometimes it pays off.

This one actually did pay off.  There was a pretty wide selection of cards, including about a dozen from the 1975-76 Calbee set which were alone probably worth almost as much as I paid for the whole lot.  The thing that got me most excited though was that about 100 of them were 2002 Calbees. 

I think the 2002 Calbee set is probably the most difficult to find out of the post-1998 Calbee sets.  Word on the street has it that the reason for this is Japan`s co-hosting of the World Cup that year with Korea, which diverted everyone`s attention away from baseball.  This resulted in Calbee printing way fewer baseball cards (and presumably way more soccer cards) that year, making the 2002 Calbees harder to find than most.

This story generally squares with my own experience in buying these lots, which almost never include any 2002 Calbee cards (the 1999 and 2000 sets on the other hand are usually over-represented, making me think they were printed in greater quantities.  Those were Ichiro`s last 2 years in Japan, which makes me wonder if his popularity transferred into greater baseball chip sales in those years, followed by a steep decline after his departure in 2001).

As somebody actively trying to complete most Calbee sets, my 2002 set up until now had been way less developed than any other set of the past 16 years, with only a few dozen cards mostly from the regular set.  With the additions from this big lot, I now suddenly find myself about 75% of the way to a complete regular set and well on my way with most of the subsets too.

The design of these cards is slightly different from most Calbee sets in that it has a 30th anniversary logo on the front, but otherwise they are about the same.  I think this must have been Hideki Matsui`s last Calbee baseball card before singing with the Yankees.
 The lot even included an un-used Challenge card from that year.  The 2002 set had a pretty sucky prize system, you had to collect and mail in two of these, which didn`t actually guarantee you a prize, but just put you in a draw for one of 3000 card binders they were giving out.  I much prefer it when Calbee gives special card sets as prizes rather than these stupid binders that don`t even have enough space for the whole set and generally look terrible (at least the recent ones).
 To commemorate the 30th anniverary of their baseball cards they issued a special memorial card subset whcih featured reprints of various cards from previous years.  I now have almost all of this set.  I have to say it is really really poorly designed, with just horrible looking beige or grey borders and a very uninspiring `Memorial Card` band along the bottom.  Do they really need to tell us in such big letters that this is, in fact, a memorial card?  Also I think the use of the word "memorial" is a bit misplaced, it sounds like the set is dedicated to players who have died in the past year or something.  Anyway, they did something similar in the 2012 set when they commemorated the 40th anniversary with reprints of cards from previous sets, but the subset from that year was much better, dispensing with the borders and just making a straight-up reprint of the cards. 
Anyway, thats my 2002 Calbee set so far, I`m down to about 30 cards for the regular set which I need. 

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Looking Back: 2000 BBM

 I moved to Japan for the first time in December of 1999 (15 years next month, how time flies).  That meant that my first encounter with Japanese baseball came in the 2000 season and, along with it, my first encounter with Japanese baseball cards in the form of the 2000 BBM regular set.

I spent that first year working as an English teacher in Akashi, a small city just outside of Kobe.  I knew absolutely nothing about Japanese baseball  - or Japan come to think of it - when I arrived.  But I was quickly schooled about two things: the Hanshin Tigers and Ichiro.

Ichiro was just enterering what would be his last year in NPB, playing for the Blue Wave at Green Stadium in Kobe.  Everyone in Akashi knew who he was, though it seemed nobody was an actual Blue Wave fan, everyone in Kansai cheering for the Tigers instead.  I got to take in a couple of Tigers games at Koshien that summer and one game at Green Stadium between the Blue Wave and Seibu Lions in what is likely to prove to be the only time in my life I will have seen Ichiro play in person (he went 1 for 4 in the game, I don`t remember who won though).

Having collected baseball cards in the late 1980s and early 1990s back home, I had a vaguely formed interest in Japanese baseball cards but knew nothing about them until one day I was wandering around near Sannomiya station in Kobe.  Back when the Blue Wave still existed they had a team-goods store in Sannomiya which I stumbled across by chance.  I wasn`t really interested in Blue Wave goods (like everyone else I had chosen to identify as a Tigers fan) but they did have a box of 2000 BBM packs for sale.  I picked one up for 200 yen and that was the beginning of my Japanese baseball card collection.  I vaguely remember having gotten a Bobby Rose league leader card and thinking that was pretty cool since he had a monster year in 1999, but other than that I don`t remember  the contents of that 10 card pack.

I provide this relatively lengthy piece of autobiographical reflection mainly just to establish that the 2000 BBM set has a special place in my heart since it was my first.  It was a fairly brief affair at the time as that one pack would turn out to be the only one I would buy that year.  Nonetheless, that set with its admittedly boring design holds a special place in my collection.  Which is why, last week, I splurged on Yahoo Auctions and bought a partial 2000 BBM set (480 cards, but some of them from the preview) in a nice binder with pages.

I normally don`t go for BBM sets, being a Calbee collector, but I made an exception in this case.  In retrospect its actually kind of annoying for me that I didn`t buy a bag of Calbee chips back in 2000 as my first baseball card purchase. At the time however it wouldn`t even have occurred to me to look for baseball cards in the chips section of my convenience store and the internet wasn`t exactly overflowing with useful information like that back then (and even if it had been, I didn`t own a computer). 

Anyway, the 2000 BBM set is pretty cool.  It has one of Ichiro`s last regular cards in it which is rather colorful:

And Leo Gomez, who I remembered from his days as a prospect for the Orioles in the early 1990s:

As a Canadian I was surprised to discover that year that former Toronto Blue Jay all star Tony Fernandez (who was my best friend`s favorite player back in high school) playing for Seibu in the same game that I saw Ichiro play in.  His 2000 BBM card is pretty boss:

And being BBM they  of course have to load the set up with a bunch of insert sets of varying levels of interest:

Included among which is the New Face set, where you can see which teams the Giants raided for their star players in a given year.  It is basically the same idea as a Traded or Update set, which makes me wonder why they thought it was worth turning into an insert set, but anyway....

In conclusion I now have a slightly over half-complete set of 2000 BBM which I have decided to add to my list of  "sets I am working on."  It is the only BBM set on that list, though I might add the 2002 set that I worked on but never finished back in the day.  The fruits of that endeavour are in a storage bin in my parent`s garage in Canada at the moment, I`ll have to retrieve them someday....

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Collecting 1984 Calbee

 As I mentioned in my previous post, 1984 Calbee has recently officially entered my list of vintage sets that I am trying to complete.

This was spurred by a Yahoo Auction purchase I made last week of a lot of 59 cards from the set.  I added these to the 60 cards I already had (in a piece of incredible luck the new cards were almost all ones I needed), meaning that I now have over 100 different cards.
 This is the third vintage Calbee set that I am actively trying to complete, with the 1987 Calbee (about 3/4 complete now) and the 1990 Calbee low numbers (about 1/2 complete) being the others.

The big difference between the 1984 set and the 1987 and 1990 ones is the difficulty of putting them together.  The latter are among the more do-able of the pre-1998 rare Calbee sets to complete, while the 1984 set is among the hardest.  The sheer size of the set - 715 cards - is daunting (the 1987 set has about half that and the 1990 low number series only 55).  Among these are a number of series which were only released regionally in limited quantities (detailed here) which account for about one quarter of the total and are incredibly expensive.  I don`t have any of those and might content myself with tracking down the easier to find ones first and, if I become independently wealthy in the future, might work on the rare block ones then.

There are some pretty cool cards in the set, which has a distinctive look to it.  I love this Reggie Smith with his hair overflowing from under that batting helmet.
 The final cards in the set are season highlights.  This one commemorates Koji Yamamoto`s 2,000th career hit.
I`ll be curious to see how far I get with this.  Where as the 1987 and 1990 sets I think I have realistic shots at completing within the next couple of years, the 1984 one might be more of a pipe dream.  Still though, I like this set quite a bit and hope I at least make the halfway mark or so.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Timely Purchase: a Couple of 1984 Calbee Randy Bass cards

With Hanshin having trounced the Giants 4 straight (yes!) and about to play in their first Japan Series in over a decade (interestingly also played against the Hawks), there has been a lot of talk about 1985, the last time they actually won it all.

I picked up a couple of cards of Randy Bass, the key player on that 1985 Tigers team, off of Yahoo Auctions that arrived today.  They are both from the 1984 Calbee set, which I am starting to make a more serious effort at putting together (more on that in another post). I kind of like these cards.  The one on the left, from the "big hat" part of the set, has a pensive looking Bass staring at the ground.  The one on the right, from the "little hat" part of the set, is kind of an awkward photo with his face mostly lost in shadow, but I love the pinstripes of the hat that the 84 Tigers wore.

I have a soft spot for the Tigers and Randy Bass is one of my all time favorite NPB players, so I am very tormented about who to root for in this series.  I have spent 4 years of my life living in Fukuoka as a Hawks fan and 5 years of my life living in Hyogo prefecture as a Tigers fan (plus 2 years living in Nagoya, my current city, as a Dragons fan).  It is very troubling because both teams have things that strongly attract me to them.  I only left Fukuoka in 2012 so this year's team still has a lot of the players I used to root for when living there - Matsuda, Uchikawa, Morifuku, Settsu, Honda and company.  On the other hand, I kind of fell in love with this Tigers team.  Going into that series everyone was saying the Giants would just walk over them easily, and seeing the Tigers turn the tables and make Kyojin look was immensely impressive. 

I will have to think long and hard about this before game time......

Monday, October 20, 2014

In the Mail this Week: 1995 Calbee Tokyo Snack Cards

 I got a small pile of 1995 Tokyo Snack cards in the mail yesterday.  These are an interesting set.  Tokyo Snack is actually a subsidiary of Calbee, which for a couple of years in the mid-90s was given the role of baseball card producer in the conglomerate.  If you want to split hairs you could make the argument that in 1995 and 1996 there weren`t any Calbee sets, since both of them came with the Tokyo Snack brand, which is the maker name printed on the back of the cards:
But since Tokyo Snack is a wholy-owned subsidiary of Calbee, I think collectors are correct to regard this as a Calbee set in all but name only.  As such it fits into an interesting period in Calbee card development.  The 1990s are actually an odd decade for Calbee.  In the 1970s all their sets (except for part of the 75-76 set with the pink borders) had a standard form - full bleed photo with the player name and team written in small letters on the front.  In the 1980s they reduced the size of the cards but, except for part of the 1984 set with the little hats on it, kept the same design pretty consistently throughout.  In the 2000s and 2010s, they have pretty much had the exact same design throughout with only minor modifications from year to year.

In other words, in each decade Calbee had one basic design philosphy and applied it almost uniformly to every set year after year. Except the 1990s.

If you look at Calbee sets from year to year in the 1990s you`ll notice that it is the only decade in which the design of the cards changed, sometimes radically, from year to year.  This gives Calbee cards from the 1990s a degree of uniqueness not found in other decades.

It is kind of interesting to speculate why this was so.  My guess would be that the introduction of serious competition from BBM from 1991 forced Calbee to respond and they experimented with a series of design changes in a trial and error process.  In 1998 they seem to have had that "Eureka!" moment since from that year on they have kept pretty much the same design.  

The 1995 set is one of the more interesting ones from this period.  The shape and size are the same as that used from the latter half of 1990 through the 1996 set, but the design, which is quite colorful and distinctive, was only used in this one set.  Though I generally prefer the full bleed design they usually use, I kind of like this set.  It looks very 1990s.

I got a half-dozen cards in this lot.  Prior to that I only had one card - one of the low number Ichiros.  I will add this to my list of "sets in progress that I will hopefully one day finish but probably not."  The high number cards in this set are notoriously hard to locate, having been sold in very limited quantities and containing a couple of quite expensive cards of Ichiro (who, incidentally, had his first regular Calbee card in this set, though he had been featured in a regional set in 1994).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Calbee Series 3 - Rarer than Other Series?

OK, so it is now mid-October.  The regular season is over and the first two rounds of championship series are also almost over (so glad that the Tigers beat the Giants in the CL series BTW).  And you know what has finally happened?  I have finally gotten my first bag of Calbee Series 3.

It seems almost every year this happens.  When Series 1 comes out in the spring, bags are available at almost every convenience store and grocery store I go to.  And, being so happy to see them after so many months and overflowing with excitement for the months of baseball ahead, I always jump in and buy them almost everyday.  My salt intake in the early months of the baseball season rises accordingly.

Then when series 2 comes out the occasion is marked by....most of those same stores continuing to sell bags of series 1.  It seems most of them prefer to burn through their inventory of the first series before moving on to the next.  Many of them don`t even bother, it seems that by the time they do sell off all their series 1 bags they decide to just move on and use the shelf space for some completely different snack.  So the number of stores selling Series 2 is always a bit less than the number that had been selling Series 1.

By the time Series 3 is released, the number of shops stocking them has shrunk to almost nothing.  Being released late in the season undoubtedly hurts it, as does the fact that those stores which bothered to stock series 2 still have bags of those to unload.

This year I have not seen a single bag of Calbee series 3 in any convenience store (and I go to a lot of convenience stores).  This is not unusual, the same thing happened last year.  The only places that seems to stock Calbee Series 3 are large scale retailers like AEON (which is where I finally bought my first bag).

This makes me wonder if Calbee Series 3 cards are rarer than cards from earlier series.  I have noticed when buying older Calbee series from the 2000s in large lots that the breakdown of cards on average is about 50% Series 1s, 40% Series 2s and 10% Series 3s - the drop-off once you get into the higher numbers is noticeable and for most of the sets that I am working on between 2002 and 2012, the biggest number of holes in my sets are in Series 3.

There is of course a historical comparison to be made with American Topps sets from the pre-1974 era when they issued them in series.  With only a couple of exceptions, for pretty much every Topps set from 1952 to 1973 the last series are considerably harder to find than the lower number series because fewer people were interested in buying cards towards the end of the season.  When Topps and other companies re-started issuing sets in series in the 1990s by then the hobby had gotten so sensitive to real or perceived scarcities they couldn`t issue one series in lower numbers than another without affecting the price, so they didn`t.

Its interesting that Calbee seems to be doing the same thing that Topps did way back in the old days....yet another little oddball thing that I like about Calbee.  Well, actually I kind of prefer it when the bags are available in convenience stores....

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Old Calbee Albums from the 70s and 80s

 Despite my lack of posts of late I have been picking up the odd thing or two here and there.  Among other purchases have been some Calbee cards from the 70s. I have about 60 Calbee cards from that decade now, almost all from the 75-76 set.  One thing which I like about having that many is that it has allowed me to finally fill up to a respectable degree my Calbee albums from the 70s. 

I have had those albums for a couple of years, I bought them at Mandarake in Fukuoka a while ago.  I am not sure but am guessing that these albums were availabe as mail-in giveaways back then like they are now.  The 1970s albums were a lot better though, I love the photography they use on the covers, rather than the sterile, generic look current ones have.

This is the photo on the inside flap of one from 1975:

Not a Nagashima fan, but that is a sweet photo.

I like the full bleed photos on Calbee cards, and the sets from the 70s has some of the best photography out there.  For some reason, and I`d be curious to know what the story is, part of the 75-76 set has a rather thick pink border, like these babies that were among my recent acquisitions:

The similiarity with the look of the 1975 Topps set is hard to miss, they even have the baseball in the lower right corner of the photo. I suspect somebody at Calbee must have decided to copy them as a template.   Anyway, these pink bordered ones include my only Japanese Davey Johnson card:
In the 1980s the albums took a turn for the worse. They made them a bit smaller (along with the cards themselves) and started using some generic baseball illustration on the front rather than actualy photos.
Worse still, they started using the same album design year after year rather than issuing unique ones.  Note that the two albums in the above photos are actually from different years.  The top one is from the 1987 Calbee (note the `87 on the front), but the bottom one is from 1988 Calbee.  The inside flaps are also almost identical, just a list of Japan series victors.  The only reason I know the bottom one is from the 1988 Calbee set is that it lists the victors up to the 1987 Series.

Anyway, just some random thoughts about Calbee albums.  

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Najima Baseball Stadium

It has been a relatively slow couple of months on this blog.  In part this is because my beloved Dragons fell completely out of contention in August, a fact that somewhat diminished my entusiasm for baseball card collecting.

Mainly though it was because one of my other hobbies, my model railway, had been taking up most of my time.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been building a Japanese baseball stadium made of baseball cards (and other odds and ends) for my train layout. Last week I finally finished getting the basic structure together. So I hereby introduce Najima Kyujo.

As you can see, it has a couple of train lines running around it:

 I vaguely had Koshien in mind when I started putting it together but it ended up looking nothing like that hallowed ground.  I named it after a town I used to live in which had a municipal baseball field called Najima.

There are about 50 baseball cards in there, most of the walls and the rooves are made of painted cards, mostly Score and Topps commons from the mid-90s that I had a pile of lying around.

 The exterior isn`t quite finished and there are a few details like the landscaping outside that need finishing but I`m pretty happy with how it turned out.  I also have to add more people to the stands (they are the only thing in the stadium that actually cost serious money)!  The scoreboard is a done deal though (it also features the only Japanese baseball card, the player photo is the back portrait photo from a 2013 Calbee card that I sacrificed for the project):

In the meantime I have actually picked up a few cards for non-building a model railroad stadium purposes, I will have to do a post or two about them sometime!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Putting some Worthless 90s Baseball Cards to a Useful Purpose

 The billions of baseball cards made in the late 1980s and 1990s are an odd, if not particularly pressing, problem facing society.  These things exist.  There are too many of them.  Nobody wants them.  We`re getting kind of sick of seeing them around, some of us to the point of actually trying to organize mass burnings of them

It is a problem we`ve faced for a while.  Even in the early 90s when these things were still being belched out of printing presses millions at a time we knew it was a problem.  We tried giving them to hospitals for sick kids to play with.  Turned out sick kids in the hospital didn`t want stacks of 1991 Donruss commons anymore than we did.

I can`t say that I`ve found a solution to this problem, but I have resolved to do my part - starting with a stack of 1997 Score cards that fell into my hands.  I have never really liked Score sets much. They were a bit innovative with their first set in 1988, being one of the first to put color photos on the back of their cards, but that was about it.  Bland designs were their forte.  Even during the worst Fleer and Donruss years (1988-1991) you could always count on Score to make a set that somehow looked worse (except maybe the 1990 one).

The 1997 set seems to have continued this tradition - massive white borders with the player and team name written in tiny, hard to read letters on the top and bottom.  I had drifted away from baseball cards in 1997 so I don`t remember this set from the year of its original release, but even if I had still been in the hobby that year I probably would have forgotten all about this set.  It is just so bland and generic and awful that its almost impossible to remember.

Anyway, enough about how bad Score cards are.  I need to divert the narrative of this post slightly in order to introduce a piece of minor biographical information about myself.  In addition to collecting baseball cards one of my other hobbies is model railroads.  I have been working on an N-scale layout of a Japanese city for a few years now, this is what it looks like:

The centrepiece of the layout (in name only, its actually on the left side rather than the centre) is a baseball stadium that I am slowly constructing entirely from scratch. If you have never built a 1:150 scale baseball stadium from scratch be forewarned: it is something you will likely need at least a year`s worth of weekends to make happen.  It doesn`t look like much, but this is what I have so far:
The stands on the third base side are the only part that is actually in a recognizable shape so far:

I have four main sources of building material for this project:

1) Matchsticks (for the bleacher seats)
2) Balsa wood (for the outfield and infield walls and some other bits)
3) Random leftover bits from other plastic model kits
4) 1997 Score baseball cards

This is a 1997 Score Jose Rosado that will be an external wall on the stadium.  1997 Score cards are pretty good at being walls, the gloss on them is lightly applied and takes a layer of model paint like a champ.
 This is what it looks like from the other side, which will be the external part.  Its got a little garage door on it, another thing that it turns out 1997 Score cards can have applied to them with relative ease.
 The roof over my third base bleachers is also made of parts of two 1997 Score cards.  one of them was Danny Tartabull, I forget who the other one was.  They work pretty well.  I think a Kevin Brown and Aaron Sele were used for the external wall on this section.
  Anyway, I am taking a fair amount of pleasure from this construction project, time consuming though it is.  Partly its because having a baseball stadium in my layout will put me in good stead with the Japanese model railroading crowd, but also because I know that in my own small way this project has contributed to a tiny thinning out of the rampant 1997 Score population in a productive way.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

The Odd Market for Tobacco Cards

 One of my side collections is pre-war tobacco cards.  I have quite a few sets, none of them baseball cards though.  I love the variety of subjects - ships, trains, historical figures, movie stars, airplanes and so on.  There are a ton of themes that appeal to me and the artwork on a lot of them is really impressive.

The other thing I like about them is how cheap they are.  For example, I just picked up a set issued by Wills called Historic Events off of Ebay.  It has 50 cards (mine in about vg-ex condition) featuring some epically beautiful scenes, like the capture of Gibraltar (pictured above) or Napoleon on the Bellerephon (the ship that carried him to captivity after Waterloo). 
 The rest are pretty cool too.  The set is over 100 years old, having been issued in 1913 (the last historic event it records was the funeral of Edward VII, 3 years earlier).
 The complete set, including shipping, cost me a grand total of $15 off of Ebay.

That is pretty crazy cheap and explains why I don`t collect baseball tobacco cards: they are ridiculously overpriced.  15$ won`t even get you a poor condition common from the T-206 set, which was issued about the same time and is equally common.

This is one of those odd things about baseball tobacco cards.  They straddle two hobbies with completely different markets.  Tobacco card collecting hasn`t gone through anywhere near the type of bubble that baseball cards have, so all of them except the ones featuring baseball players are incredibly cheap.  Even the cool ones featuring movie stars:
Or Merchant ships from the 1920s (also by Wills.  It is my personal favorite set from my collection, every single one of them looks majestic, a word I normally avoid using like the plague):
You can pretty much get the entire set for less than what a single common baseball player card goes for.

It is kind of an odd thing, given that as cultural icons baseball players don`t have much more command over our imaginations than most of the other subject featured on other tobacco card sets (with a few exceptions like the set entitled `garden hints`).  It can only be explained by the fact that baseball card collecting took off after the war while merchant ship card collecting didn`t.  So old baseball tobacco cards follow the baseball card market rules while everything else follows the much more sensible, and accessible, tobacco card market rules.  I much prefer the latter, despite being a massive baseball fan.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mystery Wally Yonamine Card

 I picked up this Wally Yonamine card off of Yahoo Auctions the other day and I`m a bit confused about what it is. 

Its the only Yonamine card I have.  As you can tell from the photo it is about the size of a 1980s Calbee mini card, with a black and white photo on the front.  The back is blank except for "Kyojin 3" and a blue kanji that I`m not sure how to read.
It is printed on pretty thin cardboard and other than that I have no idea what it is.  Anybody know?

Friday, July 25, 2014

New Project: 1990 Calbee

 I decided to take a leap into a new set last week and picked up a lot of 15 cards from the 1990 Calbee set on Yahoo Auction.  I have decided that, in addition to my ongoing 1987 Calbee set project, which is now about 3/4 complete, the 1990 Calbee set is going to be my next collecting goal.

I already had a handful of them that I had picked up individually at varying points, so I have 20 cards towards the set (plus, unfortunately, a few doubles already). That doesn`t sound like a lot, but considering that the set only has 55 cards in total (correction - 217 cards in total, of which the first series of mini cards has only 55 cards, thanks NPB Guy!), I am already more than 1/3 of the way there.

The 1990 set has sort of been in my crosshairs for a while.  The extremely small number of cards in the set - coupled with the lack of single prints - make it by far the easiest set of the mini sized card era to put together.

There are also a few interesting things that make it a unique set.  Except for some of the cards from the 1984 set its the only one from the 1981-1990 mini card era to actually have some design elements on it, with the boldly colored strip with the player and team name running along the bottom.  Whereas with most Calbees from the 1980s you have to check the backs to determine which year a card is from (and sometimes even then you won`t be sure), the 1990 set just screams out `1990!`

The fact that there are so few cards is also a bit of an intriguing mystery.  The 1989 Calbee set seems to be harder to find than most sets from the 1980s, which makes me think that sales were down that year.  Possibly Calbee decided as a result of that to cut down production for the 1990 set, which resulted in a much smaller set than usual.  Though there aren`t any short printed series in the 1990 set, singles are actually pretty hard to find, at any given time there are only a few available on Yahoo Auctions, usually for a high price.

Its kind of ironic, given that 1989 and 1990 were years in which overproduction of American cards was reaching its peak.  Also ironic given that 1991 would mark the introduciton of BBM and with it American style card sets. I wonder what made Calbee cards so unpopular in the 89-90 time frame.  Maybe the Giants weren`t doing well? 

Anyway, I`m now in full 1990 Calbee collecting mode and hope to add some more cards to it soon - it might turn into a race between the 1990 and 1987 sets to see which one I can complete first.  As usual with vintage cards I`m not going for it in mint condition, most of the cards would be in vg-ex shape, with only a few in the exmt/nrmt range.

Friday, July 18, 2014

All Star game Luna-cy

The all star game weekend is here.  Yay.  I watched 8 innings of the Central league beating the tar out of the Pacific League last night.  Then I was surprised to discover that even for the All Star Game the Metere TV network sticks to its rigid requirement that all baseball games games must end at exactly 8:53PM in order to make way for the putrid garbage that they have scheduled to begin at 9PM (with a lovely 7 minute commercial break in between the two), which mostly consists of a random gaggle of talentos eating food provided by various sponsors and saying `oishiii` a lot.

If you think American TV is bad, Japanese TV is a million times worse.

Anyway, I have another gripe to make in this post.  In the photo at the top of this post are the 2014 Calbee cards of two players.  These are two extremely different players.

One of them is the Central league`s top batter, hitting .339, and is also among the top ten in home runs and RBIs.  Not sure what his WAR is but its probably pretty high.  He could concievably end up with a triple-crown type season.  He is far and away the best player on the Dragons and arguably the most feared batter in the Central League.

The other player is hitting a paltry .170 and, by any reasonable interpretation, has no business playing as a starter on even a minor league team.  His low batting average is not compensated by home runs as he hasn`t hit a single one all season.  He strikes out a lot and having him play is a bit like having pitchers taking up two spots in the lineup.  He is coming off a season in which he hit .216 and should have retired as a player a couple of years ago.

One of these guys is playing in the All Star game while the other is not.  Guess which?

If you chose the latter, Motonobu Tanishige, then you are correct.  Hector Luna, the league`s leading hitter, is taking the weekend off.

This just makes me mad.  I appreciate that the two play different positions (third base and catcher) so it isn`t that Tanishige was chosen over Luna.  I also appreciate that All Star ballotting is often about sentimental choices rather than actual performance (clearly the case here) but still, this is ridiculous. 

Robert Whiting in his book You Gotta Have Wa has a bit devoted to legendarily unjust cases of foreign players getting snubbed from the All Star game and I think Hector Luna is another name that needs to get added to that list.  Living in Nagoya I`ve been watching the Dragons play almost everyday and the one consistent thing that can be said is that Luna has been their best player (although Oshima, Wada and Morino are also having good seasons) while Tanishige has just been by far the worst player on the team.  And yet it is the latter who is representing the Dragons in the All Star game.  This just makes me mad.  And, having a blog, I thought I should draw some attention to that fact. 

Hector Luna: you deserve to be on this All Star team!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

More TV screen grabs on Calbee Cards

NPB Card Guy and I have been trading posts recently about 80s Calbee cards that used pictures of TV broadcasts on them.  Originally he noted that the Japanese Wikipedia article about Calbee had stated that the 1988 set had used them, but as he mentioned in his most recent post (linked above), the 1987 Calbee set seems to have some too.

On looking through my 1987s I found some that looked like contenders too.  The gold bordered cards featuring nice plays (like the one pictured at the top of this post) seem to have a lot of them.  This regular card of Nippon Ham`s Tsuno also seems a bit fishy (its pretty blurry)

I find this laziness a bit of an odd anomily in Calbee history.  Even the early sets from the 1970s generally had great in action photography that put most contemporary American cards from the Topps sets to shame.  Even the 1987 and 1988 sets have a lot of great photography, like my favorite ever Warren Cromartie card (from the 87 set), and yet somehow these horrible looking pictures managed to find their way in. Go figure.  At least it makes for an interesting piece of card history!