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!

Friday, July 4, 2014

2014 Calbee Series 2 Spotted in the Wild!

 This week shops across Nagoya finally started to stock series 2 bags of Calbee yakyu chips.  They were released officially last month but most stores seem to prefer to burn through their stock of series 1 bags before they put series 2 out (and some still don`t stock them at all).  I found my first bag at a convenience store on Thursday and yesterday I picked up the above bag, my second, at a Max Value grocery store.

I got two regular cards, Tanaka of the Swallows and Ohtani of the Fighters.  Not the most exciting pulls but they both have the advantage of being cards that I need!
 I like the green colored bags they are using for series 2, the white bags they used in series 1 weren`t quite as appealing (and I think it might have been the first time they had done that, Calbee bags are almost always either green, red or orange for some reason). 

They have the same lucky card promotion in Series 2.  I opened a ton of packs of series 1 and did not pull a single lucky card so they seem to be pretty hard to find, I`m hoping that I have better luck with series 2.  If you send one in they will send you a card holder (yawn) and two special cards (want).  According to the bag the special cards are some sort of hologram that changes as you alter the angle at which you are looking at it.  This is another thing I like about Calbee - this is the sort of thing that would have been really neat back in about 1990 when hologram cards were a novelty that needed detailed explanation that takes up half the cover of your product, but in 2014 it just seems kind of quaint.
According to the back of the bag, the series 2 Special cards are of Sho Nakata of Nippon Ham and Shinnosuke Abe from Kyoujin.  Neither are players that I particularly like but I do hope I get one of these lucky cards this series!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Extreme Close Up: 1987 Calbee Komatsu

In the past few months I have come to really appreciate how bizarre and awful (but in kind of an interesting way) the photography on Calbee cards from the 80s are.  I was flipping through my 1987 nearing-complete set the other day and noticed this card of Komatsu, who played for the Dragons.  This card must hold the record for the closest close-up photo of a player on a baseball card.

I mean, this takes it to ridiculous levels - they even cropped his entire chin out of the photo!  Most of his ears and hat are gone too.

I wonder why they chose this photo.  My guess is it was the only even remotely usable photo they had of him, but there may have been something they needed to crop out of the photo (maybe some 1989 Fleer Billy Ripken type shenanigans, if I dare speculate?).  But for some reason in cropping it they found the only way to get the offending material completely out was to also take almost all of him out of the photo with it.

It actually looks kind a modern day selfie taken with a cell phone camera. And there are good reasons why we don`t use selfies on baseball cards, as I`m sure we all know.