Wednesday, April 3, 2019

More Menko! 1948 JRM 26 Pinwheels

I thought I'd take a break from posts about what I found in my parents' house and return to the normally scheduled Japanese baseball card content of this blog.

In addition to my beloved Calbee and Yamakatsu cards from the 70s and 80s another hobby area I've been exploring lately are post-war menko cards.  They are just so colorful and simple that it is hard not to love them.

These three are from the set catalogued as JRM 26 "Pinwheels" issued in 1948.  Its a pretty good lot in terms of player selection, you've got:

Michio Nishizawa: Kind of an early Japanese version of Shohei Ohtani (or Babe Ruth), he excelled as a pitcher - compiling a 2.23 career ERA, winning 20 games in 1939 and pitching a no hitter in 1942.  Injuries he suffered during the war forced him to give up pitching, but he came back after the war as a position player and became one of the league's best hitters, belting a (then record) 46 home runs in 1950 and winning the batting and RBI titles in 1952. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1977.

Masayasu Kanada: He played 15 seasons between 1942 and 1957, all for the Tigers.  He won the batting title in 1946, also leading the league in hits that year and set a CL record with 18 triples in 1951.

Hideo Fujimoto: In a career lasting from 1942 to 1955 he became one of the most dominant pitchers in Japanese history.  He currently holds the record for lowest career ERA (1.90!!!!) and lowest single season ERA (0.74!!!!).  He finished his career with exactly 200 wins against only 87 losses,  a 0.697 winning percentage that is also a record. He was also elected to the Hall of Fame in the 1970s.

I'm not entirely certain what game this set was meant to be used to play - the numbers in the playing card suits on each (800, 1500 and 600) are obviously there for a reason but I don't know what it is.  For a set that is over 70 years old this one is one of the easier to find, despite having big name hall of famers the individual cards can be found in the 300-600 Yen each range ($3-$6US) on Yahoo Auctions, even less if you buy them in lots or stumble onto deals.  They look pretty cool too!


  1. Japanese menko in the 40s and 50s were extremely artful. You can see where the whole manga revolution came from as this type of design was popular and continues so even today. Awesome cards.

    1. Yeah, the connection between what you see on menko and in early manga is really apparent, they probably had the same minds working on both!

  2. Remember that in the 40s nobody was scoring runs in Japanese baseball. In 1941, when Nishizawa put up a 1.59 ERA, the league as a whole had a 1.86 ERA.

    The pinwheels are a weird set. As you note, some of them are very common, but others rarely turn up. There's a neat one out there of Kawakami and Aota (I think?) that I've only seen a couple times. And they all look really cool.

    Also - are menko numbers intended to be used to play a game? It had never occurred to me that they have a purpose.

    1. Excellent points, as with MLB records like that have to be taken in their historical context.

      And yes, some of these are way more common than others, the three in this post are among the easy to get ones.

      I assume the numbers are meant to be part of a game. Since the goal of menko is to flip the card, perhaps the numbers on these ones merely represent the points a player gets for doing so? Not sure though!