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  #201  
Old 07-28-2019, 12:36 PM
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Default Kenjiro Nomura

Kenjiro Nomura was Hiroshima’s shortstop from 1989 to 2005. As a young man he had good power, good speed, a healthy OBP, and played pretty much every day. Sort of Alan-Trammell-like. Age 31 was his last really good year, after that he missed lots of time every season for the rest of his career, retiring after his age 38 season. Nomura’s best season was 1995, in which he hit 32 home runs (double the figure that is his career high otherwise), stole 30 bases (three off his career high), and slashed 315/380/560. While playing shortstop. The HR total was second in the league, as was his batting average, and he was third in slugging percentage. In total he was an all-star eight times and was selected to three best-nines. Albright regards him as Japan’s 9th greatest shortstop.

Nomura really wasn’t a good player in his 30s, he lost his SS job to Eddy Diaz and age quickly caught up with him. But he did hang on long enough to qualify for the Meikyukai with his 2000th hit in 2005. Replacing Nomura was kind of weird. He went downhill quickly, but he was still a star when he lost his job. Diaz was not immediately an improvement. He had two iffy seasons, one season that matched Nomura’s 1995, one decent season, and then he was off to Korea.

After retiring he coached the Carp and spent five seasons managing them. Traditionally the Carp have been a second-division team, but under Nomura they managed to improve pretty steadily. Nevertheless, his tenure was for only those five years. As of 2016 he was a member of the Kansas City Royals’ baseball-ops team in Japan. I presume that means scouting. And in 2017 he enrolled in the Hiroshima University’s MA program in “Coaching Science and Sports Psychology”, saying something about how he expects it to be useful in his second career. Which makes it sound like he wants to get back into managing.

Meikyukai: yes - Hall of Fame: no

My card is from the 1994 BBM set. Over time (probably due to hanging out on a pre-war baseball card message board) I have developed a casual distaste for standard, post 1956 American-style baseball cards. And that means BBM cards. That said, the design on their 1994 offering is pretty nice. If we should have learned anything from 1953 Bowman, it’s that less (usually-I’ll admit to a certain affection for Delongs) is more on baseball cards. And, except for the logo, the 1994 BBM set is nice and clean.
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  #202  
Old 07-29-2019, 10:47 PM
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Default Masaji Hiramatsu (pt. 2)

My policy is that I get a copy of a player's card for each collection that he's a part of. Hall of fame collection =/= meikyukai collection, so I need a second card for each player who is a member of both.

Hence today's post.

Masaji Hiramatsu was a great pitcher for the Whales. I said rather more about him in the piece just linked than I will say here.

Hiramatsu was elected to the hall of fame by the experts committee - which has jurisdiction over players who have been retired for at least 21 years. Sounds a lot like the Veteran's Committee here. There is also a player's committee, which is basically a guy's first shot at election, and special committees that elect umpires, guys who published baseball's rule book (I'm not kidding, check out Mirei Suzuki), and so on.

Japanese starters have always pitched more in relief than American starters do, but here's a fun fact about Hiramatsu: he has almost exactly the same number of complete games as games finished. 145/146, respectively.

One thing that I find curious about Japanese baseball is how seriously they take the Koshien tournament. It's the high school baseball championship, and it's a huge deal. This comes to mind at the moment because Hiramatsu's team won the tournament, and whenever someone is writing about him that fact always gets mentioned right next to the fact that he won the Sawamura Award, which, to an American mind, would seem to be a much bigger deal.

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of fame: Yes

Round menkos are best known for dominating the early post-war menko scene. Basically, menko cards from the late 1940s to early 1950s are either round or relatively narrow pillars. There are many sets of each, but the round sets tend, in my observation, to be more common. Round menko cards (of baseball players at least) then disappeared for a couple decades. There was a sort of mini-revival in the 1970s. This card is from the JRM 10 set, issued in 1976. It's a common and inexpensive set (I paid more for shipping on this card than I did for the card itself).
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  #203  
Old 08-01-2019, 09:13 PM
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Default General Question about Menko Cards

Hello and thank you for your posts. Very educational as I'm just now starting to learn about vintage Japanese cards. I have some questions though that I can't seem to find answers to so thought maybe you all can help.

First, can you explain the "JCM..." set name system? it appears that there are the same numbers but for different years. Then, when I look on eBay, I see these two cards of Sadaharu Oh listed that look virtually identical but one is "JCM12e" but the other one is "JCM12b." I honestly can't see what the difference is but can you tell me how they differ?

Thanks for any info you can provide.

-Damon
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  #204  
Old 08-01-2019, 11:38 PM
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JCM = "Japanese Card Menko". Menko are a kind of card playing game in Japan with cards made of thick cardboard which were meant to be thrown against other cards on the ground in an attempt to flip them over. Most Japanese cards from the 50s and 60s are Menko and the numbering system is confusing because so many sets are being discovered basically out of order. Also a lot of slightly different sets were issued by the same maker in the same year, so they are given the same number but with an a,b,c etc added.

The cards of some players from JCM 12b and 12e sets are almost identical. They just know that they are different sets from uncut sheets, the 12e set has more players. According to Engel the distinguishing feature of a 12e cards is that the player image has a more painted look to it.
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Last edited by seanofjapan; 08-01-2019 at 11:40 PM.
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  #205  
Old 08-02-2019, 08:11 PM
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Default Kazuya Fukuura

Kazuya Fukuura played first base for the Marines for, approximately, ever. He broke in as a 21 year old in 1997, and was still an active player as of this year, although he has appeared in only nine games for the Marines’ minor league team. He has announced that he is retiring at the end of the season, but given that he’s only managed to play in nine games this year, it wouldn’t surprise me if he was, in fact, retired already. Fukuura always seems to be compared to Mark Grace, and the comparison seems apt, at least in that they’re both singles hitting first basemen. Fukuura has no power to speak of. In 2003 he managed 21 home runs, but he’s usually in single digits, and from 2012 to 2018 he managed a total of three. Fukuura’s 2000th (and so Meikyukai-qualifying) hit was a double on September 22nd of last year. Of all of the players who managed to get 2000 hits, he was the second oldest when he pulled it off, and he had appeared in the third-most games. Mike Bolsinger (former Diamondback-Dodger-BlueJay, and currently Marine) has a really nice clip of Fukuura’s 2000th hit on his twitter feed.

Given his background, that he was a singles hitter shouldn’t be much of a surprise. He was originally a pitcher, and was, in that capacity, the Marines’ 7th round draft pick in 1993. An injury curtailed his pitching career, and led to a transition to being a position player. As a left-handed thrower, his only options were first base or the outfield. He wasn’t fast, which probably explains opting for first base. He was a three-time gold glove award winner, and was selected to the best nine team in 2010.

Now, about that Mark Grace comparison. Grace was actually a good hitter, and decent player all-around, until the last year or so of his career. Fukuura… wasn’t. The last year that Fukuura was any good was 2010. He was bad in 2011, and his playing time diminished thereafter. As befits a singles hitter, he managed to keep a healthy on base percentage for a few years, but his power, never notable to begin with, slipped even further. The final 500 hits took him about 800 games spread out over nine seasons. Given that he had exactly 2000 hits at the big league level, I’m guessing that he was demoted immediately after qualifying for the Meikyukai.

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of Fame: No

The card is from the 2001 Calbee set.
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  #206  
Old 08-05-2019, 11:10 PM
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Default Noboru Aota (part 2)

I’ve got an Aota card on an uncut menko sheet. But it doesn’t really fit in my binder. Tough life, I know. So anyways, I picked up another one.

Here’s what I wrote about him before.

Aota was a slugging outfielder who played with several different teams from 1942 to 1959. He held the career home run record for a little while, and led the league in home runs five times. In 1948, one of the years in which he led the league in home runs, he also led the league in batting average (barely, .001 over Kozuru and Yamamoto), but missed out on a triple crown by nine RBIs. B-R says that he was traded by the Giants to the Whales, but as always I can’t find the player who went the other way. I’m starting to doubt that they actually traded players back then.

Let’s do some adjustments for context, and see how big of a slugger Aota was. We’ll start with that 1948 season in which he nearly won a triple crown. His raw numbers were: 306/339/499, against a league average of 242/300/329. Put that into the 2018 American League and you get a 315 batting average, 359 on base percentage, and 632 slugging percentage. Let’s look at 1951 also. His raw line was 312/378/582. League average was 264/329/375. In a 2018 American League context that works out to 294/366/645. That slugging percentage is better than anyone managed in 2018, the on-base percentage, while good, wouldn’t have ranked among the league leaders. It’s a reasonably good match for what Nelson Cruz is doing for MIN this year. Given his home run hitting ways, I want to compare him to Ralph Kiner, but Aota was much faster, and Kiner was much better at getting on base. Positional differences aside, maybe Home Run Baker is the comparable American player.

Aota was elected to the hall of fame in 2009. Since he had died some years earlier, Shigeru Sugishita gave a part of his acceptance speech (his widow also gave a speech) and said that, while he was in the army, Aota was capable of throwing a grenade 84 meters. Which sounds like a hell of a long throw to me. The hall notes that he was nicknamed “Unruly Bronco”. Albright thinks he was Japan’s 71st greatest player.

Meikyukai: No – Hall of Fame: Yes

The card is an uncatalogued bromide. There must be a zillion uncatalogued bromide sets. I did a quick scan over my collection, and more than half of my bromides are from uncatalogued sets. I’ve got plenty of uncatalogued menko cards too, but the percentage isn’t that extreme. Lots of these sets are also very similar. The only difference between this card and my Tsubouchi card is that it is ever so slightly smaller. Since I already had an Aota card (if only as a part of an uncut sheet), this one doesn’t get me any closer to finishing the hall of fame collection. It’s impossible to tell precisely when this card was issued. Aota is on the Giants, so that narrows it down to 1948 to 1952, but I can’t say anything more definitive than that.
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  #207  
Old 08-07-2019, 11:04 PM
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Default Kazuhiro Kiyohara

Kazuhiro Kiyohara was one of Japan’s greatest players. He was first baseman for the Lions from 1986 through 1996, for the Giants until 2005, and then for the Buffaloes for a couple years. The Meikyukai came calling upon his 2000th hit (for the Giants in 2004), and of his 2122 hits, 525 were home runs. That figure puts him 5th all-time for home runs, just above Ochiai and just below Koji Yamamoto. He appears to have been a lumbering slugger, as both his SB and 3B figures are quite low. But if you’ve got a player who puts up a 389/520 batting line, you can put up with a certain amount of plodding.

Kiyohara’s tenure with the Lions was exceptionally successful. They were the dominant team in the late 80-early 90s period. Let’s take a look at one of these teams. Here’s the OPS leaders from the 1991 Seibu Lions: Orestes Destrade, Koji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara, Hiromichi Ishige, Norio Tanabe. Seven guys with above average OPSs (below average and part-timers omitted from the list). Destrade was an infield-outfield type from Cuba who mucked around in the Yankees and Pirates minor league systems (with a couple cups of coffee) starting in 1983. He went to Seibu and instantly became a huge slugger. Coming back to the states he was on the inaugural Marlins team, and was the second best hitter (after Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine) on the team. Destrade spent 94 with the Marlins but didn’t wait out the strike. He returned to Seibu for 1995, then retired. Akiyama was one of Japan’s great players and I’ve written about him elsewhere. Ishige was the third baseman. He was a strong player in his own right. He didn’t get into the Meikyukai, but he came close. I don’t know what his glove was like, but offensively you might compare him to someone like Scott Rolen. Tanabe was a doubles hitting shortstop. Looking over his stat line, he doesn’t seem like a star to me.

They also had a nice starting rotation, or at least a nice top-3. (After that most teams sort of mix-and-match anyway.) Watanabe, the starter with the best ERA, appears to have blown out his arm in 1992, but he was a young star before that. Taigen Kaku had a relatively short but reasonably successful career. He reminds me of someone like Jimmy Key. And then there was Kimiyasu Kudo. In 1991 he was at the top of his considerable game, and he would continue pitching until he was 47. This was a really good team: a couple hall of famers, a Meikyukai member, a young star, and (effectively) Scott Rolen and Jimmy Key. That’s a team that will win you a lot of games.

Now, back to Kiyohara. He was a 17x all-star and won the Japan Series eight times. But great as he was, he could have been better. Throughout basically the last half of his career he was constantly sidelined by injuries. There were significant differences between them (first base vs. center field being one of them), but in some ways his career has the feel of Ken Griffey Jr.’s. Amazing first acts, followed by a debilitating rash of injuries. Both ended up being all-time greats, but Griffey in the 1990s felt like “great” wasn’t going to do it. At the time it felt like they were going to have to come up with some new words in order to describe him. I wasn’t hanging around Saitama in the 1990s, but I bet Kiyohara had the same feel to him.

Kiyohara was drafted out of PL Gakuen, one of the main powerhouses of Japanese high school baseball. Robert Whiting reports that the school has (or, at least, as of the writing of You Gotta Have Wa, had) a practice field with the same dimensions as Koshien Stadium at which the annual high school baseball championship tournament was held. PL Gakuen won Koshien twice while Kiyohara was a student, although perhaps ‘student’ is a bit too strong of a word. PL Gakuen’s focus is on baseball in a way that might be familiar from certain football programs in America. Hara, another Gakuen product, is alleged, upon being asked what he would major in when he went to college, to ask what a major is.

Japan takes Koshien seriously in a way that is hard for me to make sense of. I grew up next to a top college football program, and yes, reminders of that are everywhere (even people who didn’t attend the school wear school gear), but even in a huge college football town, football isn’t given the… religious?... dedication that Koshien summons. Whiting describes it as a combination of the World Series and the Superbowl, except that it also seems to be regarded as a test of character, and an embodiment of a kind of Japanese ideal. The approach to baseball and, I guess, to life, that leads to the 1000-fungo drill (doesn’t take much imagination to figure out what that is), corporal punishment for players, and “voluntary” practices that last hours after official practice ends is celebrated, finds its apotheosis maybe, in Koshien. None of that quite expresses what I’m trying to say – one of the hazards of saying something when you’re not quite sure what you’re trying to say – but there seems to be a deeply weird attitude that attends what is really a kids’ baseball tournament.

Incidentally, the chapter on high school baseball is the best part of You Gotta Have Wa, and comes highly recommended. Here’s an article about Koshien that Whiting wrote for the Japan Times.

PL Gakuen has produced 65 professional baseball players. (I wonder what the record for an American high school is.) Including one major leaguer: Kenta Maeda, currently a starting pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. As of 2016, however (I couldn’t find anything more recent), it had suspended its baseball program in response to what the Mainichi newspaper calls a “series of abuse scandals”. They do have a Twitter account, so maybe they’re still active, but it’s hard for me to understand what’s going on in a regular Twitter feed, much less one that I can’t read, so I’m not sure. They at any rate didn’t appear in the 2018 tournament.

Kiyohara was a flashy star. He once said that he only wanted to play professional baseball because it allowed him meet beautiful women and buy fast cars. However, he was arrested for drug possession shortly after his retirement from baseball (he was given a suspended sentence of two and a half years), and later admitted to using amphetamines while he was playing. (Rumors of steroids have also followed him around for years, but those are so far unsubstantiated.) Amphetamines were once common in MLB, but they are now prohibited and are, I think, among the substances that MLB tests for. The arrest was apparently a big scandal. Kiyohara’s kids were told to leave the prestigious school (elementary/middle in both cases) that they attended when news of their father’s problem came out. Word is that they’re moving to the US to avoid further fall out. The hall of fame had him on the ballot for several years (it seems to be common in Japan for even big stars to wait years to get elected), but removed him from the ballot after his conviction. They left open the possibility that he would be reinstated (who knows how the voting would go), but said that it would require significant rehabilitation, and that “the road is steep”. In recent years he has done things like appear at anti-addiction events organized by the Ministry of Health.

And finally, my favorite Kiyohara fact: he said that he has a very big head, and that when he joined Seibu they didn’t have a helmet that fit him. Nosing around in the team storage lockers, however, he found one of Katsuya Nomura’s old helmets (which must have been sitting there for the past six years), and it fit perfectly. He used the same helmet for his entire career, and had it repainted whenever he changed teams. (Source)

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of fame: No

The card is from the 1993 BBM set.
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  #208  
Old 08-12-2019, 08:16 PM
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Default Seiichi Uchikawa

Seiichi Uchikawa is a LF/RF/1B kind of guy, currently with Softbank. He broke into the league in 2001 at an 18 year old with the Yokohama Bay Stars, then left for the Hawks in 2011 and has been with them ever since. Uchikawa has a little power, but more of what we’d think of as “gap power” than the real thing. Expect teens HR numbers each year, topping out at 19. Likewise, his batting average is healthy but he’s not a guy whose game solely depends on it (like Gwynn, or Boggs, or Ichiro). That said, he did win two batting titles, in 2008 and 2011. That 2011 batting title also came with an MVP award. For his career he’s got a 304/350/443 batting line and 2140 hits. He’s one of the newer Meikyukai members, having qualified just last year. Allow me to nominate Fred Lynn as a comparable player, with the notable exception that Lynn was a center fielder. Looks like he was a 5x best-nine, and made a bunch of all-star teams. Notably, he had a key pinch hit in the 2017 all-star game. Who was he pinch hitting for? Shohei Otani. You’d think that wouldn’t be necessary, even though he’s a pitcher. But Otani wasn’t even pitching in this game, he was in at DH. Maybe this was one of those “get everybody into the all-star game” moves. Which I sort of understand (especially when the game is in Baltimore and Mike Mussina is in the pen), but it also leads to some very weird outcomes, where, e.g., Dereck Turnbow ends up pitching important innings in a close game.

As near as I can tell, his Japanese Wikipedia page says that his .378 batting average in 2008 is the record for a right-handed hitter in Japan. The previous mark was Tetsuharu Kawakami’s .377 mark in 1951. It also lists this as “his song”. Which I guess means walk-up music?

His initial contract with Softbank was worth 1.36 billion Yen. Which sounds like a lot of money, until you remember that one Yen is worth about a penny. I mean, I’ll take a 4 year, 13 million dollar contract, but if that’s the kind of cash that star players are pulling down it’s no surprise that Otani wanted to come to the US. (Of course what is surprising is that he didn’t wait until he was a free agent, but that’s another matter.)

Now is a good time to be a Hawk. Uchikawa has won the Japan Series five times since joining the Hawks, including four of the past five years. Things are looking promising for them this year too, they’re in first place in the Pacific League, with a healthy but not insurmountable lead over the Lions.

The Japan Times refers to him as a “future hall of famer”, which, I guess. Now I'm not advocating his induction, but Fred Lynn wouldn’t exactly be an embarrassment to the US hall either.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of fame: No

The card is from the 2013 BBM set. BBM sure loves its subsets. The one that this card is drawn from celebrates league leaders.
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  #209  
Old 08-18-2019, 06:29 PM
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Picked up this Bromide at the National:



Lefty O'Doul and Giants manager Mizuhara
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  #210  
Old 08-18-2019, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exhibitman View Post
Picked up this Bromide at the National:



Lefty O'Doul and Giants manager Mizuhara
Nice pick up!

Though that isn't actually Giants Manager Mizuhara, the Japanese guy is Shinji Hamazaki (manager of the Braves).
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  #211  
Old 08-18-2019, 10:44 PM
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Default Isao Shibata

Love the bromide Adam! I'm a big fan of pretty much anything Lefty O'Doul related. Probably one of the most interesting people ever associated with baseball.

The cards that I've got to post today aren't as cool as an old bromide, but old Calbees are nice too.

Isao Shibata was an outfielder for the V9-era Giants. He played for them from 1962 to 1981, from the ages of 18 to 37. Offensively, his game appears to have been built around speed. The 400 career slugging percentage indicates that hitting long balls wasn’t part of the plan. (Fortunately he had Oh and Nagashima in the line up to handle that part of the game.) If I had to guess, I’d say that he was probably the V9’s leadoff hitter. (N.B.: confirmed by B-R.) For his career he put up a 267/347/400 batting line. None of those marks are particularly impressive. His 579 career stolen bases are somewhat better. A cursory internet search doesn’t turn up a list of career leaders, but I’m guessing that that’s third all-time in Japan. Hirose is second all-time, and he’s only about 10 steals ahead of Shibata.

There is, however, a problem with trying to build your career around your feet. The run-value of a stolen base just isn’t very high, and the cost, in terms of expected runs, of getting thrown out stealing, is. Just how proficient you must be at stealing bases for it to be worthwhile depends on the context in which you play. Higher scoring contexts make stealing a riskier bet for two reasons: (1) if you don’t steal, there’s a fair chance that one of the guys behind you will drive you in anyways, and (2) in a high scoring environment, each out is worth a greater amount of runs, so you’re betting more runs on your ability to successfully steal a base than you would be in a low run scoring environment.

The Book goes into this in some detail. They found that as of (IIRC) 2005, in MLB you needed to steal at a 75% success rate in order to break even; that is, if you were getting thrown out more than 25% of the time, then you were costing your team runs by trying to steal. Now, since the context in which Shibata was playing isn’t the same as the context that Tango et al. used to generate data for their calculations, you can’t just import that number over in order to evaluate Shibata. Doing all the calculations for Japan in the sixties and seventies would be a lot of work, and I’m much too lazy to do it. Quickly eyeballing it will give us some idea, however. The 2003 NL scored an average of 4.61 runs per team game, the 1971 Central League (to pick a year from the middle of Shibata’s career) scored 3.23 runs per team game. That’s a big difference. They really weren’t scoring any runs in the Central League in the early 70s. So that’s, what, 25% fewer runs in the Central League than in the leagues Tango was using for his data? So the run value of an out in the context in which Shibata was playing was considerably lower than early 2000s NL. Which means that he would need a success rate of a good bit less than 75% in order for him to contribute value with those stolen bases. And, in fact, Shibata stole bases at exactly a 75% success rate for his career.

In the MLB that would put him tied for 194th for career stolen base percentage. (Tied with, among others, Dustin Pedroia, Brian Dozier, and Michael Young.) Given the higher scoring environment in which these Americans play, they’re not contributing much value with their steal attempts. (Yes, yes, it’s a discretional play, you’re more likely to try it when one run matters and the hitters coming up behind you stink, etc etc. I know. But R/G is even higher now than it was in 2003, and even if it’s discretionary, if you’re below the average break even point, you’re not helping too much.) But given that they were only scoring a bit more than 3 runs per game, Shibata was adding a fair amount of value with his 75% success rate.

Like Kawakami had his red bat, Shibata had his red gloves. The story goes (Japanese Wikipedia page for the source) that when he was practicing with the Dodgers (for a while MLB teams and Japanese teams would do spring training together) he found that he had forgotten his batting gloves. He went next door to a golf club to try to find something that would do, and all they had were red women’s gloves. I don’t know if he continued using golf gloves in place of batting gloves, but red gloves apparently became his trademark.

He was originally drafted as a pitcher. In fact, his initial claim to fame was leading his high school team to a pair of championships at Koshien on the mound. That didn’t last. As a pro, he was terrible. But he had a strong arm, and a transition to the outfield was natural. His Japanese Wikipedia page says that he was Japan’s first switch hitter. (Really? They didn’t have switch hitters until the 1960s?)

Shibata was a 12x all-star and a 4x member of the best nine team. He’s in the top 20 all-time in triples, runs, steals, and walks. Albright considers him to be Japan’s 68th greatest player and thinks that he’s worthy of the hall of fame. I don’t know about how precisely he compares to #s 67 or 69, but I agree that he would be a good fit for the hall of fame. He just isn’t in yet.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

My cards are mid 70s Calbee cards. I think one is from 77 and the other from 76.
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File Type: jpg shibata back.jpg (33.3 KB, 97 views)
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  #212  
Old 08-19-2019, 12:37 PM
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Default Calbee

Quote:
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Love the bromide Adam! I'm a big fan of pretty much anything Lefty O'Doul related. Probably one of the most interesting people ever associated with baseball.

The cards that I've got to post today aren't as cool as an old bromide, but old Calbees are nice too.

Isao Shibata was an outfielder for the V9-era Giants. He played for them from 1962 to 1981, from the ages of 18 to 37. Offensively, his game appears to have been built around speed. The 400 career slugging percentage indicates that hitting long balls wasn’t part of the plan. (Fortunately he had Oh and Nagashima in the line up to handle that part of the game.) If I had to guess, I’d say that he was probably the V9’s leadoff hitter. (N.B.: confirmed by B-R.) For his career he put up a 267/347/400 batting line. None of those marks are particularly impressive. His 579 career stolen bases are somewhat better. A cursory internet search doesn’t turn up a list of career leaders, but I’m guessing that that’s third all-time in Japan. Hirose is second all-time, and he’s only about 10 steals ahead of Shibata.

There is, however, a problem with trying to build your career around your feet. The run-value of a stolen base just isn’t very high, and the cost, in terms of expected runs, of getting thrown out stealing, is. Just how proficient you must be at stealing bases for it to be worthwhile depends on the context in which you play. Higher scoring contexts make stealing a riskier bet for two reasons: (1) if you don’t steal, there’s a fair chance that one of the guys behind you will drive you in anyways, and (2) in a high scoring environment, each out is worth a greater amount of runs, so you’re betting more runs on your ability to successfully steal a base than you would be in a low run scoring environment.

The Book goes into this in some detail. They found that as of (IIRC) 2005, in MLB you needed to steal at a 75% success rate in order to break even; that is, if you were getting thrown out more than 25% of the time, then you were costing your team runs by trying to steal. Now, since the context in which Shibata was playing isn’t the same as the context that Tango et al. used to generate data for their calculations, you can’t just import that number over in order to evaluate Shibata. Doing all the calculations for Japan in the sixties and seventies would be a lot of work, and I’m much too lazy to do it. Quickly eyeballing it will give us some idea, however. The 2003 NL scored an average of 4.61 runs per team game, the 1971 Central League (to pick a year from the middle of Shibata’s career) scored 3.23 runs per team game. That’s a big difference. They really weren’t scoring any runs in the Central League in the early 70s. So that’s, what, 25% fewer runs in the Central League than in the leagues Tango was using for his data? So the run value of an out in the context in which Shibata was playing was considerably lower than early 2000s NL. Which means that he would need a success rate of a good bit less than 75% in order for him to contribute value with those stolen bases. And, in fact, Shibata stole bases at exactly a 75% success rate for his career.

In the MLB that would put him tied for 194th for career stolen base percentage. (Tied with, among others, Dustin Pedroia, Brian Dozier, and Michael Young.) Given the higher scoring environment in which these Americans play, they’re not contributing much value with their steal attempts. (Yes, yes, it’s a discretional play, you’re more likely to try it when one run matters and the hitters coming up behind you stink, etc etc. I know. But R/G is even higher now than it was in 2003, and even if it’s discretionary, if you’re below the average break even point, you’re not helping too much.) But given that they were only scoring a bit more than 3 runs per game, Shibata was adding a fair amount of value with his 75% success rate.

Like Kawakami had his red bat, Shibata had his red gloves. The story goes (Japanese Wikipedia page for the source) that when he was practicing with the Dodgers (for a while MLB teams and Japanese teams would do spring training together) he found that he had forgotten his batting gloves. He went next door to a golf club to try to find something that would do, and all they had were red women’s gloves. I don’t know if he continued using golf gloves in place of batting gloves, but red gloves apparently became his trademark.

He was originally drafted as a pitcher. In fact, his initial claim to fame was leading his high school team to a pair of championships at Koshien on the mound. That didn’t last. As a pro, he was terrible. But he had a strong arm, and a transition to the outfield was natural. His Japanese Wikipedia page says that he was Japan’s first switch hitter. (Really? They didn’t have switch hitters until the 1960s?)

Shibata was a 12x all-star and a 4x member of the best nine team. He’s in the top 20 all-time in triples, runs, steals, and walks. Albright considers him to be Japan’s 68th greatest player and thinks that he’s worthy of the hall of fame. I don’t know about how precisely he compares to #s 67 or 69, but I agree that he would be a good fit for the hall of fame. He just isn’t in yet.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

My cards are mid 70s Calbee cards. I think one is from 77 and the other from 76.
Love this thread. Learning so much. Thought that I would share a few scans of a few Calbee baseball cards from the 1970s that I have in my collection.

First group is from 1973. Three of the cards are of Sadaharu Oh. Not sure who is the other player.

Second group is from 1974. The cards are numbered in English. I believe all three are of Oh.

Third group is from 1975-76. Three of the cards are of Oh, number 1190 is of Harimoto.

Best regards,

Joe
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File Type: jpg 24.jpg (74.6 KB, 95 views)
File Type: jpg 25.jpg (69.7 KB, 92 views)
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File Type: jpg 28.jpg (72.7 KB, 98 views)
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  #213  
Old 08-19-2019, 08:58 PM
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Nice cards Joe!

The player other than Oh in your 1973 lot is Tsuneo Horiuchi, a HOF pitcher for the Giants.

With your 1974s two of them are Sadaharu Oh, but one of them (card #20) is Yukinobu Kuroe who also played for the Giants.

One of your 1975-76 Ohs (#789) is from the series commemorating his 700th home run, which is one of the harder series to find in that set.
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  #214  
Old 08-20-2019, 04:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by seanofjapan View Post
Nice cards Joe!

The player other than Oh in your 1973 lot is Tsuneo Horiuchi, a HOF pitcher for the Giants.

With your 1974s two of them are Sadaharu Oh, but one of them (card #20) is Yukinobu Kuroe who also played for the Giants.

One of your 1975-76 Ohs (#789) is from the series commemorating his 700th home run, which is one of the harder series to find in that set.
Thanks Sean for the information. I appreciate it.

Best regards,

Joe
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  #215  
Old 08-21-2019, 05:33 PM
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Nice pick up!

Though that isn't actually Giants Manager Mizuhara, the Japanese guy is Shinji Hamazaki (manager of the Braves).
Thanks; my bad.
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  #216  
Old 08-21-2019, 10:33 PM
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Default Atsunori Inaba

If you reversed Atsunori Inaba’s career – made the second half the first half and the first half the second half – it would look pretty normal. He was an outfielder who split his time between Yakult (when he was young) and Nippon Ham (for his second act). As a hitter: he had intermediate power, and on base skills that varied widely during his career. Home runs you’ll get some of, but we’re usually talking teens in the HR department, sometimes into the 20s per year. In the early part of his career he was posting OBPs in the low 300s, rising to the upper 300s in his mid 30s.

That’s part of what would make his career look normal in reverse. He also had much more playing time latter in his career. In large part this seems to have been due to injuries. That a player would be injury plagued as a young man, and not when they’re older, is super weird. One of the best predictors of future injury is past injury, in large measure because there are lots of injuries that never heal quite right. This will lead to more missed time because of a recurrence, or missed time because a player injures himself compensating for the injury that didn’t really heal. Back injuries are notorious for this, but hand/wrist injuries do it to, and so do, to a lesser extent, lots of others. So if a young player is missing a lot of playing time due to injuries, you’d expect him to either continue missing time when he gets older (Eric Chavez, for example), or simply be unable to continue (like Troy Tulowitzki).

Inaba often missed 40 or 50 games per year when he was with Yakult. Sounds a lot like Tulowitzki. And you would expect his career to end about age 30, just like Tulo’s did. (Technically Tulowitzki played until age 34, but he only appeared in five games this year, none last year, and missed most of the year before.) Entirely unexpectedly, Inaba stopped getting hurt and played full seasons from age 31 through 39. It’s really his 30s that make him a great player. If he had followed a more normal career path, he would have been a promising young player who didn’t pan out. He collected his 2000th (and so Meikyukai-qualifying) hit in 2012 while playing for Nippon Ham.

A word about Japanese team names. “Nippon Ham Fighters” is every American’s favorite Japanese team name, because Americans either don’t know or don’t care that ‘Nippon Ham’ is the name of the company that owns the team, and ‘Fighters’ is the name of the team itself. Americans, me included, really like to imagine a baseball team fighting a ham. Or maybe a ham that is itself a fighter. Sadly, that’s not the way that it works. Japanese teams are often referred to by the name of the corporation that owns them, and then their team’s nickname. Or sometimes (as I was doing at the beginning of this post) just by the company name. Because ‘Hankyu and ‘Yomiuri’ aren’t recognizable to Americans, this doesn’t sound too weird. But imagine if MLB had similar naming conventions: The Rodgers Communication Blue Jays, The Liberty Media Braves, I guess ‘The Nintendo of America Mariners’ isn’t as bad as it could be. Imagine saying that Chipper Jones spent his entire career playing third base for Liberty Media (although of course they were called ‘Warner Broadcasting’ during his early days). Imagine rooting for “Yankee Global Enterprises LLC”. (That’s the name of the company that the Steinbrenner family mostly controls that actually owns the Yankees.) The idea is gross. The old joke goes that in the 50s rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for US Steel. What if it was rooting for US Steel?

Back to Inaba. He was a 5x best nine and seven time all-star. His fans have a special cheer for him called the ‘Inaba jump’. Enough people participate that the TV feed from the Sapporo Dome might shake when he comes to bat. He admits to loving potato chips and says that during the off season sometimes he gets fat because he eats too many potato chips and doesn’t work out enough. He says that he likes wearing uniform number 41 because it kind of looks like his initials. For a comparable American player – maybe Hunter Pence? (Except for the weird injury pattern.) Medium range power, unexceptional OBP, let Pence play until he’s in his early 40s and their careers might look similar. Or maybe if Torii Hunter had been a slow corner outfielder instead of a fairly speedy center fielder? Given his number of best-nine selections, however, he clearly had more star power than either of those guys.

After he retired he became the manager of the Japanese national team, and is tasked with leading the team in the 2020 Olympics.

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of Fame: No

The card is another one from the 2013 BBM Crosswind subset.
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  #217  
Old 08-26-2019, 08:49 PM
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Default Shinichi Eto (again)

Here’s another card of Shinichi Eto.

He was a slugger, primarily for Chunichi, and one of the best players of the 1960s. I mean, not Oh or Nagashima good, but at his best he was really something. In 1969 he got into it with his manager (and fellow hall of famer) Shigeru Mizuhara. Mizuhara was publicly berating the team’s second baseman for muffing a play, and Eto let him have it for being so harsh. This did not go over well. Eto ended up retiring over the incident, but then thought better of it. The Dragons wouldn’t take him back, and dealt him to Lotte for Kazuto Kawabata. Basically, they gave him away for a bag of baseballs. Kawabata was a poor relief pitcher with a short career. In America we would call him a AAAA player. Two years later he was dealt to the Taiyo Whales for Osamu Nomura. Nomura was actually a good pitcher. He was a 4x all-star and had just finished his age 24 season when he was dealt. Basically, Japanese Baseball knew that Eto was still good, it’s just that the Dragons couldn’t accept a player who loudly and publicly stood up to his manager and had to exile him. But his reputation was apparently rehabilitated pretty quickly, because he was traded only two years later for a legitimately good pitcher. For what it’s worth, his run in with Mizuhara over the ground ball seems to have been a last-straw kind of deal – they had run ins before, over, e.g. curfew and paying fines.

For a comparable American player (at least as far as on-the-field stuff goes), I nominate Johnny Mize. Eto spent some time at first base, but was primarily an outfielder, and The Big Cat was pretty much solely a first baseman, but their offensive profiles are similar. Both were power hitters with good on base skills. Mize may have been the better player (seriously: check out Mize from 1937 to 1948. Dude was an absolute beast. He just ran into a cliff immediately after that), but they were both really good.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: Yes

I like this card. It’s from the JCM 55 set. And while the production values on JCM 55 were admittedly pretty low, what I like about it is that Eto is in his catching gear. As a youngster he would catch a few games here and there. In 1962 he was primarily a catcher (>2/3 games played). Then in 1963 he appeared in a few games behind the dish, and after that was strictly a 1B/OF. So this is the only year in which you had a chance to get him on a card wearing catching armor.
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  #218  
Old 08-26-2019, 09:12 PM
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I agree about the JCM 55, I have a few cards from that set (including Eto) and while its correct that the production values were low (as with most cards of the era), the design does make them stick out in a stack of old menko.
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  #219  
Old 08-27-2019, 02:08 PM
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Default identification help

Here are a couple more old cards that I picked up. Comparing the pictures with the other cards I have I'm guessing the guy swinging the bat is Shigeo Nagashima. The player on the left on the multiplayer card also looks like Nagashima, but I have no idea who the other player is.

Any idea of the type of cards? the players? and the years?

Thanks,

Joe
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  #220  
Old 08-27-2019, 09:00 PM
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Nice cards!

The one on the left is indeed Shigeo Nagashima, from the 1958 All Star Awase Trump set (JGA 177).

The one on the right is also Nagashima, along with a player named Yoshio Yoshida, who played for the Tigers (and is also a HOFer). Its from the 1958 Mitsuwa War/playing card set (JCM 129)!
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  #221  
Old 08-29-2019, 09:12 PM
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Default Norihiro Nakamura

Norihiro Nakamura was a standard issue slugger. Usually he’d have unexceptional batting averages (266 for his career), but smack a good number of home runs, topping out at 46 in 2001. As you expect for middle of the order guys, he wasn’t fast: 22 stolen bases for his career. In total he played 23 years and put up a 266/352/469 batting line, to go along with 404 home runs and 2101 hits. The bulk of his career he spent with Kintetsu: 1992 through 2004. Then he defected for the US, spending most of 2005 playing for Las Vegas, the Dodgers’ AAA team. He did play in the majors leagues, but only 17 games, and not well. In Las Vegas he hit 249/331/487. The first two numbers are as bad as they look. That last one looks like it’s healthy, but it isn’t really. The 51s play in the Pacific Coast League, and the PCL plays in some absurd parks. Imagine a league where most of the parks resemble Coors Field. That's the idea. Any PCL numbers have to be taken with huge heaping spoonfuls of salt, Nakamura’s included. That 487 slugging percentage was fourth-best on the team (among those who got regular playing time), trailing the immortals Bryan Myrow (547), Cody Ross (509), Chin-Feng Chen (495). All three of those guys played in the major leagues, but no, I don’t remember them either.*

After not managing to break into MLB, Nakamura returned to Japan, spending 2006 with Orix, and then jumped around for his last few seasons between Chunichi, Rakuten, and Yokohama. He had a couple good seasons left in his mid 30s, but was mostly over the hill after he came back from the US.

Orix decided that his poor play in his first season back in Japan merited a huge reduction in salary (down to about $800k). This did not sit will with Nakamura (understandably: after Ichiro left he had been the highest paid player in Japan), who did not sign the contract and was eventually released. Whether it was officially done or not, he was effectively blackballed the following season, and eventually forced to settle for what was essentially a minor league deal with the Dragons (later changed to a major league deal after he performed well). Although he ended up making much less money than he had turned down from Blue Wave, to some extent it worked out well. The Dragons won the Japan Series and Nakamura took home the series MVP award.

Going to the Dodgers in 2005 was Nakamura’s second attempt to come to the US. A few seasons earlier he had an agreement to join the Mets on a two year, seven million dollar deal. But the deal was announced on the Mets’ website before Nakamura had a chance to inform the Buffaloes about it, and he decided to back out of it and stay in Japan.

Nakamura was a third baseman, and between having good power, playing third, and having a long career, he probably produced quite a lot of value for his teams. Mostly in a compiling sort of way (his peak was there but not very long), but that’s valuable too. I wouldn't be surprised if he's elected to the hall of fame eventually. Superficially his stat line looks a lot like Paul Konerko’s, but there are some really big differences. First, Konerko was playing in some really high-offense environments, second, Konerko was a first baseman, and third, even by first base standards, Konerko was a pretty lousy fielder. So despite their superficial similarity, I’m comfortable saying that Nakamura was much better than Konerko. No comparable American player comes immediately to mind, however. The really good American third basemen either had better on-base skills than Nakamura, or shorter careers.

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of Fame: No

The card is from a 2000 Upper Deck set. It’s weird. The design is obviously pretty strange, and on top of that it’s an odd size. Most Calbee cards are a little bit smaller than standard baseball cards, and this one is smaller than those. But it’s also larger than the tiny cards that Calbee made in the 80s.

*Just double checked these guys. Apparently Cody Ross had a real major league career. The other two did not. Myrow spent one season in Korea, but then was back to playing the in PCL. He was playing quite well around age 30, he seems like the kind of guy that you expect to try to jump to Japan, actually. Instead he played Indy ball for Grand Prairie through 2015.
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  #222  
Old 09-04-2019, 08:55 PM
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Those cards are kind of interesting.

I remember when Nakamura went over to the US the first time and I just couldn't figure out why. He was an established star here but it was really obvious that he didn't have the skill set needed to do the same in the Majors and would (as he ultimately did) just end up toiling in the minors. I think everyone who knew anything about Japanese baseball at the time was thinking the same and nobody was surprised when he failed to make it.
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  #223  
Old 09-05-2019, 03:29 PM
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Default Choji Murata (for the meikyukai collection)

This is my second post about Choji Murata. (Here’s the first.) I thought I’d take what appears to be his best season (1976) and adjust it to fit the 2019 AL context, to give us a better idea of what he was up to.

In 1976 Murata had a 1.82 ERA, to go with 21 wins and 202 strike outs, in 257 innings pitched. Murata led the league in ERA, IP, and K’s, but did not win the Sawamura award. (The Sawamura award went to Kojiro Ikegaya of the Carp.) He was second in wins.

That year the Pacific League managed a 3.34 ERA and 0.48 K/IP. I don’t know how to get league-wide data for performance as a starter, so I really can’t normalize wins. But I can approximate it with innings pitched. Here's the plan: I'm going to adjust his number of starts for the shorter schedule, and then multiply that number by the average innings per start in the 2019 American League. That will get something like a translation of his innings pitched into the 2019 AL context. If he was pitching more/less than the league average innings per appearance, this figure will be off. I'm going to assume that relief appearances are 1-inning long.

Now, the 2019 AL has an ERA of 4.60 and a K rate of .96 per inning. (Yikes! That’s a lot of strike outs!) Starting pitchers pitch an average of 5.23 innings per start. Maybe bump it up to 5.5 due to openers pulling down the average.

Murata made 24 starts in a season 80% as long as MLB’s. So let’s give him 29 starts. He also made 22 relief appearances, with the season-length adjustment that becomes 26. Call those relief appearances one inning each (just a wild guess on that one). That comes out to an adjusted 186 innings. That’s maybe a bit on the light side, but not unreasonable for a contemporary starter. Blake Snell won the Cy Young award last year with fewer innings pitched than that.

Murata was striking out batters at a rate 40% better than league average. Adjusted to the 2019 AL that comes out to 1.3 K’s per inning, which is extremely good. It’s just about what Justin Verlander does. Over 186 innings that would give him 250 Ks. If you adjust his ERA for the 2019 AL context, you end up with 2.51. There isn’t any way to adjust wins, so here’s what Murata’s 1976 looks like if it happens in the 2019 American League:

186 innings pitched, 250 strikeouts (12 K/9), and a 2.51 ERA.

That ERA would lead the league (by a little bit). The K figures are good but not league leading. The innings pitched are a bit light for a full season, but not very low. He in fact pitched far more innings than that, but that has to do with differences in pitcher usage between the 1976 Pacific League and the 2019 American League. He actually pitched 18 complete games that year, adjusted for context and that becomes, eh, like, 1 or 2. Basically nobody pitches complete games anymore, or even very deep into games. The longer schedule isn’t enough to make up for the reduced workloads. (There’s also the possibility that his relief outings were longer than one inning each.)

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: Yes

These cards are mid-80s Calbee cards. I bought them in a lot, it’s not like I was all like “I already have one boring headshot of Choji Murata, surely need to buy another”.
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  #224  
Old 09-07-2019, 10:07 PM
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Default Takao Kajimoto

Takao Kajimoto is a hall of famer and Meikyukai member who pitched for the Braves. He was featured in one on the earliest posts in this thread (which weren’t very high quality) so I’ll try to do better here.

Kajimoto pitched from 1954 to 1973, compiling a record of 254-255 (that’s right, a losing record). I wonder if that’s the highest number of wins for a pitcher with a losing record? My guess would be “yes”. Wikipedia (Japanese version) says that it is the highest total for anyone to have never led the league in wins, which also sounds plausible. Although he was a 12x all-star, he was selected for just a single best-nine team.

Kajimoto’s father died when he was in middle school, and he was raised by his mother alone thereafter. He was a sensation as a rookie, signing directly out of high school with a 93 mph fastball.

With a rotation led by Kajimoto and Tetsuya Yoneda, Hankyu has something of a golden age in the late 1960s. Unfortunately, they ran into the buzz saw of the V9 Giants, and didn’t manage to win the Japan Series. For a while the Dodgers did a lot of things with various Japanese teams, and in the late 1950s they went to Japan to play against an all-star team. This could have turned out better for Kajimoto. He started the Oct. 31st, 1956 game, and Gino Cimoli hit a line drive that bounced off of Kajimoto’s shoulder (ouch!) and went for a triple.

After he retired Kajimoto spent many years as a coach. His advice to (at least some of his pitchers) was… peculiar. Apparently he recommended drinking before appearing in a game, on the grounds that it worked for him. There’s a reason that anecdotes don’t really count as evidence. #obviouslybadideas.

Kajimoto still holds the record for consecutive batters struck out, at nine. His pitch of choice was something that Google Translate’s version of Kajimoto’s Japanese Wikipedia page is calling a ‘palm ball’, which I gather is a kind of change up. A good change up is a nice thing to have if you can pair it was a blazing fastball. (Or, well, blazing in context. No one is going to be impressed with a 93mph fastball anymore.)

Meikyukai – Yes (he was one of the founding members) : Hall of Fame – Yes

My card is from the JCM 43a set. It’s one of a bunch of almost indistinguishable sets released between c. 1958 and 1960.
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  #225  
Old 09-11-2019, 10:24 PM
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Default Tokuro Ishii

Takuro Ishii played baseball (mostly SS) for 24 seasons, spending most of the time with the same franchise (albeit carrying over through the change from the Taiyo Whales to the Yokohama Bay Stars). His last few years were spent with Hiroshima. Ishii had no power at all, averaging four home runs per year for his career. On the other hand, he was pretty fast, stealing 20-40 bases a year for a long time. Basically what you expect from a shortstop. He played from 1989 to 2012, and collected 2432 hits (this figure is 14th all-time). His 2000th hit came in 2006, and the last few years of his career he was playing part-time. In total he put up a 282/356/372 line. He never was a dangerous hitter exactly, but if you’re playing a good shortstop, that will do.

Curiously, Ishii started his career as a pitcher. He broke in as an 18 year old with the Whales and pitched 30 innings to a 3.56 ERA. His pitching career would be short, however, a total of 49 innings spread over three seasons. By 1993 he was a regular third baseman. (It would be a couple years before he moved to short.) But his start as a pitcher didn’t exactly go smoothly either. He was undrafted out of high school, and didn’t make a pro team until he won a spot at a tryout with the Whales.

Sacrifice hits seem to have been a specialty of his. In both 1993 and 1994 he had 39 of them, which sounds like a very large number to me. The MLB record is 67 by Ray Chapman in 1917. Pretty much all of the top MLB seasons in sac hits are from the deadball era. There are a couple high figures from the early 1920s (old habits die hard). The top figure from after the early 20s is Pie Traynor’s 42 in 1928. Ishii’s 39 would tie him for 50th in MLB history, and remember he did that twice in consecutive seasons. I’m guessing third baseman played pretty far in when they saw him come up to bat.

Although Ishii was fast, he was also reckless, leading the league in times caught stealing during a bunch of seasons.

In total, over his 24 seasons he made six all-star teams and five best-nines. In addition he won four gold gloves awards. Post retirement, he has coached for the Carp, and is currently a coach with the Swallows.

As for a comparable American player: I can’t help but pick Omar Vizquel. They played the same position, they both started their careers in 1989 and retired in 2012, and they both amassed a whole bunch of hits. Vizquel won more gold gloves, but most of those he won on reputation. With the exception of an anomalous 1999, his defensive stats from 1994 to 2001 (all years in which he won the GG) were nothing special. (When he actually was a good fielder was right at the beginning of his career, but he didn’t have the reputation yet and so didn’t win the award.) On the whole, they’re quite similar players.

The Bay Stars released him after something like 20 years. Rather than retire, he signed with the Carp. About this he said:

"There really weren't many [offers]. It was in fact very tough. But in the end it wasn't about money. Rather, I wanted to keep going, I wanted a fresh start. Frankly speaking, baseball is fun."

I like that sentiment.


The card is from the 1993 BBM set.
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  #226  
Old 09-13-2019, 10:11 AM
Northviewcats Northviewcats is offline
Joe Drouillard
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Default Playing Back Cards

Here are some 1958 JCM23 Playing Card Back cards that I picked up. Any help identifying the players is appreciated.

Best regards,

Joe
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File Type: jpg 10.jpg (74.5 KB, 17 views)
File Type: jpg 11.jpg (57.7 KB, 17 views)
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  #227  
Old 09-14-2019, 09:06 PM
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Hi Joe,

You've got the set wrong. Those aren't JCM 23 they're JGA 21. They were produced by the Shonen Magazine. The year on the set is 1961.

The ace of spades is Kazuto Tsuruoka (aka Yamamoto). He was briefly a very good player, and is in the hall of fame for his work as a manager of the Nankai Hawks.

The queen of spades is Tadashi Sugiura, a hall of fame pitcher.

Jack of diamonds is Futushi Nakanishi, a hall of famer (played 3B). He was superbly great when he was young (and married his manager's daughter) but tailed off towards the end of his career. He played for the Lions.

Six of diamonds is Noboru Akiyama. He was a hall of fame pitcher for the Taiyo Whales. He had his moments, but on the whole - largely due to a short career - he's one of the weaker members of the hall of fame.
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  #228  
Old 09-14-2019, 09:18 PM
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Default Harayasu Nakajima

Haruyasu Nakajima was a star in the early days of Japanese pro ball. He played with the Giants (through several incarnations) from 1936 through 1949, and spent the last couple years of his career with Taiyo. An outfielder, he posted a career line of 270/324/393, managing 897 hits, 57 home runs, and 103 stolen bases over the course of his career. Remember that in early Japanese baseball, very few runs were scored. His best season was probably the fall season of 1938. The league as a whole hit 219/319/293. Only 110 home runs were hit in the whole league that season, 22 of them by the Kyojin. Get this: in that league, Nakajima hit 361/428/626, and bashed out ten home runs. That’s completely nuts, and it was Japan’s first triple crown. He hit almost 50% of his team’s home runs that year, and, what, like, 9% of the home runs in the entire league. (You actually just couldn’t do this anymore. To do that in the 2019 American League – to this point in the season – you would need to hit 286 home runs.) Nakajima’s slugging percentage that season was more than double the league average. I decided to check out Babe Ruth real quick. In 1918 (so this is still during the deadball era) he slugged 555 against a league average of 322. In 1919 he slugged 657 and the league mark was 359. Neither of those seasons matched Nakajima’s feat. His best season – as far as raw slugging percentage goes – was 1920, when he slugged 847 and the league managed 387. Okay, so Ruth did manage to double the league mark for slugging percentage. But that’s what we need to compare Nakajima’s fall 1938 season to: perhaps the best season of Babe Ruth’s career. (By WAR Ruth’s best season is 1923, but that’s being propped up by an anomalous 19 runs saved in the field.) As you might have surmised, power was Nakajima’s calling card. In fact, he hit the first home run in Giants’ history (off of Tadashi Wakabayashi).

Nakajima didn’t have the consistency that Ruth did, but at his best he was Ruthian in his performance. Japan didn’t go to a single season each year (as opposed to split between fall and spring seasons) until 1940, when Nakajima was 30 years old. His batting average and on-base percentage were better than average that year, but his slugging percentage was still excellent, about 50% higher than average. That’s quite a drop-off from his Ruthian heights, but he was still hitting roughly like (this year’s version of) George Springer.

Then the war came calling. His 1943 season was abbreviated, whether that was due to injury or enlistment I don’t know. But he lost his entire 1944 and 1945 seasons to the war. When he came back he was 36 years old, and not at the top of his game anymore. In 1946 he was a little below average in the on-base department, and a little above average in the slugging department. My guess (and this is only a guess) as to what happened: he found that he was old and out of practice, and started selling out for power. Guessing on fastballs and trying to pull things. That would explain a precipitous drop in BA/OBP and a still-healthy SLG.

By 1947 he was genuinely bad, but at this point he had been relegated to a part-time role anyhow, probably at his own choosing, since he took over as manager of the Giants in 1946. Nakajima’s managerial career was brief, 1943 with the Giants, continuing after the war through 47. They got a slow start to the season and he was relieved of his duties, only to take the top spot again in 1949. But that didn’t last. He managed a partial season in 1949, and then another partial season with the Whales in 1951. Under Nakajima’s leadership the Giants were good and the Whales were not. About what you expect. I don’t know about his other managerial abilities, but he seems to have been a good judge of talent. Tetsuharu Kawakami was originally moved from pitcher to first base at his suggestion, and he, together with Shigeru Mizuhara, scouted Takahiko Bessho for the Giants. (They didn't manage to sign him - he went to Nankai instead.)

The professional part of Nakajima’s career was in fact only the fourth act of his life in baseball. In 1928 he led his high school team to victory at Koshien. Afterwards he starred at Waseda, playing for one of Japan’s most storied university baseball teams. At the time, baseball at the Big Six universities was the highest caliber baseball in Japan. After he graduated he played in the industrial leagues (which pre-date genuinely professional baseball in Japan). He then joined the Giants as soon as that was an option.

The other player on the card is Kikuji Hirayama. He’s the one throwing on the left, Nakajima is standing on the right. Hirayama is not in the hall of fame, but was a pretty good outfielder in his own right, playing for the Giants from 1937 to 1949, and then leaving with Nakajima for the Whales. There’s a nice write-up about him on Noburo Aota’s Fan Notes.

Meikyukai – No : Hall of Fame – Yes

The card is an uncatalogued bromide. The back has the players’ names, but nothing else. (Unless, that is, you count damage due to being removed from a scrap book.) The condition of this card is obviously terrible, and I’d be happy to upgrade it at some point. Since both players featured left the Giants after 1949, this card must be a late 40s issue.

Nakajima is not a meikyukai member (his disqualification is over determined, he has neither enough hits nor the right birthday), but he is in the hall of fame. In fact, he was the third player ever elected. This card does, therefore, contribute to my hall of fame project. I just need three more cards at this point.
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