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  #251  
Old 12-05-2019, 08:50 PM
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Default Koji Akiyama (again)

Here's the Akiyama card for my Meikyukai collection. The original post about him can be found here. I'll add a little more to it.

Akiyama was a power-speed threat, hitting 437 home runs and stealing 303 bases in his career. He was the first Japanese player to lead the league in both categories in the same year. He won an MVP award in 1987 to go along with eleven consecutive gold glove awards. The first twelve years of his career were spent with the Lions, who were the powerhouse team of the 1980s. They finished in first place nine times during his tenure. After the 1993 season he was traded to the Daiei Hawks. Let's take a look at this deal.

The deal was Akiyama, Takehiro Hashimoto and Katsuyoshi Murata for Makoto Sasaki, Tomio Watanabe and Tomoyuki Uchiyama. Hashimoto was a poor relief pitcher who would go on to have a few solid seasons with his new team. Murata was just 23 but had developed into a reasonably good starting pitcher, who would promptly lose it and wash out of baseball after his age 27 season. Sasaki looks to have been a star, albeit one coming off of a down year. His skill set was basically the same as Akiyama's just not as advanced. Watanabe was a pitcher with some success in his past, but who missed the entire season (presumably with an injury) and would never be the same. Uchiyama was a promising young relief pitcher who didn't amount to much.

So this deal looks, essentially, to have been Akiyama for Sasaki, with lots of filler. Akiyama was clearly the bigger star, but he was on the wrong side of 30. Seibu got a younger-but-worse version of him in Sasaki. This looks like one of those headline grabbing deals, but one that didn't end up making much difference. Maybe the Hawks got the better end of it, if only because Hashimoto was the only one of the filler players to have real value post-trade?

After retirement Akiyama became the Hawks' manager and led them to victory in the 2011 Japan Series. In total he won the Matsutaro Shoriki Award three times, which ranks second all-time to Oh's four. (This award is given to the person - sometimes a player, sometimes a manager - who has done the most to develop professional baseball. No, I don't know what that means. Winner list here.)

Meikyukai - Yes : Hall of Fame - Yes

My card is from the 1998 Calbee set, after the trade to the Hawks.
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  #252  
Old 12-14-2019, 12:56 PM
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More bromides from the 1949 Seals tour:


O'Doul with Betto and Wakabayashi



Translations would be appreciated.
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  #253  
Old 12-17-2019, 08:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Exhibitman View Post
More bromides from the 1949 Seals tour:


O'Doul with Betto and Wakabayashi



Translations would be appreciated.
Upper Left: Bit hard to make out, I think it says "Young Coach" then "Itouru" which is probably a mangling of someobody's name.

Upper right: Third Baseman Frank Shofner

Lower Left: Spring Training

Lower Right: The Seals' Dynamite Lineup
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  #254  
Old 12-26-2019, 10:54 PM
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Default Sadaharu Oh (part 2)

Sadaharu Oh

1. Preliminary Remarks

There are some figures that are so humongous that they are hard to comprehend. There are 225,622 miles between here and the moon. The Pacific Ocean weighs 1.483×10^21 pounds. That sort of thing. Here is another: Sadaharu Oh hit 868 homeruns.

Eight hundred and sixty-eight.

There are a number of ways you can try to make sense of this record. One is to ask what a similar record in the US would look like. Another, and one that American baseball fans inevitably ask when they start thinking about Oh, is to ask how many home runs he would have hit if he had played in the US. The “what if he had played in the US?” question is partly asked out of sheer parochialism, and part of it is a disbelief that someone could accomplish a feat that seems to be impossible in the American game, but part of it is hoping that there is some way to comprehend this record, something that would make it intelligible. Like when Bill Nye builds a scale model of the solar system.

This is my second post about Oh. You can read the first one here. There’s been enough written about Oh, including by Oh himself, that you don’t need me to tell much of his story. So in this post I’m going to play with some numbers. In particular, I’m going to take a swing (if you’ll forgive the baseball metaphor) at answering the questions posed in the last paragraph. The first question—what would a similar US record look like?—is relatively straightforward. And I’ll answer that one in a minute. The other—what would he have done if he had played in the US?—is utterly unanswerable. A bit later I’ll explain why, and then I’ll make an effort at answering some other related questions.


2. Oh’s production in an American context

Oh played from 1959 to 1980. He spent his entire career with the Yomiuri Giants. I am going to use the most straightforward way that I can think of to translate his production into an American context. Basically, what I’m going to do is compare Oh’s homerun rate to league average, and then use the resulting figure to calculate what a comparable homerun rate would be in the target league (I’m going to use the NL from 1959 to 1980). Then I’ll adjust Oh’s plate appearances by the difference in league schedules, and multiply the adjusted homerun rate by this number of plate appearances.

The math is just arithmetic, but I’ll explain each step and then provide the formula. Since we want to know how much better Oh was at hitting homeruns than his contemporaries, we need to know how good they were at hitting homeruns. So the first step is to divide the number of plate appearances that batters in the Central League recorded by the number of homeruns that they hit. That gives us:

(LgPA/LgHR)

We’re going to want to compare this number to Oh’s homerun rate, so we then divide Oh’s PA by his HRs. And we get the comparison between Oh and the league by dividing the league homerun rate by Oh’s. So far we’ve got:

(LgPA/LgHR)/(Oh’s PA/Oh’s HR)

So, for example, in 1964 the Central League hit a homerun every 38.6 PA, and Oh hit one every 10.8 PA. Divide the first number by the second number, and you find that Oh was about 3.5x more efficient at hitting homeruns than was the 1964 Central League. Now, we are interested in translating Oh’s performance into MLB context, so we need to calculate MLB homerun rates:

MLB_PA/MLB_HR

Then you divide the latter number by the former number. This tells you how many plate appearances an MLB player would go between home runs, if he was as far above league average at hitting home runs as Oh was:

(MLB_PA / MLB_HR) / ((LgPA/LgHR) / (Oh’s PA/Oh’s HR))

In 1964 National League players hit a home run about once ever 50.5 plate appearances. If you divide that by 3.5 you get 14.42. So, to be as far above NL average as Oh was above CL average in 1964, you would need to hit a homerun once every 14.42 plate appearances.

That gives us a rate stat, but we want a counting stat: a number of home runs. So we need to do three things. We need to adjust Oh’s plate appearances by the difference in the schedule length between MLB and Japan. We then need to adjust this number by the percentage of league games that Oh actually appeared in. Finally, we divide this adjusted number of plate appearances by the rate that we calculated above. The number of games the Central League played varied by year, but was usually 130. MLB season length switched in 1962 from 154 games to 162, so there will be some differences in the calculations from year-to-year, but the general idea is this:

(Oh’s PA)*((#NL games/#CL games)*(Oh’s games played/#CL games))

Let’s go through this part slowly. “Oh’s PA” is just his actual number of plate appearances. “#NL games” is the number of games scheduled in the National League, either 154 or 162 depending on the year. “#CL games” is the number of games in the Central League, either 130 or 140. Dividing NL games by CL games tells us how much longer, in percentage terms, the NL season is. We’re going to multiply Oh’s actual PA in order to account for the fact that an American version of Oh would have played in more games, but he doesn’t get credit for the entire difference in the schedule, because Oh missed some games here and there. That’s what “(Oh’s games played/#CL games)” is all about. It tells us what percentage of Central League games Oh actually played in. By multiplying the (percentage) difference in the league schedules by the percentage of games that Oh actually played in, we ensure that our Oh clone doesn’t get too much credit for playing in a league with a longer season.

So, this whole figure gives us a number of MLB-adjusted plate appearances for our Oh clone. If we divide this number by the average number of plate appearances per homerun (calculated above), we get our MLB translation for Oh’s homerun production. Here’s the final formula:

((Oh’s PA)*((#NL games/#CL games)*(Oh’s games played/#CL games))) / ((MLB_PA / MLB_HR) / ((LgPA/LgHR) / (Oh’s PA/Oh’s HR)))

Feel free to check my math, but I think that works. I did this calculation for each season of Oh’s career, and then summed the number of homeruns hit in each season (rounded to the nearest whole, it looks odd to have him hitting 45.2 homeruns). Here’s the table:

Year HRs
1959 9
1960 27
1961 25
1962 65
1963 45
1964 56
1965 62
1966 65
1967 43
1968 33
1969 40
1970 52
1971 37
1972 43
1973 56
1974 36
1975 26
1976 26
1977 38
1978 27
1979 23
1980 21
Total 855

In a curious twist, the differences in season length almost completely make up for differences in homerun rates. Translated into the National League, 868 homeruns in the 1959-1980 Central League is… 855 homeruns. Yowza. The top figure is 65, a number achieved in both 1962 and 1966. (Years in which Oh actually hit 38 and 47 homeruns.) Ten of these figures would have led the league: 1962-1967, 1970, and 1972-1974.

(Incidentally, does anyone know how to insert a table into a Net54 post? I tried HTML, and it accepted the code but yielded weird results. Obvious possibility is that I was doing it wrong, but any advice is appreciated.)


3. The counterfactual question

It’s important to see that the foregoing does not tell you what Oh himself would have done if he had played in the National League. It tells you what a player who was as much better than NL average as Oh was better than CL average would have done. If the counterfactual question ‘how many home runs would Oh have hit if he had played in the National League?’ is taken literally, I don’t think that there’s any way to answer it. A 19 year old Sadaharu Oh might have gotten homesick during spring training, gone home, and joined Yomiuri. Or he might not have been able to keep up with a 162 game schedule and succumbed to chronic injuries. Or he might have been just fine. There’s no way to tell.

So the counterfactual question is unanswerable. We can, however, answer another question that might be found in the vicinity of that one. To explain that question, I think it would be best if I were to talk about MLEs for a while.

‘MLE’ stands for Major League Equivalence. You use MLEs to evaluate minor league performance. The idea is that you’ve got Joe McMinorLeaguer and you want to know what to expect from him. You’ve got his minor league numbers, but they were put up against minor league pitching, in minor league ballparks, and so on. And it’s hard to know what they tell you about his potential major league performance. So what you do is you find a bunch of players who have appeared in the same minor league as Joe and also appeared in the major leagues, and you see how strong the correlation was between their minor league performance and their major league performance. (It’s obviously a lot better if they played in the majors during the same year that they played in Joe’s league.) You then assume that Joe’s numbers would translate as well as this comparison class, and you adjust his minor league numbers accordingly. Those major league equivalences are not what Joe would have done if he had been in the major leagues—that’s unknowable—but they do give you some idea about what he would have done, and they can be fed into a projection system with some degree of confidence that the projection it will give you isn’t just nonsense.

The crucial bit for my purposes is that you can do this with Japanese statistics too. The guy to look to here is Clay Davenport, co-founder of Baseball Prospectus and guru of baseball statistics. His Davenport Translations give us just what we want. He’s got two sets of translations, a normal one and a ‘peak’ translation. I’m not clear on the differences between the two models, although it is obvious that the latter is more forgiving for hitters. Whether this is due to different comparison classes, or regressing numbers to the mean less (or more) aggressively, or what, I don’t know. In any case, here are the Davenport translations for Oh’s home runs:

Normal Translation

Year HRs
1959 3
1960 9
1961 7
1962 19
1963 18
1964 25
1965 22
1966 23
1967 20
1968 20
1969 18
1970 24
1971 19
1972 23
1973 26
1974 21
1975 16
1976 19
1977 19
1978 16
1979 13
1980 13
Total 393


Peak Translation

Year HRs
1959 5
1960 11
1961 8
1962 21
1963 19
1964 25
1965 22
1966 23
1967 20
1968 20
1969 18
1970 24
1971 19
1972 24
1973 27
1974 23
1975 18
1976 22
1977 24
1978 22
1979 19
1980 22
Total 436

Both versions of the Davenport Translation see Oh as a mid-range slugger in MLB. Perhaps his biggest strength was his consistency, so if an MLB team saw fit to keep a player with 20ish HR power at 1B, it’s not unreasonable to think that he could have had a very long career. Davenport uses the 1992 American League as his target league, so the statistics in the above tables are translated into that context.

However, the Davenport Translations don't account for differences in the league schedule. Once you work that in, the picture changes:


Peak

Year HRs
1959 5
1960 14
1961 10
1962 27
1963 25
1964 34
1965 28
1966 28
1967 25
1968 25
1969 22
1970 30
1971 24
1972 30
1973 34
1974 29
1975 22
1976 26
1977 30
1978 27
1979 22
1980 27
Total 544

That total would place him 17th all-time, just between David Ortiz and Mike Schmidt. Under the normal translation, adjusted for league schedule, he ends up with 486 home runs, good for 30th all time, above Adrian Beltre and Miguel Cabrera, and below Lou Gehrig and Fred McGriff.


4. The card

This is a post to a baseball card website, and so is ostensibly about a baseball card. So here’s a baseball card. It’s a 1977 Calbee. In 1977 Calbee released many sets; at least, Engel catalogues them as separate although closely related sets. (How they were actually distributed I don’t know.) I have been unable to determine which of the many ’77 Calbee sets this one belongs to. There is one promising candidate (although I don’t have my copy of Engel handy and I don’t remember which one it is), but the book says that the back of this particular set is framed by ‘weeds’—a leaf motif that turns up both on Calbee cards and on some menko sets. And my card doesn’t have a frame around the text on the back. So I can’t say any more than that it is a ’77 Calbee.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: Yes
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File Type: jpg oh 2.jpg (59.4 KB, 371 views)
File Type: jpg oh 2 back.jpg (28.5 KB, 377 views)

Last edited by nat; 12-26-2019 at 10:57 PM.
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  #255  
Old 12-28-2019, 08:08 PM
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Default Tsutomu Wakamatsu

Tsutomu Wakamatsu was an outfielder with the Yakult Swallows from 1971 to 1989. He is a member of both the hall of fame and the Meikyukai. Accordingly, I've written about him before. Here’s my first post. I don’t have much to add, so this one will be fairly short. Wakamatsu was nicknamed “Mr. Swallows” and also “small hitter” (he’s 5’6” and 162). When he was in school he was an avid skier, and struggled with the decision about whether to focus on baseball or skiing. I think it’s safe to say that he made the right choice. He was a third round draft pick, and his first season he played for legendary manager Osamu Mihara, in the latter’s final managerial stop.

Wakamatsu’s game revolved around getting on base; he had a healthy on base percentage with a high batting average and medium power. His .319 career batting average is one of the better marks in Japanese history. In fact, it may be the best, depending on the restrictions that you put on qualified batters. It is the highest mark for batters with more than 5000 at bats, but if you drop that floor down to 4900 Leron Lee takes over the lead with a .320 mark. Wakamatsu’s on base percentage really was driven by his batting average. He didn’t walk much, and he struck out even less. His career high in walks was 49 in 1978, and in strike outs it was 43 in 1973. In some ways he’s sort of the opposite of the contemporary American player. Far from being a “three true outcome” batter, he nearly always put the ball into play.

After his playing career ended Wakamatsu spent a few years as a baseball commentator, before becoming a hitting coach, and eventually the manager of the Swallows. He held the top job with Yakult from 1999 to 2005.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: Yes

The card is from the 1976 Calbee set.
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  #256  
Old 01-03-2020, 09:01 PM
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Default Taira Fujita

Taira Fujita played 19 seasons with Hanshin (1966 to 1984), mostly at shortstop. He was a pretty good hitter, especially for a shortstop. Uncharacteristically for a shortstop, however, he was slow. In home runs he topped out at 28 (but was usually in the teens; those 28 homers placed him third in the league, behind Oh and Nagashima), but only twice did he manage double digit steals. For his career Fujita posted a 286/336/435 slash line, and he qualified for the Meikyukai with his 2000th hit in 1983. From 66 through 78 (his age 30 season) he mostly played short. In 1979 he suffered a serious injury; a few years before he’d started missing about 1/4th of the season, but in 79 he appeared in only 18 games due to a torn thigh muscle. Thereafter he was exclusively a first baseman. It’s a shame to shift your shortstop to a position as defensively unimportant as first base, but apparently the injury necessitated it, and based on a casual examination of Hanshin rosters, he doesn’t seem to have been blocking anyone who could have made better use of the roster spot. And his offense was strong enough to justify a spot at first base anyway – he won a batting title in 1981 (with a .358 mark). As one might expect from a shortstop, he was a good fielder at first base (winning a diamond glove award in addition to the batting title), and was selected to the best nine in 1981. Albright thinks well of him, regarding him as Japan’s 37th greatest player.

Fujita’s career started off strong. His rookie season was nothing special, but as a 19 year old sophomore he led the league in hits, doubles, and triples, and was selected to his first (of seven) best nine. I'm guessing that this wasn’t a surprise. Fujita’s high school team reached the Koshien finals, and he was the first player in Koshien history to hit two home runs in the same game. When he became the starting shortstop (as a 19 year old) he replaced hall of famer Yoshio Yoshida.

During 1978, in what is perhaps Fujita’s best-known accomplishment, he went 208 at bats without striking out. This is a record that would stand until Ichiro came along, and went (IIRC) 216 at bats without a K. He is also known for having a central role in the “Violent Tigers Incident”. In 1982, during what had apparently been a tense game, he hit a ball down the third base line that rolled foul. The Tigers’ third base coach claimed that a fielder had touched it before it rolled foul, but the umpires refused to change their call. Two Tiger coaches were much distressed by this, and an argument with the umpire eventually led to the coaches kicking and punching him. (Fines and suspensions were, of course, forthcoming.) As near as I can tell Fujita didn’t do anything wrong, but he was the one who hit the ball that started the whole thing.

After retiring Fujita coached and briefly managed the Tigers. Apparently his managerial stints did not go well. He was extremely harsh and unpopular with his players. The team finished in sixth place both seasons that he was in charge. He has also coached in an independent league, and served as a baseball commentator on TV.

As usual with Tigers players, thehanshintigers.com has a better write up than my meager attempt at biography.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

The card is from the 1976 Calbee set.

And a random note for people who like awesome stuff: Jim Allen has a run expectancy table for Japan.
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  #257  
Old 01-07-2020, 09:25 PM
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Default Hitoki Iwase

Hitoki Iwase was a Chunichi relief pitcher from 1999 through 2018. From 2004 to 2014 he was a closer, and he collected 407 saves in his career (thereby qualifying for the Meikyukai). He holds Japan’s all-time record for saves.

Iwase was good, as a career 2.31 ERA attests. It is, however, important to remember that relief pitchers always have lower ERAs (on average) than do starting pitchers. Popular speculation is that this is because they can put everything they’ve got into each pitch, knowing that they’re only going to pitch an inning or two. And as you expect from a relief pitcher, Iwase didn’t pitch much. He totaled 985 innings pitched in 1005 games (so, even less than one inning per appearance). My guess is that 2002 was his best season. That year Iwase posted a career-best 1.06 ERA over 59 innings. A few years earlier he did pitch 80 innings to the tune of 1.90 ERA, and while that mark is very good, it’s still almost double his 2002 figure. In 2002 he was still pitching in middle relief – he was setting up for Eddie Gaillard, who was mostly unsuccessful in a short MLB career, but who would go on to have three solid years pitching in Nagoya. Gaillard left the team (probably traded?) mid-way through 2003, but Iwase still didn’t get the closing gig. Akinori Otsuka took over after Gaillard left. I’m not convinced that Otsuka was a better option than Iwase, but, anyways, the next year Otsuka went to pitch for the Padres and Iwase finally got the top spot in the Dragons’ bullpen. And ‘finally’ is a good word to use here: Iwase was 29 when he inherited the spot. He would pitch until he was 43.

Maybe the hesitancy involved in giving him the closers spot was due to the that he’s left handed. Left handed pitchers are usually at a platoon disadvantage, and managers seems to be loath to give up the platoon advantage when bringing in a relief pitcher. If he’s good enough (e.g. Aroldis Chapman) it can, however, be worthwhile.

Iwase was a part of the first Dragons team to win the Japan Series in half a century in 2007. He was, during the series, brought in as a relief pitcher in the 9th inning of a perfect game. I can’t imagine the guts involved in removing a pitcher in the 9th inning of a perfect game. (Or even what the manager must be thinking. It’s not like the guy has painted himself into a corner or something – there’s nobody on base! He must have just really lost his command or was visibly tired or something. It was Hiromitsu Ochiai managing, if somebody is going to do something daring and controversial, it's him.) Anyhow, it ended well. Iwase did not allow a runner, preserved the perfect game, and won the Series. The Dragons were good during his time with them, appearing in the Japan Series six times. They managed, however, to win only in 2007.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of fame: No

2002 BBM
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  #258  
Old 01-12-2020, 08:34 PM
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Default Tadahito Iguchi

Tadahito Iguchi played from 1997 to 2017, mostly at second base. He broke in as a 22 year old with the Daiei Hawks, with whom he stayed until 2005, when he signed with the White Sox. Position players imported from Japan mostly do not have a good track record in the US, but Iguchi was more successful than most. He was already past his prime, but still put in a couple years playing a solid second base on the south side. Mid 2007 he found himself traded to the Phillies. They released him at the end of the year, and he signed with the Padres. Most of the way through a poor 2008, they released him and he returned to the Phillies for their stretch run. In 2009 he went back to Japan, joining the Chiba Lotte Marines this time. (His initial contract upon his return to Japan was a three-year deal for about $6m total.) He had some good years left, but looks to me like he was a minor star for the balance of his career. In Japan he collected 1760 hits, but the 494 that he recorded in MLB put him over the top as far as Meikyukai membership is concerned.

As a young man, Iguchi had good power and very good speed. In 2001 (age 26) he hit 30 home runs and stole 44 bases. But his best season was probably 2003, in which he hit 27, stole 42, and posted a slash line of 340/438/573. That slugging percentage was an outlier, he was usually in the mid-400s before coming to the States, and ended up with a 268/338/401 line. Reportedly his success in 2003 was due to a change in approach: instead of trying to pull the ball, he started going the other way. If true, it’s a bit odd, as his slugging didn’t suffer any. Usually you hit for more power to your pull side.

Although his MLB career was brief, it was eventful. Iguchi managed a seven RBI game, that, incredibly, his team lost. He was also a member of the 2005 World Champion White Sox, hitting a crucial playoff home run along the way. As a member of the Marines he won the Japan Series. And as an Olympian he took home a silver medal.

If you’re looking for a comparable American player, you need a middle infielder with moderate power, good speed, and a long career. Julio Franco comes to mind. So does Paul Molitor. They were the same kind of player (even if Molitor was better). Neither one is a perfect match. Iguchi ended up moving to first base eventually, but he stayed at an important defensive position longer than did Molitor. But I think that Molitor was the better hitter. On the other hand, Iguchi clearly had more power than Franco.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

I’m not super happy with the card. It’s from the 2013 BBM set, but it’s a card celebrating the history of the Hawks franchise. So although Iguchi was on the Marines at the time that the card was printed, it shows him on the Hawks. Some day I’m sure I’ll get around to shelling out ~$2 for a different Iguchi card.
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  #259  
Old 01-17-2020, 09:46 PM
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Default Yasunori Oshima

Yasunori Oshima was a 1B/OF who played mostly for Chunichi (and a while with the Fighters) from 1971 to 1994. He had a very long career, but many of his seasons were abbreviated, and indeed failed to clear 100 hits in many seasons. That makes Meikyukai membership all the more impressive. Lots of players just barely qualify – it seems likely to me that they hang on just to get their 2000th hit – but Oshima got up to 2200. No threat to Harimoto or anything, but it looks like he was active for four seasons after qualifying for the Meikyukai. He had power (382 career home runs) but no speed; about what you expect from a corner outfielder/first baseman. Oshima’s best season was 1979, in which he hit 36 home runs, drove in 103, posted a 317/376/603 line, and recorded 302 total bases. Pretty good given a 130 game season. Superficially he reminds me of David Justice, but the fact that Oshima played ten years longer than did Justice suggests that he’s not the best comp.

Some of the part-time seasons were due to taking a long time to find a regular gig with the Dragons. He was originally drafted as a pitcher. Many of his early seasons involved a lot of pinch hitting. So even if he was appearing in nearly all of his team’s games, he still wasn’t getting a whole lot of playing time.

The trade from Chunichi to Nippon Ham was for Tomio Tanaka and Tatsuo Omiya. Tanaka was a lousy starting pitcher. Omiya was a catcher who had been decent, but by 1987 was a rather poor back up. Oshima was quite old at this point. I guess Nippon Ham got the better end of the deal – neither of the guys they gave up were any good – but it wasn’t the most consequential of trades.

Oshima ranks in the top 20 in a bunch of offensive categories, but that’s mostly a result of his extraordinarily long career. He was good – don’t get me wrong – but he wasn’t the kind of transcendent talent you think of when someone tells you that he’s top 20 in hits (and 22nd in home runs). He was a multi-time all-star, but never made a best-nine.

As near as I can make out from his Japanese Wikipedia page, Oshima had been a fan of sumo and the Hanshin Tigers when he was a child. Despite his affection for the Tigers, it was the Dragons who drafted him, and after he was drafted it was Shigeru Mizuhara who turned him into a position player. Post-retirement he managed the Fighters briefly and unsuccessfully, and served as a baseball commentator.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1977 Calbee
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  #260  
Old 01-20-2020, 09:00 PM
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Default Murayama (#2)

It’s time for another menko.

This is post #2 about Minoru Murayama. The card below is for my Meikyukai collection. (Previous post here.)

My previous post covers Murayama pretty well (and bio on thehanshintigers.com does it even better), so this one is just a few tidbits I uncovered, plus a card.

• The Giants offered him a signing bonus of 4x what the Tigers offered, but Hanshin also promised lifetime employment if the baseball thing didn’t work out, so he turned down the Giants’ money.

• He was the first professional Japanese athlete to sign a deal (as a member of their advisory staff) with a sporting goods company (SSK Baseball Products). He continued to help them develop baseball equipment into the 1970s.

• His #11 is one of only three numbers retired by the Tigers (Fujimura #10, Yoshida #23)

• He led the league in ERA three times – including his penultimate season, to go along with twice leading the league in wins, and three times each in CG, SHO and IP.

• Albright ranks him as the 64th best player in Japanese history. And while I haven’t gone though his list in detail, my initial reaction is that that seems low.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: Yes

My card is from the JCM 14g set. It was issued in 1964, so towards the end of the tobacco-menko era. There are a number of “families” of menko cards, and JCM 14 is one of the larger. It has a bunch of sets that were released between 1959 and 1964 that are very similar to each other. JCM 14f is one of the sets that was imported into the US; the primary difference between this set and that one (besides the checklist) is that 14f has the team name printed on the back of the card. Some of the sets in this family are hard to get ahold of, but this one isn’t.
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  #261  
Old 01-26-2020, 01:05 PM
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Default Hideki Matsui (part 2)

Here’s a Hideki Matsui card for the Meikyukai collection. (Earlier write-up here.)

As I suspect anyone reading this knows, Matsui defected from Yomiuri after the 2002 season, signing with the Yankees. He stayed with them through 2007, after which he spent a few seasons with the Angels/A’s/Rays to finish out his career. When he left Japan, Matsui had 332 career home runs and 1390 hits. He added 1253 hits and 175 home runs on this side of the Pacific.

What I want to do today is estimate what his career would have looked like if he hadn’t left Japan. Of course you can’t actually know this, but an educated guess is possible. Here’s how I’m going to do it. The Davenport Translation of his 1996 is about 25% better than his actually 2003 MLB performance. So I’m going to take his actual 1996 stats, and reduce them by 25%, and use that as his projected 2003. After that I’m going to find changes in his actual performance from year to year, and adjust his projected performance by the same amount. So, say that his performance from one year to the next decreased by x%. I’m going to take his projected performance for the first year, and multiply it by 1-x to get his projected performance for the next year. That way his projected aging pattern matches his actual aging pattern.

My calculations give him an additional 803 hits and 312 home runs, for career totals of 2193 hits and 644 home runs. Fewer hits because the season is shorter, but more home runs, because Japanese players tend to lose a lot of power when they come to MLB. If this is right he would still have gotten Meikyukai membership, and would have ended up third all-time for home runs in Japan. It also gives him a career slash line of 297/399/611. There are some oddities of this little system that aren’t especially believable. Most notably, the fact that his home run total doubled from 2003 to 2004 makes his 2004 projection a bit screwy. But this is just for fun, so it’s good enough.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame – Yes

1999 Calbee SP. This set is a premium that you could only get by sending in “winner” cards from packs of Calbee chips.
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  #262  
Old 02-01-2020, 05:52 PM
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Default Makoto Matsubara

Makoto Matsubara was mostly a first baseman (also sometimes a third baseman) who played 1962 to 1980 with Taiyo, and a few games in 1981 with the Giants. He seems to have originally been a catcher, and appeared in at least one game at every infield position, and also spent 49 games in the outfield. For his career he totaled 2095 hits, 331 home runs, and a 276/330/465 line. On the face of it those numbers don’t seem too good, but he was playing a relatively low-offense league. In context, he was a star. Matsubara made 11 all-star teams, but having to compete with Oh and Nagashima kept him out of the best nine.

He had the misfortune of spending most of his career with the Whales. They were to the Central League as the St. Louis Browns were to the American League. They managed a couple second-place finishes, but a plurality of the seasons in which he played for them they finished fifth. In his one season with the Giants, however, they won the Japan Series (of course).

Since retirement Matsubara has been active with the Meikyukai. In particular, he been working with the Meikyukai to popularize baseball around southeast Asia. As of 2017 he was working with local teams in Malaysia.

And here’s a tumblr page with a whole bunch of Mastubara cards on it.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1976 Calbee. It’s from a “then-and-now” style subset.
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Last edited by nat; 02-06-2020 at 07:42 PM.
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  #263  
Old 02-06-2020, 07:41 PM
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Default Hiromitsu Kadota (part 2)

Here's my original post about Kadota.

Kadota was an outfielder for the first half of his career, and a DH for the second half. He played for Nankai from 1970 to 1988, Orix in 89 and 90, and Daiei in 91 and 92. He's weird in a bunch of ways. Or, rather, he's weird in that he seems to be impervious to the laws of aging, and this manifests itself in a bunch of ways.

He was good as a young man. And good (perhaps even better, although eyeballing the adjustments necessary to account for changing context is hard) when he was an old man. And good even as a very old man. He had an above average OPS at the age of 44.

Consistency is really valuable. Hank Aaron was a great player, but what made him a GREAT player is that he never had an off year. (Cf. also Mike Trout) Kadota was the same way.

I was trying to think of a comparable American player, but there aren't any good fits. He's got Aaron's consistency. And he was a huge slugger. But Aaron played a good right field, whereas Kadota was a DH. But there aren't any American DHs, or even first basemen, that, in context, hit like Kadota did. If you adjust his HR totals for differences in the length of the American vs. Japanese season, you end up with 680. There are no good matches up that high in the US. Bonds, Aaron, and Ruth were better fielders. Rodriguez was an infielder. Mays was a much better fielder. Pujols doesn't have the consistency, neither does Sosa. Thome, although also a slugging DH, wasn't the same kind of slugging DH. Thome and Kadota played in just about the same number of games in their respective careers, but Thome's walk and HR totals are far higher. Kadota put the ball in play a lot more than he did. Frank Thomas had a better batting eye. David Ortiz isn't too bad, although Kadota hit more home runs in fewer games than did Ortiz.

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of Fame: Yes

Two cards today. One is from 1987 Calbee, the other is 1988.
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  #264  
Old 02-17-2020, 07:53 PM
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Default Norihiro Komada

Norihiro Komada played 1B/OF for the Giants and Bay Stars from 1983 to 2000. He got a slow start – looks to have been mostly a pinch hitter for his first few seasons, but was a starter at 24 and thereafter missed very few games. Offensively he had good but rarely great power, decent on base skills, and no speed. Although he was a six-time all-star, 1x best-nine, and 10x gold glove winner, and qualified for the Meikyukai, the highlight of his career was probably his very first at bat. He hit a grand slam on April 10, 1983, on his first trip to the plate. The first Japanese player to accomplish that feat.

Komada was drafted out of high school, and although he hit .490 in high school, he was selected by the Giants as a pitcher. That didn’t last. Motoshi Fujita, managing the Giants at the time, moved him to first base before he saw any big league action on the mound.

He left the Giants after 1993 in order to make room for Hiromitsu Ochiai, who was to take over at first base. During the 1980s the Lions were the dominant team in Japan, but Komada managed to win the Japan Series with Yomiuri once. After heading to the Bay Stars, he got another chance, taking home the championship in 1998. The Bay Stars were known as the “machine gun offense” because of the regularity with which they delivered hits. The machine gun offense was led by second baseman Bobby Rose, who hit 325 with 19 home runs. Komada, despite being the first baseman, was one of the worst-hitting regulars on the team.

If you just take his offense, Komada looks like a minor star. Somebody like Shawn Green. But the ten gold gloves tell a different story. If his defense really was that good, his American counterpart is more like Keith Hernandez.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1998 Calbee
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  #265  
Old 02-24-2020, 08:01 PM
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Default Hiromasa Arai

It’s easy to think of the Meikyukai’s 2000 hit qualification as analogous to the MLB 3000 hit club. But it’s not. The seasons are much closer in length than that. To get something analogous the qualification for the Meikyukai would need to be closer to 2400 hits. And if it was, a LOT of the players in the Meikyukai would not qualify.

Case in point: Hiromasa Arai. He hung on through a truly dreadful age 40 season to eclipse the 2000 hit mark, and retired at the end of the year. Plenty of other guys retired basically immediately after reaching 2000, but their teams were willing to let them continue to chase it even if they eat up an otherwise valuable roster spot. If the line were 2400 obviously there would still be guys doing this, but there would be a lot less of it, and the players doing it would generally be of a higher quality.

Anyways, Arai spent 18 seasons playing ichi-gun ball in Japan. From 1975 to 1985 he was with Nankai, and the balance of his career with Kintetsu. That’s the Hawks and the Buffaloes. Arai was an outfielder with basically no power and relatively little speed. He topped ten homers in a season twice, and while he often got into double digits in steals, that’s about all that you can say WRT his speed. That said, he was a good player. But his game was putting the ball where fielders can’t reach it. Basically all of his offensive value was tied to his batting average. He did walk more than he struck out, but he didn’t really do much of either. I’m imaging a guy with amazing bat control, but who never saw a pitch that he didn’t like. His best season came, surprisingly, as a 35 year old. He posted an on base percentage that was well above average, to go along with a healthy slugging percentage. But, as usual, both were driven by his batting average, in this case a career-high 366. For his career Arai sported a 291/342/395 batting line.

He was a product of the baseball powerhouse high school PL Gakuen, but did not go pro immediately. The Buffaloes selected him in the ninth round of the draft out of high school, but he was apparently not well thought of at the time (he says they didn’t even send a scout out to see him). So instead of signing he attended Hosei University and later joined the Hawks. By my count he was selected to the best nine three times, but never won an MVP award. The Buffaloes went to the Japan Series in 1989 (his only chance at a flag). And while the Buffaloes lost the Series, the Fighting Spirit Award (basically the MVP for the losing team) went to Arai.

Since retiring Arai has spent some time coaching, and has also been doing goodwill work with the Meikyukai. As of 2013 he was helping develop a baseball program in Cambodia. Two of his daughters won a Miss Japan beauty contest. One of them has athletic ambitions – she was doing something with tennis in Cambodia, and more recently worked with something called the Three Hearts Foundation to help build the popularity of baseball in Singapore. Arai and Hideo Nomo also took part in the Singaporean outreach program. Currently he is a coach with SoftBank.

Meikyukai: Yes - Hall of Fame: No

1990 Calbee
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  #266  
Old 03-05-2020, 02:31 PM
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Default

I don't have the time to do a proper write-up for anybody at the moment, even though I've got a bunch of new cards that need them. But I also don't want to leave this thread dormant for too long, so I'll show off a new card that doesn't need an accompanying biography.

Sean needed a copy of the Takagi card from the "Monsters and Robots" set, so I sent my copy to him and got this one in return. It's a Takagi from the 1975 Pepsi menko set. I like it because it's seriously thick, this card is like a hockey puck. A lot of menko sets are really menko sets in name only - they're actually too thin to flip over. Not this guy.

Other posts on Takagi here and here.
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  #267  
Old 03-08-2020, 08:46 PM
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Yeah, that Takagi is rock solid alright!

I really like that set.

I got the Monsters and Robots one you sent me, thanks a lot!
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Last edited by seanofjapan; 03-08-2020 at 08:48 PM.
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  #268  
Old 03-12-2020, 09:40 PM
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Default Koichi Tabuchi

I’m way behind in keeping this thread updated. Two reasons. Mostly, I’ve got lots of deadlines pressing and really shouldn’t be spending time writing about Japanese baseball. (This post included…) And, secondly, I’ve been working on other parts of my collection lately. But anyways, I’ve got a bunch of cards on-hand that need a write-up, including today’s featured player.

Just like the American hall, there are two doors to the Japanese hall. The front door is induction via the Player’s Division. The committee responsible for this group has as its purview recently retired players. The back door is induction via the Expert’s Division vote; players retired for at least 21 years are eligible. This past year no one was elected on the Player’s Division ballot, although Shingo Takatsu fell just short at 73%. Meanwhile, Koichi “home run artist” Tabuchi was named on 80% of the Expert’s Division ballots (voted on by living hall of famers), and therefore elected to the hall of fame. He was the only player selected. (The Japanese hall also elects a large number of executives and other non-players.) The big problem with collecting the hall of fame is that it’s always getting larger. So I expect that I’ll be picking up a Japanese card or two each year.

Tabuchi was a power hitting catcher who played for Hanshin and Seibu from 1969 to 1984. It’s really a surprise that he wasn’t elected earlier than this, and that he had to wait for the Japanese equivalent of the Vet’s committee. (Or whatever they’re calling it these days. I guess it’s been replaced by the various Era Committees.) He didn’t manage Meikyukai membership, but the man is a catcher so a certain amount of leeway ought to be granted. Nearly 1/3 of his career hits went for home runs, and he hit 474 of them in total. Three times he cleared 40 homers in a season: 1974-75 and 1980. At his peak he was walking more than he struck out, but that pretty clearly reflects the fact that pitchers were terrified of him, rather than an especially keen batting eye. For his career he posted a 260/361/535 batting line. That would be okay for a first baseman, for a catcher it’s crazy pants. It also tells you what kind of batter he must have been. A 260 batting average with a 535 slugging percentage means that he swings from his heels. A fair number of walks gave him a respectable on base percentage, but I’m still imagining a gigantic upper cut.

That supposition is supported by what is probably the most striking thing about his stat line. Despite being one of the better home run hitters in Japanese history, he hit very few doubles. Often he was in the single digits, and he managed just 167 of them for his career. The only way you manage that is if the balls that you hit are towering moon shots. If he had been a line-drive hitter more of those balls would have bounced off the top of the wall and he would have had a lower HR/2B ratio. Compare him to Ted Williams, the paradigm line-drive hitter. Despite clearing 500 HR for his career, Williams had more doubles than homers. (I write that then I go to read the B-R bullpen entry and it notes the HR/2B disparity in the very first paragraph.)

It’s possible that I’m forgetting someone, but I think that Tabuchi was the greatest catcher of the 1970s. Katsuya Nomura played the entire decade, but he was really a man of the 60s. Great though he was in the 70s, Tabuchi was better. Tabuchi was named to the best-nine five times, and was an 11-time all-star. Although his game was offense, he doesn’t seem to have been a defensive slouch, winning the gold glove (well, diamond glove, but you know what I mean) twice. But regarding that offense: it was he who broke Oh’s streak of 14 consecutive years leading the league in home runs, and he once hit home runs in seven consecutive at bats.

The deal from Hanshin to Seibu was a big one. It was Tabuchi with Kenji Furusawa for Akinobu Mayumi, Masafumi Takeda, Masashi Takenouchi, Yoshiharu Wakana, and cash. Let’s look at this deal. Furusawa was a 30 year old pitcher who had been pretty good but was starting to slip. Seibu would turn him into a reliever. Mayumi was a 24 yo SS who had spent many years playing part time, but would go on to be a star for the Tigers. If the Lions hadn’t been so stingy with playing time when he was young he almost certainly would have made the Meikyukai. Takeda was a bad relief pitcher who pitched five innings for Hanshin before retiring. Takenouchi was an older first baseman who had one good year left. Wakana was evidently intended to be Tabuchi’s replacement, but he was a defense-first catcher who couldn’t hit at all. This was a questionable deal for the Tigers at the time, but it ended up working out pretty well. Mayumi had a long and successful career, and played for Hanshin into his 40s. On the other hand, it’s not like the Lions got burned: Tabuchi was still a star, and he his 43 home runs in his first season playing for them. That’s pretty good.

And the Lions were the team to be on in the 1980s. He was only around for the beginning of their great run, but Tabuchi won the Japan series with them twice.

After retiring Tabuchi coached for a while and did some TV commentary, but now seems mostly to be retired.

As usual with great Tigers, The Hanshin Tigers has a nice biography of him.

Meikyukai: No – Hall of Fame: Yes

JCM 15a. This is another satisfyingly thick menko card. It's late for a menko card, but they knew how to make menko in the 70s. Tabuchi is the guy with the portrait in front. The batter (#12) in the back is, Engel says, unknown.
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Old 03-18-2020, 10:10 PM
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Default Mustuo Minagawa

Mutsuo Minagawa was a Nankai great. He pitched from 1954 to 1971, totaling a bit over 3000 innings, with a career ERA of 2.42. The early years of his career were a pretty low-offense environment, but even by their standards he was quite good. In 1958 he pitched 230 innings and posted a 1.83 ERA, which was exactly one run better than league average. Given that the league had a 2.83 ERA that year, his mark was only 65% of league average. That would be 2.92 in the 2019 MLB. He finished second in ERA that year, behind Inao.

But his most noteworthy season was at the other end of his career. In 1968 he threw 350 innings and had an ERA of only 1.61. Given the league average in 1968, that would be like putting up a 2.00 ERA in today’s MLB. (Or, well, 2019’s MLB. Who knows when or if we’re going to have a 2020 MLB.) It’s curious that, until 1968, he managed to avoid the abusive workloads so common at the time (he was often below 200 innings pitched). It’s also worth noting that after throwing 350 innings in a season, his innings pitched dropped off dramatically, he became increasingly ineffective, and his career was over three years later. But still, he did get one hell of a year out of those 350 innings. He led the league in ERA, wins (with 31; he was the last 30 game winner in Japan), and most other pitching categories. He was selected to the best nine, but took home neither the MVP (which went to another pitcher) nor the Sawamura award. The Sawamura award went to Yutaka Enatsu, who set a record with 401 strikeouts that year.

During his time with them, the Hawks were good. The won the Japan Series in 1959 and 1964, and lost it in 1961, 1965, and 1966.

Rather than blazing speed, Minagawa was known for his wide assortment of off-speed pitches. Word is that his best pitch was a screwball (or shoot ball). He had a side-arm delivery, which seems to be much more common in Japan than in the US. Minagawa didn’t live to see his induction into the hall of fame, but his wife and his long-time battery-mate, Katsuya Nomura, gave speeches on his behalf. Nomura said that he was the first pitcher to throw “cut balls” (apparently a kind of slider) and that they first tried the pitch out in an exhibition game against Oh, inducing him to pop out to the second baseman. Thereafter Minagawa worked the pitch into his repertoire.

This card is from the Kabaya-Leaf set of 1967. This set is very popular among American collectors, at least as these things go. It was jointly a product of a Japanese gum manufacturer, and the Leaf company familiar to American baseball card collectors. That probably explains why it has a fairly standard-for-the-US layout. It was originally distributed with chocolates and gum, but apparently the cards failed to move the product and quite a few cards were left over. Mel Bailey, who imported a bunch of Japanese cards into the US, bought the remaining stock and sold sets to American collectors. It is reportedly now easier to find in the US than in Japan. Strangely enough, my card comes from Japan (thanks Sean!), but also has writing on the back in romanji. PSA has a nice article about the set.

As you can see, this particular card has scrapbook residue on the back. I don’t know if Kabaya-Leaf cards can be soaked. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if no one has ever tried it.

>>>

And that’s that. Mutsuo Minagawa completes my Japanese Hall of Fame collection. Not, that is, that I have all of the hall of famers. But I have everyone on my list: all of the post-war hall of fame players, all of the post-war hall of fame managers who also had substantial playing careers, and a (fairly arbitrary) assortment of post-war managers who did not have substantial playing careers. I’ll keep my eyes out for pre-war players, but they’re expensive and few-and-far-between, so I’m going to regard getting their cards as supererogatory rather than an essential part of the collection.

In total I spent $553.39 for the cards in the collection. It took me almost two years. There are 90 cards in this collection, so I paid an average of about $6 each for them, but that figure is somewhat misleading, as I have a bunch of BBM cards that cost only a buck, and I got a number of Calbee cards in trade, which pulls the average down. The average of the vintage cards was more than $6. The single most expensive card was the Wally Yonamine. I was tired of losing auctions for Yonamine cards, so I found one that I like and put in a big that would definitely win. It, um, it did. (The postcards were yet more expensive, but they don’t feature any hall of famers, so they’re not a part of this particular collection.)

Here’s the breakdown of the rarities of the cards in my collection:

BBM________11
NS Menko____2
R1 Menko____9
R2 Menko____10
R3 Menko____11
UNC Menko___7
Upper Deck___1
Calbee_______17
R2 Food/Gum__1
R3 Food/Gum__1
R4 Game______3
Yamakatsu_____2
R2 Bromide____3
R3 Bromide____2
R4 Bromide____1
R5 Bromide____1
UNC Bromide___8

All three game cards that I own are super rare. As are two of my bromides. I have many uncatalogued cards, both menko and bromide. It stands to reason that most of these are also quite rare, although that’s not certain. On Engel’s classification, R4 cards have fewer than ten copies known, and R5 cards have (IIRC) no more than three. I think that this can be regarded as only a guess, but that’s the ballpark that we’re talking about. You’ll notice that I have few “not-scarce” menko, and quite a few more of higher rarities. That’s mostly because I was attracted to the rarer ones, if you picked up menko cards at random you wouldn’t get that distribution.

I’ve never completed a collecting project before. Indeed, this is just my second one ever. As a kid I set out to get one playing-days card of every MLB hall of fame player; I started working on that project again a few years ago, but it's clearly a very long-term project. Ever completing it seems doubtful. The cards in my Japanese collection are displayed in a single binder – one on each page, with a 3x5 card cut down as backing (so you can’t see the card behind it). Each player gets his own little moment in the sun (as it were), as you flip through the binder.

Finally, here’s a list of the cards in the collection:
AKIYAMA, Koji ---------- BBM 93
AKIYAMA, Noboru ------ JCM 28a
Amachi, Shinichi -------- JGA16
AOTA, Noboru ----------- JCM 75
ARAMAKI, Atsushi ------- JCM 129
BESSHO, Takehiko ------- JGA16
BETTO, Kaoru ------------ UNC menko
CHIBA, Shigeru ---------- UNC menko
ENOMOTO, Kihachi ------ JF 23
ETOH, Shin-ichi ---------- JCM 13c
FUJIMURA, Fumio -------- UNC Bromide
FUJITA, Motoshi ---------- JCM 31e
FUKUMOTO, Yutaka ------ Calbee
FURUTA, Atsuya ---------- BBM
GO, Shosei --------------- UNC Bromide
Gondoh, Hiroshi ---------- JCM 55
HARA, Tatsunori ---------- Calbee
HARIMOTO, Isao --------- Calbee
HASEGAWA, Ryohei ------ JCM 33e
HIGASHIO, Osamu ------- Calbee
HIRAMATSU,Masaji ------- Yamakatsu
HIROOKA, Tatsuro -------- JCM 39
HIROSE, Yoshinori -------- JCM 13a
HORIUCHI, Tsuneo ------- Calbee
Hoshino, Senichi --------- Calbee
IIDA, Tokuji -------------- JCM 31b Type II
INAO, Kazuhisa ---------- JCM41
ITOH, Tsutomu ----------- BBM 93
IWAMOTO, Yoshiyuki ----- JBR 9
KADOTA, Hiromitsu ------- Calbee
KAJIMOTO, Takao --------- JBR 16
KANEDA, Masaichi -------- JCM 69
KANEMOTO, Tomoaki ----- Upper Deck
KARITA, Hisanori ---------- JRM 24
KAWAKAMI, Tetsuharu ---- UNC menko
KINUGASA, Sachio -------- Calbee
KITABEPPU, Manabu ------ BBM 91
Koba, Takeshi -------------- JCM 14c
Koichi, Tabuchi ------------- JCM 15a
Kondo, Sadao -------------- UNC Bromide
KOYAMA, Masaaki ---------- JCM 43a
KOZURU, Makoto ----------- unc menko
KUDO, Kimiyasu ----------- BBM 93
MATSUI, Hideki ------------ BBM
Mihara, Osamu ------------ UNC Bromide
MINAGAWA,Mutsuo ------- JF 4
Mizuhara, Shigeru --------- JBR 41
Mori, Masaaki -------------- JCM 39
MURATA, Choji ------------- Calbee
MURAYAMA,Minoru --------- JCM 138
NAGASHIMA, Shigeo ------- JCM 54
NAKAGAMI, Hideo ---------- JBR 73
NAKAJIMA, Haruyasu ------- uncatalogued bromide
NAKANISHI, Futoshi -------- JCM 12? 43?
NAKAO, Hiroshi ------------- JGA 19
NISHIZAWA, Michio -------- JDM 21
NOGUCHI, Jiro ------------- JCM 22
NOMO, Hideo --------------- BBM
NOMURA, Katsuya ---------- JCM 14g
OCHIAI,Hiromitsu ---------- BBM 91
O'DOUL, Frank ------------- JRM 7
OH, Sadaharu -------------- Calbee
OHNO, Yutaka--------------- BBM 93
OSHITA, Hiroshi ------------- JBR 109
OSUGI,Katsuo --------------- Yamakatsu
SAITOH, Masaki ------------- BBM 93
SANADA,Juzo --------------- JCM 124
SASAKI, Kazuhiro ----------- BBM
SEKINE, Junzo -------------- JCM 123
SHIRAISHI, Katsum --------- JBR 75
SOTOKOBA, Yoshiro --------- Calbee
STARFFIN, Victor ------------ JBR 53
SUGISHITA, Shigeru -------- UNC Bromide
SUGIURA,Tadashi ----------- UNC menko
SUZUKI, Keishi -------------- Calbee
TAKAGI, Morimichi ---------- JCM 71
TAMIYA, Kenjiro ------------- unc menko
Tatsunami, Kazuyoshi ------- Calbee
TOYODA, Yasumitsu --------- JCM 69
TSUBOUCHI,Michinori ------- unc bromide
Tsuda, Tsunemi -------------- Calbee
WAKABAYASHI, Tadashi ----- JCM 75
WAKAMATSU, Tsutomu ------ Calbee
YAMADA, Hisashi ------------- Calbee
Yamamoto, Kazuto ----------- unc menko
YAMAMOTO, Koji -------------- Calbee
YAMAUCHI, Kazuhiro---------- JCM 12d
YONAMINE, Kaname ---------- JCM 41
YONEDA, Tetsuya ------------- JCM 12e
YOSHIDA, Yoshio ------------- unc bromide

Now, I’ve still got a Meikyukai collection to work on. I started it to keep myself busy when the pace of hall of fame acquisitions dropped off, but I might as well finish it. So I’m not done with this thread (and of course they induct new hall of famers each year), but the main purpose for it has been completed.
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  #270  
Old 03-30-2020, 09:27 AM
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Default Motonobu Tanishige

The Hall of Fame collection is done, but the Meikyukai collection isn’t. So here’s another card.

Motonobu Tanishige was a catcher for Taiyo/Yokohama and Chunichi from 1989 to 2015. That’s 27 years. He appeared in 2843 games as a catcher (and one at 1B). That would best the MLB record pretty easily, as Ivan Rodriguez holds the record with 2427. Impressive, especially considering that the Japanese season is shorter. Once you include a couple hundred games for which B-R doesn’t have positional information (presumably he was a pinch hitter), he set a record for most appearances in Japanese history.

Offensively, eh, some years he was better than average, some years he was worse. But what do you expect, he was a catcher. He had a power spike in his late 20s-early 30s, but most years was in the single digits for home runs. For his career he managed 229 home runs, mostly on the strength of a really long career. Career batting line: 240/333/368. The offense was really just a bonus though, as he was primarily a defensive specialist. Evidence: he set a record for recording 1708 consecutive error-free chances. Probably due to his lack of offense, he was selected to only one best-nine, but he was a 12x all-star, and won a bunch of gold glove awards. The Dragons made him player-manager in 2014, but he retired from playing the following year, and was relieved of managerial duties as well in 2016.

Tanishige’s teams won the Japan Series twice. Here he is hitting a grand slam in 2004.

Hall of Fame - No : Meikyukai - Yes

Today's card says it's from the 1993 BBM set. I suppose it's from a gold subset. It's an unusually thick card, with some 3D elements to it.
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  #271  
Old 04-08-2020, 09:54 AM
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Default Yukio Tanaka

Time for another Meikyukai member.

Yukio Tanaka was a central figure for Nippon Ham for many years. He joined the team in 1986 at the age of 18, and played with them through 2007. For most of that time he was a shortstop. For the most part, he was quite consistent (once normal aging is taken into account), although he did miss almost the entire 1992 season with an injury. I say “almost” because he appeared in a single game in 92, as a pinch runner. (I assume it’s a PR appearance, he’s credited with 1 game and 1 stolen base, but no plate appearances.)

As an offensive player, Tanaka was good, even if not especially remarkable. He had mid-range power (upper-teens to lower 20s in HRs through the prime of his career), but no speed. Eyeballing his stats, they seem to have been mostly above average. For his career he had a slash line of 262/321/434, with 287 home runs and 2012 hits. As with many players, he retired almost immediately after qualifying for the Meikyukai. Defensively, he was very good, setting a Pacific League record for consecutive errorless chances. He also won five gold glove awards. Those went with nine all-star selections, and four best-nine teams.

Historically, the Fighters have not been a good team, and that continued for most of Tanakas career. They managed to turn things around only right before his retirement. The Fighters won the Japan Series in 2006 (although Tanaka himself went only 0-1 in the series), and they took the PL pennant but lost the Japan Series to the Dragons the following year.

Tanaka has the rare distinction of having a minor planet named after him. Yukiotanaka has a diameter of 3.3 km, and is located between Mars and Juiter. It has a highly elliptical orbit (at least compared to the planets), and circles the sun about once every four years.

Meikyukai – Yes : Hall of Fame – No

1998 Calbee. This set must have been released in more than one series. I have other 1998 Calbee cards that say “1997 Star Player” on the front.
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  #272  
Old 04-09-2020, 09:21 PM
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I'm a bit late, but congrats on finishing the collection!

That Minagawa card has appeared on the internet before:

http://baseballcardsinjapan.blogspot...wa-mutsuo.html

I don't recommend soaking them!

About Tanishige, I mostly came to know him at the end of his career (I moved to Nagoya in 2012 and only after that started following the Dragons) so I have a very negative opinion of him. He was able to pad his career appearances by hanging on as a player for about 3 years after he should have retired, aided by him being his own manager for the last two. It was extremely frustrating rooting for the Dragons with him as manager since they were horrible and nothing highlighted that more than him coming up to the plate with his sub-Mendoza line batting average and being more of a guaranteed out than most pitchers on the team.
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Last edited by seanofjapan; 04-09-2020 at 09:30 PM.
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  #273  
Old 04-15-2020, 08:56 AM
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Default Sachio Kinugasa (part 2)

Here’s my Sachio Kinugasa card for the meikyukai collection. Original post here.

When Kinugasa originally signed with the Carp he bought himself a Ford Galaxy, which was notable at the time as most Carp players drove Mazdas, and Kinugasa’s Japanese Wikipedia page says that some of them even rode bicycles to their games.

As a young man he was fond of late nights of drinking, and would sometimes skip evening practice. One time, when he was returning to the team dormitory at 3am, Junzo Sekine (RIP – he just died the other day) was waiting for him. Sekine took him out to the practice field and made him practice until sunrise. The matter arose during his hall of fame induction, and he laughed at his youthful indiscretions. (Which, to be fair, I think we all do.)

Although he rarely led the league in anything (besides games played), Kinugasa had a long career and was consistently very good. He therefore does well on all-time lists. He’s 5th in hits, 7th in home runs, and 5th in runs. In addition, he took home the 1984 MVP award, was a member of the best-nine three times, won three gold glove awards, and had his uniform number retired by the Carp.

Hall of Fame: Yes – Meikyukai: Yes

1984 Calbee
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  #274  
Old 04-22-2020, 08:47 PM
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Default Kanemoto #2

New Kanemoto card for the Meikyukai collection. Bio here.

I feel vaguely dirty buying modern cards. I'd like it better if he had played for the Kyojin in 1936 and this was a diecut menko instead of a foil-incrusted thing. But whatever, he's a Meikyukai member, and it was only two bucks.
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  #275  
Old 04-27-2020, 07:39 AM
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Default cross post

Cross posting here from the main forum so as to have all of my Japanese stuff in one place:


First, some background.

In 1909 the University of Wisconsin sent their baseball team to Japan to play against the top university teams of the day. (There wouldn’t be a professional league until 1936.) The Americans were given a hero’s welcome. They were driven to the field in rickshaws, and reportedly 20,000 spectators showed up for each game. There were some cultural differences to deal with: the spectators were absolutely silent (making noise during the game was deemed disrespectful, although by the end of the tour the Japanese fans had gotten accustomed to the Americans cheering on their own players), and the Japanese teams played a game based around bunting, base stealing, and good defense. Anyways, the Americans lost the first game to Keio University on 9/22 in 11 innings. They lost a rematch four days later in 19 innings. Their starting pitcher got injured after 16 innings, and Charles Nash, their reserve pitcher, had to pitch the rest of the tour. He’s the hero of my little story. Nash shut out a team of ex-pat Americans on the 28th, beat the Tokyo City team on the 29th, and went on to face Keio and Waseda Universities later on the trip.

Postcards were made to commemorate the tour. This one features the start of the first game against Keio. That’s not what makes it special. What makes it special is what’s written on the back:

“Sept. 29, 09. Wis. just taking the field in the first game. We won 1 + lost 2 so far. Two we lost were 3-2 11 innings + 2-1 19 innings. I had the honor of winning the only one so far. Wish you would take good notes on these few first weeks of work because I will be about 5 weeks late. This is a great country alright. Peck”

The author of this postcard claims to have been the winning pitcher of Wisconsin’s third game. This was a very exciting discovery, except that I knew that a man named Nash won the third game. So I went digging, and in the (digital) bowels of the University of Wisconsin’s archives they keep copies of their yearbooks. Apparently there was some delay in printing, but the 1911 edition of The Badger includes a feature on the 1909 trip to Japan. It includes a roster of the team – with nicknames given. I have taken the liberty of copying the roster below. Notice: Charles Nash’s nickname was ‘Peck’. (I have also included a photo of Nash taken from the yearbook.)

So what I have here is a postcard showing the start of the first game (9/22/09) that the University of Wisconsin played against Keio, that was mailed by Charles Nash, the reserve pitcher who (due to an injury to the main pitcher) ended up pitching most of the tour. (Unfortunately he’s not pictured on the card, since he didn’t play in the first game.) Nash helpfully dated the card himself (9/29/09), meaning that he wrote the card a week after the game that it pictures. Now, I also happen to know that Wisconsin played a game on the 29th, which Nash doesn’t mention on this card. So I even know the time of day that he wrote it: in the morning, before Wisconsin’s game against Tokyo City. It’s addressed to someone who I presume is Nash’s friend in Madison, asking him to take notes in class while he’s away. I, for one, find this to be 1000% cool.

There is also a postmark on the card. It gives both Western and Japanese dates, but, anyways, they agree that it was mailed on October 5, 1909. Nash wrote the card the morning of the 29th, went off to play the day’s game, and forgot or was too busy to mail the card until about a week later.

Although none of the members of the team went pro, the Wisconsin team was an interesting one. Their second baseman, Messmer, was one of the University’s most accomplished athletes (he became an architect and is a member of the University’s athletics hall of fame), and the catcher (who is maybe the guy in white standing by home plate) had a distinguished legal career and ended up on the Wisconsin state Supreme Court. Information about Nash himself is hard to come by, but I did find what is probably his draft registration card. At any rate, it’s a card for one “Charles Mott Nash”, of the right age and living in Wisconsin. As of 1918 he described himself as a self-employed merchant, and claimed exemption from the draft on the grounds that he is the “sole proprietor of a store”.
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File Type: jpg nash back.jpg (45.9 KB, 165 views)
File Type: jpg nash card.jpg (34.9 KB, 160 views)
File Type: jpg nash detail.jpg (47.5 KB, 163 views)
File Type: jpg personell jpg.jpg (38.6 KB, 163 views)
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  #276  
Old 05-07-2020, 08:56 PM
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Default Ichiro Suzuki

I meant to read The Meaning of Ichiro before writing this post. To that end, and given that there’s nowhere to go and nothing to do anymore, I ordered a copy of it from Amazon. Now, about a year and a half ago I bought a house. In my old neighborhood packages got stolen off of the porch more often than they didn’t, so I always had packages delivered to work. My new neighborhood is safer, but I didn’t have any particular reason to change my delivery address. Long story short: my copy of The Meaning of Ichiro is waiting for me at work, where I will be able to pick it up at some indeterminate time in the distant future. So I don't know if there’s anything original in this post. Probably not. So forgive me if I’m rehashing stuff you’ve heard before.

There’s no reason to summarize Ichiro Suzuki’s career. Of everyone I’ve written about in this thread, he is almost certainly the person who is best-known to American audiences. (Maybe to Japanese audiences too?) What I’m going to talk about, instead, is why Ichiro matters.

Japanese players in MLB are sometimes referred to as ‘imports’, but that’s not really quite right. A “re-import” is something that is produced in one country, sold in another, and then imported back into the first. Japanese players in MLB are really re-imports. Baseball evolved out of rounders sometime in the late 18th to early 19th century. It was probably a gradual thing. Anyways, certainly by the civil war something recognizable as baseball was popular throughout New England and spreading west and southward. The war suddenly took it everywhere in the country.

In the 1870s baseball was introduced into Japan by Horace Wilson, an American professor at what is now Tokyo University. By the end of the decade there were established teams no longer playing on a merely ad hoc basis. By 1891 the game was popular enough that it was being featured on postcards. Nevertheless, it was decades behind the American game. In Japan in the 1890s baseball was being played by university students and school children; in the US in the 1890s baseball had been a professional sport for going-on 30 years.

The Japanese won the first meeting between an American team and a Japanese team, but they did less well thereafter. In 1905 Waseda toured the US, playing against college teams, and went 7-19. Three years later a team composed largely of PCL players toured Japan, compiling a 17-0 record. There were a number of tours of professional American players through Japan in the first few decades of the 20th century. The American professionals went 87-1 in total. During the famous 1934 tour Eiji Sawamura famously struck out Gehringer, Ruth, Gehrig, and Foxx in a row. Less well-remembered is that he lost the game.

In recent years many Japanese players have come to the States, and many American players went the other way. Pitchers have done better than position players, but the track record of Japanese players in MLB is not good. Ichiro and Hideki Matsui are the only position players who were legitimate stars. (On the pitching side, Tanaka, Darvish, and to a lesser extent Nomo were good starters. Sasaki, Saito, and Uehara were good relief pitchers. Ohtani could be good on both sides of the ball.) Americans going to Japan have had trouble adjusting to the culture, but were much more successful on the diamond. MLB non-entities like Wladimir Balentien, Bobby Rose, and Oreste Destrade were stars in Japan.

Comparisons between American baseball and Japanese baseball are probably inevitable. And they have mostly not been flattering for Japan. That this matters to Japanese baseball as a cultural or institutional force is probably most clearly exhibited by the degree to which Sawamura is celebrated. The award for the best pitcher is named in his honor, due to a game that he lost.

All of this leads to the accomplishments of Japanese players being viewed with a jaundiced eye. Certainly on this side of the Pacific; I suspect on the other as well. And it, perhaps, engenders a certain degree of defensiveness. Kawakami was appalled at Yonamine’s American style of play, and traded him away as soon as he was in a position to do so.

The reason that Ichiro is important is that he can put some of this to rest. He is living proof that the best Japanese players are as good as the best American players. Whatever the various indignities of the past, no matter that the average level of play is lower in the Central League than in the National League, Japan can get to the very top. And the proof is that it did. Ichiro will almost certainly be the first player elected to both the American and the Japanese halls of fame. (That means that I’ll need to get two more of his cards.) Many people argue that his case for Cooperstown should include his Japanese performance, but it doesn’t really need it. Suzuki accumulated 59.7 WAR. That puts him right around Zach Wheat and Vlad Guerrero. He collected 3089 hits. That’s 24th all-time, right between Dave Winfield and Craig Biggio. (And of course he also owns the single-season record.) Ichiro would be a hall of famer even if you ignored what he did in Japan. He matters because he’s proof that, at least at the top of the game, Japan can play with anyone.

>

That’s what I wanted to say. As I warned above, it wouldn’t surprise me if it’s not especially original. If not, my apologies to those who came first.

>

I also want to play with some numbers. Ichiro is a Meikyukai member because of what he did in the US. But we can also ask what he would likely have done had he spent his career in Japan. Or what he would likely have done if he played in the US directly out of high school. Now, we can’t know this with any certainty, but what we can do is estimate it on the basis of the numbers that he actually put up. Preferably, I’d use Davenport Translations for estimating an MLB-only Ichiro, but Clay’s website seems to be having trouble at the moment. (I keep getting 404 errors when I load Japanese stats.) So I’m going to have to do some very rough back-of-the-napkin calculations here.

What I did was take his last three seasons in Japan and calculate his hit rate, and his first three seasons in MLB and do the same. He lost only about 4% of his hits coming across the Pacific. Next I multiplied his Japanese hit totals by 96%, and then adjusted the resulting number by the differences in season length. That gives an estimated hit total of 4561. Take that Pete Rose. However, it’s unlikely that an 18 year old Ichiro would be playing in the big leagues. He actually wasn’t good until 1994, so his first two (partial) seasons would probably have been spent in Tacoma or wherever. By 1994 he was good, but was still just 20 and had struggled the past two seasons. Let’s imagine that the Mariners keep him down for the first 1/3 of the season until he really forces the issue. Two seasons in the minors cost him 41 hits, the first third of 1994 costs him an additional 80. So my hypothetical Ichiro records 4440 hits in MLB. Hypothetical Ichiro breaks Rose’s record in 2015, his first season with the Marlins. There’s quite a lot of uncertainty around a little exercise like this, so I think that the best we can say is that if Ichiro had spent his whole career in MLB, there’s a fair chance he would have surpassed Rose.

What about Japan-only Ichiro? The same (admittedly over simplified) methodology yields an estimate of 3956 hits. That would be, far-and-away, Japan’s all-time record. In fact, it’s so far beyond the record it’s hard to believe. So I also did this: I also gave him the average of his full-time numbers with Orix for as long as his peak actually lasted in MLB, and then adjusted his hit totals down proportionally as he aged. Even this method gave him >3700 hits. These are rough estimates, but I think it’s clear that if Ichiro had stayed in Japan, he would have obliterated the all-time hits record. Probably around 2010-2012.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: soon enough

The card is from the 1999 SP Calbee set. You had to send in five “winner” cards from potato chip bags to get it. It wouldn’t surprise me if this is my most valuable Japanese card, although I didn’t pay much for it, as I got a good deal on the entire set.

I like it that he’s known just as ‘Ichiro’.
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File Type: jpg Ichiro back.jpg (62.0 KB, 151 views)

Last edited by nat; 05-07-2020 at 10:02 PM. Reason: Fixing math.
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  #277  
Old 05-07-2020, 09:28 PM
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Very good write up and method of estimating Ichiro's hypothetical career hit totals.

A minor but interesting point of trivia is that Ichiro's MLB career hit count is almost identical to the NPB career record (3089 versus 3085). Not sure if that is coincidental, or if Ichiro deliberately hung on in the Majors just long enough to top Harimoto's number (which in reality he had surpassed years earlier if you combine his MLB and NPB numbers).
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  #278  
Old 05-12-2020, 07:18 PM
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Default Michiyo Arito

Michiyo Arito played third base for Lotte from 1969 to 1986. Superficially, his offense reminds me of Scott Rolen, although with more speed. (He was stealing 20ish bases per year until he got old.) Arito’s career slash line of 282/348/482 is a little bit lower than Rolen’s, but Rolen also played through the silly ball era, whereas Arito’s league was pretty low on offense (I checked the 1977 Pacific League: 255/309/382). So in context Arito was probably a somewhat better hitter than Rolen.

He was probably the best third baseman in the Pacific League in the 1970s. For his career he was named to the best nine ten times, including eight in a row. He won a batting title, and four gold glove awards. Lotte won the Japan series once during his career.

I don't know quite how far to carry the Rolen comparison. Arito was a somewhat better hitter, and I assume he was a good fielder if he won four gold gloves. But Rolen was more than a good fielder. Among third baseman he's 4th all-time in dWAR, behind Brooks, Clete Boyer, and Nettles. (I was eyeballing the dWAR leader list, so it's possible I missed someone.) Maybe tone down the defense a bit, and bump up the offense a bit, and Rolen isn't a bad comparison.

After retirement Arito took over as manager of Lotte, replacing the relatively relaxed Kazuhisa Inao. Arito was a hard-nosed traditionalist, and not a good manager. The Orions finished with a losing record under his management, he refused to play Leron Lee, and he forced the trade of Hiromitsu Ochiai. To be fair, Lee was at the end of the line (at 39), but he was also coming off of a 331/397/561 season. Wanting to trade Ochiai, on the other hand, was unalloyed insanity. Ochiai was a transcendent superstar coming off of the greatest season of his career.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1980 Yamakatsu
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  #279  
Old 05-18-2020, 09:37 PM
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Default Hideo Nomo

Nomo card for the Meikyukai collection. Write-up about Nomo here.

In 1991 Hideo Nomo was the hottest name in Japan, and BBM went out of their way to include a ton of Nomo cards in their inaugural release. There's cards celebrating leading the league in all sorts of things, and award winner cards, and so on. The base Nomo card is kind of expensive (by 1991-era baseball card standards), but the other cards (like this one) aren't so bad.

I think that the back notes past rookie of the year winners. But if so, then Japan has a serious pro-pitcher bias. The pair of kanji that you see over and over again on the right-hand column means 'pitcher'.
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  #280  
Old 05-25-2020, 10:02 PM
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Default Masahiro Yamamoto

Masahiro Yamamoto pitched for the Dragons from, get this, 1986 to 2015. That’s 30 years, although he missed 2011, so he actually appeared in “only” 29 seasons. To be sure, some asterisks are involved here. His 1986 and 1987 seasons combined totaled two and a third innings, and in 2015 he pitched only an inning and a third, but that’s still an astonishingly long career. Eye-balling his stats, he seems to have been sometimes good, sometimes not so good. Inconsistent, in a Steve Carlton sort of way. He compiled 219 wins, so he wasn’t hanging around for the Meikyukai. In fact, he qualified in 2008, during his age 42 season, at which point there were still seven years to go in his career. His best year looks to have been 1993, when he went 17-5 with a 2.05 ERA. It was, however, the following year that he won the Sawamura award (for the only time in his career); his ERA was much worse (3.49), but he won 19 games, and it’s rarely a mistake to assume that award voters are going to over-rate pitcher wins. (Happily this is changing in the US, but for ages it was pretty much an iron-clad law.) For his career his ERA is 3.45, over a total of 3348 innings.

Although it lasted three decades, Yamamoto’s career did not start auspiciously. He was a fifth round draft pick, and was apparently not highly regarded until coming to America. As a 22 year old he played for the Dodgers’ Vero Beach team, with whom he learned a screwball and pitched to a 2.00 ERA in 148 innings. I don’t know exactly what went on there, but a number of Japanese players spent time in American minor leagues. Maybe it’s some sort of exchange program? The Dodgers were famous for their connections to Japan, so it’s not a surprise that Yamamoto would end up in their system if he ended up anywhere, but I swear that I’ve seen players on minor league squads affiliated with other teams too. In any case, it seems clear that he was never Dodgers property, and he returned to Chunichi in time to appear in the Japan Series. (The Lions won it in five, and Yamamoto was the losing pitcher in game three.) The Dragons would win the Japan Series only once during his time with them, but for Yamamoto it must be bitter-sweet. They were the champions in 2007, but that season the 41 year old pitched terribly early in the year and was demoted to the minor league squad. So he spent three decades with the Dragons, and yet the only Japan Series that they won in that time he didn’t get to appear in.

As you might expect from a pitcher with a 30 year career, he owns most of Japan’s age-related pitching records. Most of these records had belonged to Shinji Hamasaki, who made his professional debut in 1947 at the age of 45. He managed and (every once in a while) pitched for Hankyu. I’m sure there’s a story there, but I don’t know what it is.

As you might expect, given that he was a screwball artist, Yamamoto was not a power pitcher. In the US we’d call him a “crafty lefty”. Motonobu Tanishige, his long-time catcher (and fellow Meikyukai member) once said that his “He had the special ability to make the distance to the mound seem shorter. His 130 kph pitches looked like 140”. Maybe this was meant in all seriousness, but it sounds like a burn to me. 130 kph is only 80 mph. Crank that up to 140, and you’ve got pitches that look like they’re coming in at all of 87.

Finding a comparable American player for a guy with this unusual of a career is, of course, going to be tough. The obvious choice is Jamie Moyer, but Yamamoto was a bigger star than was Moyer. He was inconsistent, but sometimes great, like Steve Carlton. But he wasn’t as great as Carlton, and as a pitcher he seems to have been more in Moyer’s mold.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1991 BBM. This is my only Yamamoto card, but NPB Guy has a bunch more.
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  #281  
Old 06-02-2020, 05:14 AM
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Default Kenichi Yazawa

Time for another Dragon.

Kenichi Yazawa was a Waseda product who played OF-1B for Chunichi from 1970 to 1986. He joined the Meikyukai in 1985, returned for an encore in 86, and then hung them up, finishing with 2062 hits. Offensively, he looks to have been a strong player, posting a career batting line of 302/368/481. If you just look at his raw numbers it will look like he got better as he got older (something that you almost never see), but he didn’t really. The Central League became more offense-heavy as his career went on. I picked an early and late year from his career at random: in 1974 the league-wide slugging percentage in the Central League was 392, in 1984 it was 425. League OBP also went up (albeit by not quite as much). In baseball, a rising tide lifts most boats, and so it was with Yazawa. That said, he did age well; he lost some batting average towards the end, and missed a number of games, but he was still a productive player when he was on the field. He had started coaching part-time for the Dragons while he was still a player, and there are rumors that Senichi Hoshino, who took over as manager in 1987, was not happy with this arrangement and forced his retirement as a player.

In total, Yazawa was a rookie of the year winner, an 11-time all-star, and two-time batting champion. (He won in 1976 with a 355 mark, and 1980, when he hit 369.)

Post-retirement, Yazawa has kept busy. He was a radio commentator and batting coach for a number of years, and then in the late 1990s he earned a masters degree from Waseda in international business administration. He’s currently a visiting professor at Waseda, teaching “sports theory” (that’s how Google Translate translates it, don’t know what it actually is), and he works with the University’s baseball team. He also seems to be involved in professional baseball (his Japanese Wikipedia page says that he founded a team), although obviously not top-tier pro ball. Maybe there’s Indy ball in Japan?

Here’s (what I assume is) his Instagram.

Allen has a nice interview with Yazawa about sign-stealing in Japan. Apparently it’s a big thing. He dishes dirt on the Carp and cops to it himself.


Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1978 Yamakatsu. These are nice cards. Like Calbees, there’s no boarder, but unlike Calbees there isn’t any text on the front. Just a full-bleed photo.
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  #282  
Old 06-04-2020, 06:47 PM
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Default Alex Ramirez

Alex Ramirez played 135 MLB games, about two thirds with the Indians and a few with the Pirates. A teenage amateur free agent from Venezuela, Ramirez showed early power but poor strike zone judgment. After some promise in the Appalachian League as an 18 year old, he struggled in the Sally league at 19, and posted a healthy batting average but otherwise had an unexciting year in Bakersfield at age 20. It was the following season that made him into a real prospect and probably gave him a shot at the majors. As a 21 year old he hit 329/353/519 in AA. Still not much of a walk rate, but if you can hit well over 300, you can made do. At this point he had a sort of poor man’s Vlad Guerrero look to him. The following year he was basically stalled in Buffalo, but he came on strong in 1998, hitting around 300 with a 566 slugging percentage. After that the Indians gave him a shot in the big leagues.

And it didn’t go well. His career batting line is 259/293/437, and he hit a total of 12 home runs. That’s one win below replacement level for his career.

The second act of his career was more successful than the first. Following the 2000 season he signed with Yakult and hit a respectable 280/320/496. Still a bit light on walks, but that’s respectable. Ramirez would play with Yakult through 2007, after which he signed with Yomiuri, and he finished up his career with a couple seasons with Yokohama, and retired in 2013. While in Japan he hit 380 home runs, and posted a career slash line of 301/336/523. It’s hard to identify his best year, as he had a few that were pretty similar, but I’m going to go with 2008. In his first year with the Giants Ramirez hit 45 home runs and drove in 125, to go with a 317/373/617 line.

Ramirez won a pair of MVP awards and was a best-nine selection several times. He is the first (and so far only) Western player to join the Meikyukai, and, in fact, was the second fastest (in terms of games played) to reach 2000 hits. Throughout his career he was frequently among the league leaders in most offensive categories. He is only the third players to manage to collect 200 hits in a season.

Japan has limitations on the number of foreign players that are permitted to appear on a roster and in a single game. (I think the latter is four. Less sure of the former.) After a player accrues eight years of service time, however, they are not counted against this limit, and Ramirez is one of the few Westerners to have reached this milestone, and since retiring he has become a naturalized Japanese citizen. There was apparently some difficulty in this. Naturalizing in Japan involves creating an entry in the Japanese Family Registry, which requires getting official documentation of things like marriages and births for those in the family of the person who is naturalizing. Venezuela is not exactly a well-functioning nation at the moment, so it’s no surprise that there might be some delay in getting paperwork done. But anyway, he did sort it out, and is a Japanese citizen as of 2019.

Ramirez had offers to return to MLB, but declined, saying that he’d rather spend the rest of his career in Japan. He’s probably not the greatest Western Japanese player (I suppose my nomination goes to Tuffy Rhodes, although I admit I haven’t put too much thought into it), but he’s certainly up there. He was a great player, and he really found a home in Japan as well.

He’s managing the BayStars now, and apparently having some success with it. Tatsunari Hara, the hall of fame manager for the Giants, said just before his induction into the hall of fame that he was impressed with Ramirez’ unconventional use of his pitchers, and thinks that Ramirez was doing things as a manager that he would not have been capable of. Ramirez also opened a Puerto Rican restaurant in Tokyo. It seems not to have lasted long, but it’s an interesting idea.

He is known as ‘Rami-chan’. ‘-chan’ is an affectionate suffix usually reserved for girlfriends, little kids, and, apparently, popular athletes.

Here’s his Instagram. Looks like he advertises fancy water, lifts massive weights, and spends lots of time with his kids. (I love the one where they all have matching pajamas.) Granted, what I know about him I learned exclusively from one afternoon on the internet, but he seems like a thoughtful, interesting, and nice guy. I think I'm a fan.

Meikyukai: Yes
Hall of Fame: No, but he might yet make it. He debuted on the 2019 ballot with 40% of the vote.

2006 BBM
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File Type: jpg ramirez back.jpg (53.8 KB, 102 views)

Last edited by nat; 06-04-2020 at 07:08 PM.
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  #283  
Old 06-10-2020, 08:17 PM
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I like Ramirez, he's seems like an all round good guy that its easy to cheer for.

The biggest obstacle to naturalizing is not so much the family register as it is giving up your other citizenship. Japan doesn't allow dual citizenship so Ramirez had to give up being Venezualan to become Japanese.

I meet the qualifications to naturalize too, and I'm already recorded on a family register (my wife's), but there is no way I'd ever be interested in giving up my citizenship to become Japanese (much though I like living here). I think only a handful of ballplayers have ever done so.
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  #284  
Old 06-18-2020, 12:03 PM
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Default Hideji Kato

Hideji Kato was a man who knew what to do with a baseball bat. Or, rather, he still is, although he probably does less of it now, considering that he’s 72. But from age 21 to age 39 he played first base in NPB. Most of his career he spent with Hankyu, and then he hopped around for a little while at the end. Although he was a strong batter for the first two thirds of his career, his age 31 season (1979) really stands out. He posted career highs in, well, everything, including 34 home runs and a slash line of 364/437/679. League-wide offense was pretty similar to current MLB, so mentally you don’t really need to adjust those figures. Now, that was his best season, but he was posting OPSs in the 900s through his early 30s. But he aged pretty quickly, dropping into below-average territory by his mid-30s (except for a nice rebound in 1985).

Kato was an 11-time all-star and 5-time member of the best nine at first base. He won his only MVP award in 1974, a championship year for the Braves. Japanese MVP awards, even more than American ones, tend to go to players on championship teams. The Braves would repeat as champions the next season, but Kato would not repeat as MVP winner, despite leading the league in several offensive categories and taking home a gold glove award.

Since retiring Kato has worked as an announcer, and has been coaching for the Fighters. Allen ranks him as Japan’s 40th greatest player. He’s not in the hall of fame, but he wouldn’t be out of place if he were to be elected.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: No

1976 Calbee
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  #285  
Old 06-25-2020, 09:16 PM
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Good write up about Kato, I've wondered why he isn't in the HOF already.

This is my favorite card of his, from the same set. For some reason they went with a photograph that cuts half his head off.
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  #286  
Old 07-03-2020, 04:47 PM
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Default Tatsunami #2

Kazuyoshi Tatsunami was a fixture on the Dragons from 1988 to 2009. He came up as a shortstop, but switched to second base at age 22. Although he spent time at third and in the outfield also, the vast majority of his time was spent at second base. Offensively, he seems to have been a contact hitter with good control of the strike zone, but he had no other real offensive skills. Limited power: career high of 16 home runs, and was often in the single digits. But his lack of power was not offset of blinding speed or anything; as a rookie he stole 22 bases, but was usually in the single digits there too.

Although he in fact moved around in the line-up a fair bit, he really profiles as a #2 hitter. Managers usually want more speed from the leadoff position than he had, and he clearly didn’t have enough power to hit in the middle of the lineup. But his bat-to-ball skills were quite good, and that’s traditionally something that you look for from the second guy in the order. (Of course Mike Trout hits second, and “limited power” isn’t how I’d describe him, but I think that this is more a reflection of old ways changing than anything.)

Because Tatsunami is also in the hall of fame, this is my second post about him. The first can be found here.

Meikyukai: Yes – Hall of Fame: Yes

1998 Calbee. There are plenty of Calbee’s from 98 and later floating around, cards from 97 and before are harder to find. My impression is that it's even get Calbee cards from the 1970s than from the 80s or early 90s.
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  #287  
Old 07-16-2020, 09:24 PM
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Default Baseball Magazine 1948

For what is probably the first time in more than two years, I don't have any cards to post. It's weird not having a stack of cards waiting.

Anyways, that doesn't mean that I have nothing to post.

I picked up a late 1940s copy of Baseball Magazine. (For some reason I strongly believe that it's 1948, but it shows members of the Flyers wearing uniforms that say "Tokyu", a name that they went by in 1947. So maybe my memory is off.) The first few pages are mostly photographs - they're what I've posted today. I've worked out a bit of what it says, so I'll tell you what I know.

The cover has a picture of Mr. Tigers himself, Fumio Fujimura. Someone wrote on it - I can pick out the names of the Giants and the Chunichi Dragons pretty easily, so I'm guessing that all of the graffiti is the names of teams.

The inside cover has ads for sporting equipment.

On page number one we've got three guys from the Tokyu Flyers on the top, and Testuharu Kawakami, Giants first baseman and one of the biggest stars of the day, below. The text says that one of the Flyers is Hiroshi Oshita. I'm not good with faces, but I think it's the guy on the right. Oshita was Japan's premier slugger and Kawakami's main rival. For one of the other guys, it gives the name of a player that I don't recognize (that is, I recognize neither the name nor the player) and says that he's a pitcher. His name consists of two Kanji symbols, the latter is definitely 'moto'. Google Translate tells me that his name should be 'Shiromoto', but near as I can tell no one with that name ever played Japanese ball. But, anyways, he was a pitcher. I don't know who the other Flyer is.

The next page has a portrait of someone that I don't recognize, and then the start of a two-page spread showing Oshita's swing in action.

The following page has another portrait that I don't recognize, and a continuation of the Oshita swing.

Finally, we've got a guy wearing a Chubu Nippon uniform, and a pair of pitchers from the Hankyu Braves. One of them is Rentaro Imanishi. Imanishi was the 22 year old Hankyu ace in 1947. He'd win 21 games with a 1.91 ERA, but it wasn't going to last. His final season as a full-time player was 1949; he's hang around for several much-shortened seasons (one imagines that he was injured), before retiring in 1955. I don't know who the other player is.

Other pages in the magazine have articles (including one about the Boston Red Sox!). I'll post those later.
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File Type: jpg mag1.jpg (53.3 KB, 52 views)
File Type: jpg mag2.jpg (38.6 KB, 54 views)
File Type: jpg mag3.jpg (56.2 KB, 53 views)
File Type: jpg mag4.jpg (53.4 KB, 53 views)
File Type: jpg mag5.jpg (60.8 KB, 53 views)
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  #288  
Old 07-23-2020, 08:41 PM
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Here's the next batch of pictures of the magazine. As near as I can tell, this is an article about the big sluggers of the day. Several of the pictures are of Kawakami, and one of the cartoons mentions Oshita.

I didn't post all of the pages to the article. Some of them are just text, and I figured those would be of limited interest. But if someone around here who reads Japanese (Sean, Jeff, somebody?) wants to give me a rough idea of what the article is about, that would be great. (I've included close ups of small sections of the text.) And if anyone is interested in reading the whole thing, I'd be happy to give them (or post, or link to) larger images of the entire article.

On another note: I've considered hunting for R5 and uncatalogued menkos. Given that there are so many uncatalogued sets, do you think that there would be any point to this? If there is a limited supply of uncatalogued sets, a type card from any one of them is special. But if a whole bunch of sets are uncatalogued, is the fact that any given one of them is super rare interesting any more? (There is also the issue that this would be an even more niche project than collecting Japanese hall of famers, but that's another matter.)

Next time I'll post the article about the Red Sox.
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File Type: jpg mag7a.jpg (68.3 KB, 40 views)
File Type: jpg mag8.jpg (63.6 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg mag9.jpg (67.5 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg mag10.jpg (75.7 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg mag11.jpg (66.3 KB, 39 views)
File Type: jpg mag12.jpg (71.7 KB, 38 views)
File Type: jpg mag13.jpg (58.6 KB, 39 views)
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  #289  
Old 07-31-2020, 09:14 PM
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Since there doesn't seem to be any interest in reading the magazine, I'll just post some of the pictorial highlights. We've got some Japanese players - including Fumio Fujimura and somebody who looks like Eiji Sawamura to me. But we've also got some Americans. Tris Speaker is not who I expected to show up in a Japanese magazine from the 1940s. The article also features Ted Williams, complete with his batting statistics.
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File Type: jpg mag15.jpg (71.3 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg mag16.jpg (45.5 KB, 28 views)
File Type: jpg mag17.jpg (63.3 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg mag18.jpg (69.4 KB, 30 views)
File Type: jpg mag19.jpg (41.5 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg mag20.jpg (38.0 KB, 30 views)
File Type: jpg mag21.jpg (39.9 KB, 29 views)
File Type: jpg mag23.jpg (75.4 KB, 30 views)
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  #290  
Old 08-03-2020, 09:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nat View Post
Here's the next batch of pictures of the magazine. As near as I can tell, this is an article about the big sluggers of the day. Several of the pictures are of Kawakami, and one of the cartoons mentions Oshita.

I didn't post all of the pages to the article. Some of them are just text, and I figured those would be of limited interest. But if someone around here who reads Japanese (Sean, Jeff, somebody?) wants to give me a rough idea of what the article is about, that would be great. (I've included close ups of small sections of the text.) And if anyone is interested in reading the whole thing, I'd be happy to give them (or post, or link to) larger images of the entire article.

On another note: I've considered hunting for R5 and uncatalogued menkos. Given that there are so many uncatalogued sets, do you think that there would be any point to this? If there is a limited supply of uncatalogued sets, a type card from any one of them is special. But if a whole bunch of sets are uncatalogued, is the fact that any given one of them is super rare interesting any more? (There is also the issue that this would be an even more niche project than collecting Japanese hall of famers, but that's another matter.)

Next time I'll post the article about the Red Sox.
The first article (on the left) is written by Kyouichi Nitta, who played for Keio University in the late 1910s and faced a University of Chicago team that visited Japan. After graduating he studied design in New York, and became a somewhat prominent golfer in Japan in the 1920s. He returned to baseball after the war and served as a coach and manager for a few NPB teams in the 1950s. The article is about the Japanese/American ("Nichibei") way of hitting, so I guess he's talking about American style hitting, though the article is a bit hard to read.

About collecting R5 and uncatalogued menko, that is a cool idea! But I'm not sure how easy it will be in the US to do that, even in Japan they are hard to track down (though Prestige collectibles auctions do get a lot). I'm not sure how many sets are uncatalogued at this point, I've found some but not many (relative to the number that are catalogued). Actually most of hte uncatalogues menko I have are from sets that are in the catalogue, but the specific card isn't.
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  #291  
Old 08-05-2020, 02:08 AM
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Sorry to answer so late, but I do have IDs on the players that you are missing:

Flyers L-R: Giichiro Shiraki P, Hisanori Karita Mgr.-2B, Hiroshi Oshita OF
Pacific: Juzo Sanada P
Nankai: Takehiko Bessho P
Chubu Nippon: Hideo Shimizu P
Braves: L- Rentaro Imanishi, R- Yoshio Tenpo
Tigers (above Ted Williams): Henry (Bozo) Wakabayashi

The Flyers were Tokyu in 1947, then Kyuei in 1948, then back to Tokyu in 1949-53.

Hope this helps,

Jeff
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  #292  
Old 09-09-2020, 01:03 PM
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Default end of the magazine

Since I posted most of the rest of it, I might as well finish posting the magazine. These pages don't have any illustrations (except the back cover), but I did manage to work out what's going on here. These are lists of award winners, league leaders, and the like. You'll notice the stars of the day get mentioned a lot - Kawakami (川上), Oshita (大下), Yamamoto (山本), Starffin (スターフィン), and the like. Match up their names with the years in which they won awards, led the league in various things, and the like, and you can figure out what each list is talking about.
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