“Lost Cards.” Every year card companies come out with different sets and make decisions about what athletes they do and don’t include in those sets. They choose to include new subsets – and exclude old ones. What’s the card or card(s) that weren’t produced that you wish had been made?There are so many ways I could go on this topic! Do I mention all the subsets I wish had been issued over the years? All the sets that have disappeared?
Being that I'm here in Japan, and most of my collecting efforts seem to go to Japanese products, I thought I should look at one part of my Japanese collection that seriously fits this prompt.
Who are the most important players in NPB's history? Certainly names like Sadaharu Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, and Ichiro come to mind. And they've certainly had their share of cards. But there are other important players in NPB's record books who seem to have no cards at all.
Here are the players who don't have cards from the NPB, and why they deserve their own 2.5" by 3.5" immortalization. Note that I am using the SCF database, which is fairly comprehensive but not necessarily complete. If you know of modern cards for these players, I'd like to hear about it!
- Akira Owada, June 20, 1959
- Kiyoshi Watanabe, July 19, 1957
- Masaharu Takita, June 22, 1952
- Masato Monzen, June 27, 1950
- Naoto Asahara, April 20, 1952
- Natsuki Higashitani, April 13, 1952
- Taisuke Obuchi, August 6, 1960
- Takenori Yamakawa, June 26, 1952
- Tokumitsu Harada, August 17, 1953
Unsurprisingly, all these players are basically from the 1950s - there was no major manufacturer of annual cards until 1973 (Calbee).
Shigezo Ishihara and Takashi Eda both don't have cards, and they both were part of different combined no-hitters in 1941; the NPB doesn't recognize combined no-hitters as actual no-hitters so these events weren't given cards in the 2012 No-Hitters set. The other pitchers in these and other combined no-hitter games have cards.
- Kazunori Nishimura (1955)
- Nobuo Oshima (1950)
- Shigeyuki Takahashi (1964)
- Motoji Takuwa (1954)
- Tamotsu Kimura (1957)
- Toshiaki Tokuhisa (1961)
- Yukihiro Murakami (1978) - has 1979 Calbee and 1981 Takara cards
As seen in the image above, a set was issued honoring many of the prior Rookie of the Year award winners, but these seven remain.
In 1952, Susumu Yuki compiled a 1.91 ERA, recording 104 strikeouts with a 19-7 record, which was good enough to earn the MVP award. Yet, somehow, he remains the only MVP winner to never have a card.
There are two major awards in Japan I haven't looked into: Best 9 (sort of an annual All-Star team for each league) and the Golden Glove award. I'm sure there are dozens of players that don't have cards from these awards.
Most likely, the greatest honor any baseball player could possibly receive is to be elected to the Hall of Fame. You would think that someone who has contributed so much to the game would be honored with their own card. But, amazingly, several members of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame don't have any.
The following NPB players don't appear to have modern cards:
- Hideo Nakagami, elected in 1976
- Ryohei Hasegawa, elected in 2001 (has a 1958 card of some sort)
- Shigeru Makino, elected in 1991 (has a 1983 NST Giants card)
Add to that a whopping 65 members of the Hall of Fame who didn't play baseball - managers, presidents, owners and activists, for example - and 22 members who played in other leagues such as high school and college, and about half of the 180 members don't have cards!
As it stands, about 25 NPB players need modern trading cards! And if you ask me, the Japanese Baseball HOF should issue a comprehensive card set honoring all of its members.