Chaos and Kanji is the blog where I write about my adventures through Japan!

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Friday, February 21, 2014

I bust out the mad hits every day, yo.

You might recognize one name on all of these cards, if any. But these are (almost) all major league baseball players, and most of the cards here are autographed and numbered pretty low!

Okay, so they're NPB major league players, on NPB cards. But unlike the USA, autographs and relics haven't flooded the market (yet?) so they keep a decent value and are rarely cheap. But I found some knocked down in a "clearance" bin at the Mint/Yellow Submarine in Akihabara and grabbed every single one. Which is why I've been broke for the past couple of weeks and will be until pay day Tuesday.
Hiroki Kokubo might be the only name you know here. Then again, if you don't follow NPB baseball, you probably haven't. Kokubo managed to accumulate 2000 hits (the NPB equivalent of the 3000-hit club in the MLB) and retired at the end of the 2012 season. The rest of the players here aren't really household names, even in Japan.

 Nakahama played in the Suntory Dream Match, but he only had two seasons of NPB ball playing in a total of only 8 games. How confusing. How are the players chosen for this event anyway?
 You have to love teams that give their players jersey numbers in the 100s.
 This is a parallel of a subset. Off the top of my head, I can't remember a single set BBM has done an entire parallel for. They do issue parallels for some players in most sets, though, sometimes creating parallels for one or more of the subsets in a set. Or multiple parallels. It's quite confusing. Sure, 2014 Topps has over a dozen parallels, but with the exception of the silk parallel every single card has every single parallel.
 I didn't realize it at first, but once I looked at the cards a little more closely at the store I realized I had some Korean singles! Too bad these sets don't have a design worth collecting. Now, some of the Taiwanese CPBL cards of the 1990s are collectible by design.
I'm looking for Takara cards for a few collectors, so I browsed Wrappers' meager selection. I came up empty-handed for others, but I picked up a couple for my collection.

Random finds like these are part of what makes card hunting fun, even at shops I've searched through multiple times!


  1. The three digit numbers are for the ikusei players. These are players who are not on the official 70-man roster for the team. While there have been occasional success stories from these players, most of them are long shots who are unlikely to make it in NPB. One of the interesting features about baseball in Japan is that you can be a popular baseball player despite never having success at the top professional level - see Koji Ota and Yuki Saito.

    Not sure what the criteria for player selection for the Premium Malts teams is but I think that Nakahama had a big high school career. His write up at Japan Baseball Daily says he played in three Koshien tournaments and his team won it in 1993.

    Off hand I can't think of any BBM set that has a parallel for every card but if there is one, I'd bet it's one of the smaller box sets. I know the Tokyo Big Six sets lately have had autographed versions of every player card available but there's no corresponding parallel for the team cards.

  2. Upon further review...just checked Nakahama's bio on Japanese Wikipedia. Doesn't look like he was much of a star in high school although he did hit a home run during the 1996 Koshien tournament. (His team did not win it in 1993.) He played a few years in the industrial leagues after his NPB days.

  3. Huh. Based on your comment about Kokubo being in the Meikyukai, I checked a couple of references I've been using for an updated list of members and neithers appears accurate--the Wikipedia page lists 59 members and the Baseball Reference page lists 62 members but neither one lists Kokubo. Does anyone know what the exact number of players is currently and a link to a complete list?

  4. NPB Card Guy: Nakahama was probably a big name when he was in high school. I guess that's good enough. But his inclusion made getting a card from the set affordable! I think if I ever get a custom jersey done for a Japanese team, I'll get a 100+ jersey number. Just to be ironic and hipster-like.

    Greg: It's in Japanese (Google Translate will help you with names), but the official list is here and seems to be complete through the 2013 season: - there are 15 pitchers, 51 batters, and another 7 honorary members (who have passed away) for a total of 73 members.

    Something I didn't realize was that player totals (2000 hits, 200 wins, etc) begin with the first NPB appearance, and then include MLB appearances. So Nomo is a member despite only winning 78 games in the NPB. Alex Rodriguez became a member in the 2013 season because his prior MLB stats don't count. There was a Golden Players Club trading card box set issued a couple years ago that has 44 cards. Of course, there are a lot of new members from the past few years and some others who aren't in the set.

    1. Ryan: just to clarify, based on that page you sent me to there's actually 63 members: 41 hitters, 15 pitchers and 7 deceased/honorary.

      From doing some additional reading, there are a few other players who either are in the Meikyukai (and not listed in the indicated pages) or otherwise eligible: (1) Masaichi Kaneda isn't listed with the pitchers (perhaps because he was the founder of the Meikyukai) but with 400 wins is certainly considered part of it (2) Alphonso Soriano, who NPB Card Guy noted on his blog back in August is eligible under those screwy rules you touched on above since he did begin his career in Japan (3) Hiromitsu Ochiai and one or two others have declined membership though otherwise eligible.

    2. Wow. Are my math skills that bad? I think they were last night! 30+11=51 is what I did to get the hitter number. I knew I was tired last night but that's really bad! Thanks for clarifying.

      The Meikyukai's eligibility standards are pretty simple at first glance, but are set up to exclude some people. Including people only who were born after the Showa era is a really cheap way to exclude someone they didn't want in the club and leaves out some great players. Starting the stats in Japan excludes almost every foreigner who has reached the level (Ramirez is the first non-Japanese member). And it's really just an organization of baseball superstars who do charity work. But I digress... I think that the existence of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame is enough as far as honor of accomplishments. Are there any players in the Meikyukai who aren't in the JBHOF, or any non-Meikyukai players with 2000 hits, 200 wins, or 250 saves? Other than active or recently retired players, of course...

    3. Leaving out guys who retired in the 1990's or later, I think there's about nine guys who are in the Meikyukai who are not in the Hall Of Fame - Michiyo Arito, Hideki Kato, Isao Shibata, Masahiro Doi, Taira Fujita, Makoto Matsubara, Hiroyuki Yamazaki, Masaji Hiramatsu and Yutaka Enatsu. (I'm actually not sure if Enatsu is officially a member anymore. I thought he had resigned his membership after a drug bust.)

      The only players I'm aware of to decline membership are Ochiai and Kihachi Enomoto.

      There are a number of players who have the numbers who are disqualified by the fact that they were born before the Showa era started. I think Tetsuharu Kawakami was the only batter excluded. Victory Starffin, Takehiko Bessho, Jiro Noguchi, Tadashi "Bozo" Wakabayashi, Shigeru Sugishita, Hiroshi Nakao and Hideo Fujimoto all had 250 wins but aren't eligible. My impression has been that, as you say, that qualification was probably added by Kaneda specifically to exclude Kawakami and some of those pitchers.

    4. Hmm. With all the people in Japan's hall of fame who contributed so little in the long run or didn't have a presence on the field (the whole point of baseball, IMO) you would think that most of those guys (Fujita, Doi, Shibata, etc) would be in the Hall. Granted, they didn't put up numbers like Oh, Ichiro, Darvish, and Nomo did (looking at batting average, ERA) but at the same time they are award winners, all stars, and managed to be successful for a very long time. Some of the HOF players are in there because of their amateur feats over a short time - two high school baseball tournaments for example. I guess if you weren't on the Giants in the NPB, you're not worthy of being in the Hall of Fame.

    5. I was stunned when I discovered Shibata was not in the HOF considering he was an integral part of the V9 Giants. I find that the Japanese HOF is usually ridiculously slow in honoring players. There's only been three guys ever elected in their first year of eligibility - Starffin, Oh and Nomo. Hard to believe Nagashima didn't go in on the first ballot.

  5. Man, I like those Japanese autograpg cards. I wonder if there are any with soccer players from the J-League or the National Team ?

    1. Chuck - there are plenty of soccer autographs, too, but not in the clearance box. Actually, I cleared out all the autos with this purchase!