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

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Two Ohs, Three To Go: Home Run King No More?

Sadaharu Oh is one of Japan's all-time favorite baseball players - I think Oh, Shigeo Nagashima, Ichiro, and Matsui are in every Japanese fan's top five! Oh is known for his home run records - 868 in his career playing with the Giants and 55 in a season, though he also hit .301 over his career and later managed the Giants and Hawks.

Sadaharu Oh was the Babe Ruth of Japanese baseball, obviously. His career record of home runs might never be broken. However, his single-season home run record has been approached by foreigners three times since then. In 1985, Randy Bass reached 54 - the last game of the season was versus the Oh-managed Giants and he was intentionally walked on 4 straight pitches 4 times. In 2001, Tuffy Rhodes reached 55 with several games left, but played the Oh-managed Hawks and was intentionally walked every time he came to the plate. And in 2002, Alex Cabrera also had 55 homers with five games left in the season, ending against Oh's Hawks. Cabrera, too, was pitched around and was unable to hit a 56th home run.

While Oh claims he instructed his pitchers to throw strikes, statements made by Oh's coaches and players indicate a decision was made at some point each time (by coaches, head office staff, or the players themselves) to keep the foreign players from breaking his record.

Why is this important now? If you haven't heard, Wladimir Balentin hit his 52nd home run Friday night, with 29 games remaining in the season. It'll be quite interesting to follow the rest of the season and see if he can break it - and what steps might be taken to prevent that. Balentin went 1 for 2 tonight (a single) with 2 walks and a strikeout.

And why do I mention all this? I found two little Oh cards a couple weekends ago while browsing around Nakano's shops. 
 Issued in 1980, this Yamakatsu card is one of Oh's last from his playing days (Oh retired in 1980).
 The back isn't perfect, but for an old Japanese card I think it's in pretty good shape.
 The other Oh card shows him earlier in his trademark swing. This, too, is from the Yamakatsu set.
And the back is similar to the other card. While the 1980 issue is probably the most common Yamakatsu set, and Oh received 3 different cards in the unnumbered set, finding vintage Oh cards isn't easy!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Living in a Parallel Universe

If you think Topps is bad about issuing lots of parallels, you should take a look at the secret world of BBM issues. Most BBM pack-based sets have at least two tiers of insert sets. Team sets have foilboard and holofoilboard (my new word!) versions, with the latter being serial-numbered. Topical sets (such as the Historic Collection series) and the flagship series releases seem to usually have a couple of foil signature colors - 2013 BBM 2nd Version has at least silver, gold, holographic, and red. Information about the existence of these parallels is rarely made by BBM itself.

The real trick, though, is the multitude of promos and limited editions they issue to stores, events, and stadiums.
 Something that took a surprisingly long time to realize is the proliferation of Card Shop Limited Edition series. These are usually a different color from the regular base cards, and contain a special designation on the front.
 The backs are also identifiable by the different numbering system (PR3 here).
 Here's a special parallel produced for a card show last September. It has a lattice-patterned holofoil style coating (visible in the scan below) and unique coloring.
 And it's double-fronted. There is no card number, though I suppose it's the only card issued in the "set".
 Genesis's Card Shop Special Card set uses a slightly different color/foil scheme and notation on the front. And there are multiple cards in this issue.
 The backs here use CSxx numbering.
 Here's a regular parallel from Genesis. This is the green parallel.
 BBM doesn't usually issue parallels for every card in the set. Instead, they tend to pick a handful of cards. The green parallels are serial numbered to 150.
 Touch the Game was the predecessor to Genesis, and this is a red parallel from the last issue of Touch the Game.
 The backs show that this parallel is serial-numbered to 75.
 I mentioned that topical sets receive signature parallels. This is a parallel from a Lions anniversary set titled Lions Classic, containing a gold foil signature.
 The back shows that gold foil signatures are numbered to 60.
 The Lions Classic set had an insert set with the same name. I don't know if this is a parallel or not!
The back is serial-numbered to 100. This brings me to another type of parallel BBM uses - stealth parallels. I've found a foil parallel for a team set - exactly identical to the other foil parallels - with a serial number out of 100. I have to wonder if this is another example of that. Plus, if this is a parallel, it's another example of BBM's insert parallels. Many of BBM's inserts have one or two parallel versions with foilboard, holofoil coating, or foil signatures.

I picked these all up as I was getting my 2nd Version singles. Finding parallels and promo-issue parallels is both good and bad at the same time - I'm glad I've discovered cards that aren't really cataloged and I can show them to you, but at the same time it adds to my overall "burden" and cost of assembling my type collection.
Yep. Life is tough.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Anime is fun!

 There doesn't seem to be too much interest in the anime cards I've posted to the blog. That's okay, it's about what I like. And while you've seen the two cards just above and blow this paragraph, I wanted to bring them back again.
 If you remember, they're actually postcards, released as a promotional item for the Evangelion 3.0 movie. At the time, I mentioned there were supposedly six different postcards issued  in the set. Well, I had the first two above, so I went back to the store to find the rest.

Evangelion, by the way, is about a boy (Shinji) and others (including Rei, Asuka, and Mari) who get into gigantic machines and fight evil in a futuristic post-apocalyptic Tokyo. Yeah, okay. To be honest, I have not yet seen a single episode.
 Shinji is the lead character, a boy who is almost female-like in persona and appearance. Seriously - grow the hair out a bit and change the cut of his shirt and he becomes a she! Apparently, the show's creator wanted Shinji's character to be a girl, but changed his mind.
 Mari is a less-popular girl on the show. I really don't know anything about her. On the other hand, Rei (with the blue hair, seen above) is a very mature young lady who seems to be able to keep her cool all the time. Rei almost seems to serve as a motherly figure occasionally.
 Asuka was, I believe, originally going to be a boy. (Actually, all the main characters' genders may have been switched before the show was actually created). Her personality matches her hair color, as she has a very fiery temper and is quite emotional (not in the emo way, either). Asuka is almost like a college student or even a 20-something adult sometimes, but can regress into childish ways and react extremely in situations where she isn't happy. She's also pretty self-centered. And if you're wondering why she looks kind of non-Japanese (and has a name such as Langley), that's because one of her parents was German.
But Asuka is my favorite character on the show I've never really seen. I was introduced to the show through someone at work, and most of what I've seen involves Asuka (and her relationship with Shinji).The scene above is hilarious, especially at the end.

Okay, that's five cards. Where's number six? I couldn't find it. They had tons of the others. I wonder if the last card was ever issued, and what it might look like (possibly Shinji with Asuka, since there's a Shinji and Rei card above, or possibly one of the machines). Maybe I'll come across it some day.

I did come across a couple of cards from a different Evangelion set, though.
 EVA-02 is the name of the red machine that the redhead wearing the red suit commands (yes, this is Asuka's machine). This is a set from a company called Carddass that issued several sets about two decades ago. I have a large majority of the set already that this card comes from (I found a couple lots very cheap at a store).
The other card looks to be from the same release (and features Asuka yet again) but the numbering and design are different enough that I have no idea where it belongs. There are other Evangelion issues but my research (thanks to a few dedicated Evangelion fans with websites, really) was not successful. Oh well, maybe I can put together this set too.
Here is an English-language trailer for the first Evangelion movie. The host pronounces the show's name differently from the Japanese pronunciation (most noticeably "gel" which in Japan is a hard "g" like "Gary").
Remember to stay away from evil cows. (Not Evangelion. Just really freaking strange, and I came across it while looking for videos for the post.)
And one funny scene leads to another.
Even though I don't usually understand the language, when I see an anime show on TV I tend to watch it. I know enough Japanese and there are enough context clues to understand the basic story, and there's a good bit of comic relief scattered into most episodes. Just stay away from those anime shows where the girls have gigantic eyes. Those are just too strange for me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

New Pickup: 2013 Yomiuri Giants Team Issue SGA

I finally went to my first Yomiuri Giants game (and thus my first game in Tokyo Dome) 10 days ago. I'll have a few pictures from the stadium eventually (probably posted to my other blog) but I should note that I received a free card when I walked in the gate:
 This is Yoshitama Katori, a pitcher for the Giants (if you couldn't figure that out from the card image above). The date (home series) the cards was given away is included on the front - I saw the Dragons beat the crap out of the Giants on the 18th.
The backs are fairly simple, with some basic information about the player - it seems that this year's SGA cards are for OB players. I am assuming the bottom text (in orange) is a biographical or career moment highlight? The grey box has a serial number.

The card was tossed in the bag handed out at the front that is full of advertisements. It really pays to take everything being handed out as you enter a game - I got that and a player guide in the bag, plus they were handing out Pikachu/Giants cardboard hat things and tickets where you could win a prize. The odds aren't terribly bad - about 2% of tickets were winners of some prize.

As I mentioned, I'll talk more about the stadium and my game experience in a full post later, but I wanted to share this card (which is very welcome in my type collection!) with you.

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Release: 2013 BBM Second Version

I stopped by the card store last week to find my singles for BBM's Second Version.
 Above is the base card. Like First Version, the cards are borderless with minimal design on the front. I really like this year's BBM flagship issue.
The backs are the usual design, with  biographical stats, a writeup, and statistics. Kenta Maeda is having another good year, though I'm not sure what exactly these stats represent. As of this moment, NPB's website shows Maeda with an 11-5 record and a 2.14 ERA, striking out 120 in 130+ innings. Last year he had a 14-7 record with a 1.53 ERA. This is his sixth year in NPB. Despite these stats, this is not an update card; 36 cards are update cards and 216 are regular cards. All cards in this release (including inserts) have "2nd Version" and "2013 BBM Baseball Cards" on or near the copyright line.

Subsets in 2nd version include First Pitch (which I'll bring you later) and checklists with batting scenes. The First Pitch cards have a holographic foil parallel.
There's a foil signature partial parallel. 72 cards in the set have foil signature parallels (6 per team). This is my scan of the silver foil.
The backs of the silver foil signatures are normal.

A gold foil signature card parallel was issued #/100.

A holographic foil signature card parallel was issued #/50.

A red foil signature card parallel was issued #/25.
The new commonly-available insert set in Second Version is Twin Gem, pairing two players from each team, with 12 cards total in the set. They have a foil front.
The same photos appear on the back, uncropped. Cards have TG- prefixes.

Twin Gem has a double-foil signature parallel version.

Leading Players is the other new set to 2nd Version, with 12 cards in the set.

A parallel of Leading Players exists.

Cross Wind returns in 2nd Version, with 36 cards. A parallel /100 was also issued.
Rookie Memorabilia cards (one per team) were inserted into packs. This is a special Card Shop Limited Edition promo. Actual memorabilia cards have the same design, with a grey-blue color format instead of red.
The back of the memorabilia card will have different coloring. The card shop version has CL card number prefixes. Actual memorabilia cards are limited to 100 copies, with patch versions limited to 20 copies or less. The advertising information states one card per team was issued, but the checklist shows only 11 cards.

I can't find details, but BBM's site shows preview images for non-rookie memorabilia cards. There is no checklist for these cards on the BBM page and I haven't seen any actual cards at stores. The preview shows patch cards. This set might not have been released.

Last, 10 autographed cards were inserted into packs, probably from the Cross Wind cross-brand set. Print runs are limited to 20 copies or less per card.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

2013 Sega CardGen MLB is Now Available!

Last year I learned about, and picked up a few copies of the Sega CardGen MLB game cards. Actually, Kenny was my major source, though I found a couple team sets to use in trades.

This year's set has actually been "out" for quite some time, but I haven't seen any team sets or even affordable singles until now. Last weekend, I found a new box of 2013s for single-card sale. As before, cards have a while or black top and bottom border, with team colors used in the bottom banner. The number of stars on the card is an indication of the "strength" of that player in the game.
 I had to pick up Altuve for my player collection. I like the white borders - clean and they remind me of a baseball. Altuve has only three stars...
 But the back describes him as a quality leadoff man. Notice the cards are numbered in the lower-right corner, and once again they are made by (or through the license of) Topps. This year's set has 390 cards.
 The black borders don't scan as well, and I just don't think they're as fun. They do look a little more elegant, perhaps. But this is a card used in a video game.
Lincecum gets 7/8 stars, and is described as a strikeout artist.

There are foil special cards available (I'll probably pick one up this weekend if I can get to a card store).

Kenny (and anyone interested in singles or team sets from this year) - I have yet to check Ikebukuro and Shinjuku but I didn't see team sets at my two expected sources yet. If you want individual players, I can get most of those at 50-150 yen each, and if you're willing to pay that kind of money (or offer up a really nice trade) I'll build a team set card by card. If you're willing to wait and take the chance later, I can see if team sets show up later in the year, as they did last year. (Foil cards were over 1000 yen each at my usual places, but might be cheaper at the other stores.)

I should mention to anyone who's been leaving comments or sending me emails - I am behind on emails and replies! One of my goals this weekend is to catch up on correspondence. If there's a trade or something in the works don't be afraid to follow up with another email though.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Japanese Women's Baseball League: Did You Know It Existed?

Like everything else, Japanese people take their hobbies very seriously. By the time you reach Junior High School, you join a club and you most likely participate in that club for a large portion of your week. Most clubs are competition based, including sports. Those who are successful at the high school level can become national stars - high school and college baseball is very prominent at the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame.

Japan's more popular sports have professional players and leagues - of course, baseball and soccer are the two biggest team sports, but plenty of other sports have national stars including sumo, badminton, swimming, and gymnastics. And, for at least the past three years, women's baseball.
 The Japan Women's Baseball League is comprised of four teams which identify with regions in Japan - North, South, East, and West. However, the teams don't really have home towns or stadiums, and instead play several two-day  tournaments over the year.
 On the first day, North might play South while East plays West. The winners of the two games face off the next day for first place (which involves winning a trophy), while the losers play each other for third place.
 The basic rules are essentially identical to NPB and MLB rules - they play on the same field, with the same mound and base length, etc. However, the games are limited to seven innings.
 Each mini-tournament game result is added to a season running total, where I believe they then have season champions. In addition to the mini tournaments, two teams combine into one to face off against the other combined teams for a sort of all-star game series.

The stands aren't packed with fans, but plenty of people showed up to enjoy the game. When I arrived at the game, I was given my ticket seen at the top, which is scanned at entry. It's the same size as a baseball card. And speaking of cards, I was also given one card (I managed to get another) of one of the players. Both cards I ended up with are seen above, and they're nicely done. They have rounded corners and seem more like gaming cards as far as durability. The card numbers (seen better in the second back-scan) don't seem to correspond to any normal numbering system, and I didn't inquire about getting a set when I attended the game. I plan on asking about it next time (there are three more events that I can attend this year).
I also scanned a cartoon-style sticker given to me because I have the LINE app for my iPhone, and JWBL "stickers" to use in the app. The stickers look the same as the characters seen above. In fact, it is because of the stickers that I learned of JWBL's existence!

Other team-based souvenirs are available - jerseys, hats, and other knickknacks. I bought a yearbook, the only non-team-specific item available.

The teams are stocked with Japanese players, though one Australian woman plays on one of the teams.

Interestingly, the league held a tournament in my town this year, but that was before I knew it existed, though that hopefully means they'll return next year. Regardless, going to a JWBL game is a lot of fun, similar to going to a minor league game back in the States. I can't wait for my next one!

(I intend on posting more information, including some pictures, to my Chaos and Kanji blog and/or this one at some point in the future, though it may be a while before I get around to that given my current posting queue and plans.)

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

2013 Golden Eagles Team Issue

When I go to Japanese baseball games, I always check the surrounding shops and gachapon (toy vending machines) for collectibles. Most of the time, the vending machines have little trinkets for the players - mini batting helmets, pins, stickers, etc. I've come across cards once or twice before.

Last week, I went to the Rakuten Golden Eagles game in Sendai, and while browsing the shops I noticed they had a pack-based issue. I bought one pack, but I'll have to buy more packs or find single cards somewhere.
 The base cards are fairly simple but attractive, similar to Upper Deck's best flagship designs. The team logo is in the corner and the player's name, jersey number, and position is at the bottom, all in gold foil. The team name is also printed across the bottom. The entire face of the card contains a full-bleed photo, usually with game action.

The manager, Senichi Hoshino, has jersey number 77. It seems that most managers have numbers like 77 or 88 - 8 is a good luck number in Japan, and I think 7 is too.
 The backs have a headshot, biographical information and prior statistics. McGehee (front of the card is seen below) is playing his first year in Japan this year, though he has experience in other leagues.
 Hiroshi Katayama, pitcher
 Norihiko Kaneto, pitcher
 Tadashi Ishimine, catcher
 Casey McGehee, infielder. The fun thing about foreigners is listening to the Japanese pronunciation of names. Ma-gay-hee-ee or Gay-hee-ee is what I remember them saying during the cheers.
 One of the inserts is titled Heat. This is one of 11 cards in that set.
Here is the back; the large amount of black resulted in the borders getting shrunk down. Most notably missing is the card number - SS1-10. The image used here is also found on pack wrappers, as the theme of the year seems to be Heat.

There are other inserts or subsets in the issue:
  • a 2-card title holders set
  • a 1-card newcomer "set" - perhaps McGehee?
  • a 12-card insert set (they're called "insert card" on the pack)
  • a 3-card jersey (relic) set
  • a 34-card autograph set 
I would like to find samples for the rest of the issues. I might have to return to Sendai and visit the card store (closed when I made my trip) to hopefully find more team issues like this, and possibly compile a checklist.