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

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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

2020 Goals in Review

What a year, huh? I'm still in Japan, doing what I've been doing. I had originally planned on returning home for the holidays this year, but for obvious reasons, I'm sitting in my apartment.
I haven't posted in seven months; as usual, I guess, I went on hiatus again. I post about as frequently as Rick and Morty episodes come out. Oh, I finally discovered Rick and Morty. And Brooklyn 99. And I'm about halfway through Night Court, the 1980s sitcom. I've watched a lot of TV and movies this year, I suppose like everyone else.

Things in Japan aren't as bad as Europe and the US, so I made it to two baseball games during a vacation in September. I've managed to do a little local sightseeing in the areas I've been working. After a pretty busy late May and June, I was sent to Gunma, a little bit north of Tokyo. It's a rural prefecture, with lots of nice hiking spots and some historical sightseeing destinations. And the past two weeks saw me in the Nagano area. If I'm there long enough, there are some top-class natural sights to see!
Being away from my apartment makes it difficult to post, because I can't scan cards, and there aren't any shops to get new stuff from anyway. But thanks to sites like COMC, Sportlots, and of course eBay, I can pick up some MLB stuff. And Japanese online sources have helped with my NPB collections. 

So, in all, I had 13 goals, plus a to-do list of sorts. And I didn't do too bad with them. Here's my year-end wrap up.

1. Get the Donruss 2004 set. Completed May 18th. I now have every Topps (since 1978, my birth year), Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck flagship set ever issued.

2. Get my wantlist down to 80 sets. Completed last week. Technically, there are 84 sets on the list, but five of those are 2020 sets. I've also made some great strides in reducing the number of cards needed for several of the remaining sets. The most recent completed set is 2003 Diamond Kings DK Evolution; I picked up the Ripken off eBay.

3. Finish my Pokemon card collection. Completed May 25th. This gets me through the first 800-ish Pokemon; a new series of monsters came out about a year ago and I have yet to finish that collection. But I did meet the goal of finishing through Melmetal!

4. Get at least 25 minis for the Frankenset collection. Completed November 8th. After getting five 2018 A&Gs in April and five more 2020 Ginters in September, I found 15 more random minis on COMC to scratch this off the list. But... over Black Friday, I finished off everything except the 200s card numbers. Which means I only need about 50-60 more to complete that collection. 

5. World Series and Japan Series team cards. Completed last week. I spent a couple evenings making some fairly simple custom cards to fill out a collection where cards didn't exist. I am still hoping to eventually find suitable licensed cards for those spots.

6. Order MiLB and non-sport cards. This is my first incomplete goal. I just never got around to it, yet again.

7. Organize and label my Japan Type Collection. Completed April 10th. Very early into the emergency declaration here, I had enough free time at home to sort everything out and get labeled sticky notes in place. I've since decided on a slightly better labeling format, but because I have been on the road, I've only managed to get a little of the relabeling completed.

8. Reformat my Japan Singles Collection spreadsheet. Completed May 18th. I did a lot of inventory maintenance that day. I got the singles sheet retyped and organized and reformatted the set list too. 

9. Merge some of my spreadsheet files together. Completed June 2nd. I've also been considering merging a few more that would work combined.

10. Create/complete some custom card sets. Completed through last week. I left this one open as "some", so I guess I have done this. I've made custom cards to pair with my non-sport relic and autograph cards and the custom cards mentioned above for the World Series and Japan Series team cards I needed. 

11. Sort my Japanese collections. Completed by April 11th. At the start of the year, I alphabetically sorted my gaijin (foreigner) collection. I sorted out all of my complete sets in March, and in early April I sorted a second type collection and my Pokemon cards. April through early May also saw the sorting of my other smaller collections (players, singles, etc), and the complete scanning of every Japanese collection and type card I have.

12. Clear out the clutter. Not completed. I was hoping to perhaps set up at the Tokyo Collector's Show or find some other way to sell off some extras I've accumulated. I got everything sorted, but the card show never happened. So everything is basically ready, just waiting for the right opportunity.

13. Pick up certain key cards for collections. Partially completed. My first goal here was a McGwire autograph, which I found right at the beginning of the year. I met the goal of getting three figures: Masahiro Tanaka in January, Adrian Beltre in October, and Tony LaRussa in November. I never got a Bartolo Colon 2012 Topps Heritage card. I found a Michael Jordan bat relic, but I'm still looking for an affordable baseball jersey card.

The to-do list was met with mixed success. I'm happy to say that all of my Japanese cards are scanned, though the images aren't all properly sorted and labeled yet. I created and knocked a large part of a Tony LaRussa collection down. I added an alumni collection and a knuckleballers collection, both of which are done except for a few pre-war players.

I completed four BBM flagship sets - 1999, 2003 1st Version, 2007 1st Version, and 2010 1st Version. I started two more - 1995 and 1996, neither of which I expect to finish anytime soon. Calbee 2004, 2007, and 2009 are done, and 2008 only needs one more card. I also completed the 1974 Topps set, my second Topps set from before I was born. 

I read 18 books this year. I probably would have read more but I got stuck on one particular book that's just been difficult to read. In fact, I could have possibly knocked out 24 books if I had either ditched that book or just focused on finishing it sooner. (It's still not done!) My goal was to read one book per month, and I did better than that, on average. But there were a couple months this fall that I just never finished a book.

I wanted to put up some sort of card display. I used to have a type collection of Topps, Donruss, Fleer, Score, and Upper Deck cards as a sort of border along one wall, but I ended up taking those down when I moved to a new apartment. I'd like to put it back up in some fashion, or do something else on a wall. I also never printed out any custom cards, which I would like to do just to see how they look. 

Overall, though, 11 of the 13 goals were met (one of those partially) and I feel like I accomplished a lot this year!

Saturday, May 2, 2020

2020 BBM 1st Version

Let's tackle this monster.
BBM's 1st Version came out in early April following the same basic formula that they have been using for the past few years. The base set is 336 cards: 324 player cards and 12 team checklists.
 Base cards have a radioactive cloud in one corner. Depending on the photo, I find it distracting due to the bright colors; otherwise, it's not a bad design. The backs are pretty standard.
 Let's talk parallels:

  • Silver Signature (unnumbered, above left)
  • Gold Signature #/100 (above center)
  • Holo Signature #/50 (above right)
  • Red Signature #/25 

  • Rookie Parallel #/200 (foilboard)
  • Rookie Parallel #/100 (holofoil, seen above)
  • Rookie Parallel #/50 (foil stamp)
There are also 12 "secret" and 12 "super secret" photo variation parallels. 

As always, the set includes 12 team checklists. Photos on the front appear to come from this year's spring training. Overall, I didn't find the photos to be too appealing compared to prior years.

 This year's theme for the cross-brand set is Cross Blossoms, and the design has an image of cherry blossoms at night with a gigantic full moon in the background. There are two parallels for this set: a foilboard #/100 version and a 1/1 holofoil verison.
 One player from each team can be found in New Age Stars. The foil design looks better in person. A #/100 parallel with a lamé finish can be found.

 Japonism returns, and has a definite traditional Japanese theme for 12 cards, one per team. Regular inserts have gold, there are also pink #/100 and sky blue 1/1 parallels.
3D Cross Blossoms is pretty self-explanatory if you've read everything up to this point. This 12-card set is #/25.
Finally, a 12-card foil autograph version of the Cross Blossoms set titled Cross Foil Signing rounds out the insert offerings. These are #/15.

Moving on to special cards, there are three memorabilia cards: M1 and M2 are single-jersey relic cards while M3 is a dual-jersey card.
 As always, the cross-brand set has Cross Signature parallels in single and dual-player versions. There's also a Special Cross Signature set.
The 10-card Japonism Signature set gives a horizontal variation on the insert design, leaving space for the sticker autograph.

Finally, four players also have buyback autographs in the set; each player has 10 autographs spread across differing numbers and quantities of cards.

Friday, May 1, 2020

2020 BBM Icons Fireballer

What, at first, appeared to be a one-off box set has turned into an annual staple. The Icons series hit shelves in late March, focusing on fastball pitchers this year.
My sample base card is Yudai Ohno, who first came onto my radar when Zippy Zappy pointed out how fun it is to say his name. He's proven to be a decent pitcher for the Dragons, and he even threw a no-hitter last year.

A full 36-card base set can be found in each 4000-yen box along with one "special" card. I don't have a special card yet, but here are your options. Total print run comes to 3500 sets.
Foil Cards, 6 cards, #/30 each, 180 total cards
2020 Rookies, 6 cards, #/60 and #/30 holofoil parallel, 540 total cards
Print Autographs, 12 cards, #/90, #/60 holofoil parallel, #/30 red foil parallel, 2160 total cards

Autographs, 29 cards, various print runs, 620 total cards (approximately 18% chance)

Because I enjoy themed sets, I've been collecting the Icons base set for its entire run. I just wish BBM would be a bit more original with their designs. This year's special cards look nice, though; I'm sure the Fireballer foil insert looks better in person.

Thursday, April 30, 2020

2020 BBM Rookie Edition

Every year, BBM issues a set showing the rookie class in typical studio shots. The newly-drafted players put on their jerseys, take a couple photos in front of a blank wall, and end up on a trading card in February.
Each eight card pack retails for 400 yen, with 15-pack boxes running 6000 yen. Japan doesn't really believe in bulk pricing. The base set has 120 cards. Cards 1-107 are rookies, #108 is a list of the draft picks, and the remaining 12 cards make up the usual subset.
 The base cards this year use octagonal backgrounds. The backs have photos showing all of the draftees for each team and a write-up about the player's career before being drafted.

There are several partial parallels in this year's set. If not noted below, the parallels essentially cover each team's top five to seven picks.

  • Silver Signature /100
  • Gold Signature /75
  • Green Signature /50
  • Red Signature /20
  • Sky Blue Signature 1/1 (First Draft)
  • Holofoil /20 (First Draft)
  • "Secret" Photo Variations (First Draft)

The 12-card Early Days subset features a veteran from each team, pictured when their career was just beginning. The back shows their team's draft class when they were picked; Aoki here was the Swallows fourth draft pick in 2003.
The Next Generation insert set has one younger player from each team. That's twelve cards.
And as customary, the previous year's Rookie of the Year winners get their own gold foilboard insert.

There are several autograph sets to be found in this year's release.

  • Early Days Signature, an 8-card parallel to the subset
  • First Draft Pick Signature (12 cards)
  • First Draft Pick Silver Signature (12 cards /30, not a parallel)
  • Prospect Signature (42 cards)
  • Fresh Stars Signature (7 cards)
  • Rookie Signature Boards (107 autographed signature boards, all 1/1)
BBM didn't release any promo images from the autograph sets, and I don't have any in my collection at the time of this writing.
You made it this far. Here's an image of one of the players who threw his jersey on over his high school uniform. I'm guessing it's his high school uniform. Or perhaps, in Yuki's case, his college uniform (yes, for some schools, that is a thing). I can't imagine him, or any of these players, owning many white shirts and neckties. Perhaps he bought it just for the draft event.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

2020 BBM Retirement Set (Farewell Ballplayers)

By my count, by the time this publishes, BBM will have issued nine baseball card sets for the 2020 card year. The first two came out before the New Year: the retro-themed Time Travel 1985, and the ultra-premium Glory. In January, BBM released its annual set honoring players who called it quits after the prior season.
Each 7000-yen box comes with a 36-card complete set and one autograph. And that's really all the release contains.
The base cards use the same basic design as always; the diamond in the center basically translates as "Regret at Departing Ballplayer". Several of the cards depict the players retirement ceremonies, holding flowers or being tossed into the air. I love this image of Tanaka; hands-down it's the best in the set.
Thirty-two of the 36 players in the base set have autographed cards as well, with print runs ranging from 10 to 120 copies. Totaling them up reveals that 3000 sets were made.
There is a somewhat interesting story in this set with Shintaro Yokota. He was drafted out of high school by the Tigers in 2013, and spent 2014 and 2015 with the minor league team. After a very good spring training in 2016, he made the opening day roster, but struggled in the regular season and by the end of June he was back with the ni-gun team.

He again was practicing with the big club during 2017 Spring Training, but left due to recurring headaches. Eventually it was discovered that he had a brain tumor, but after surgery the cancer was in remission. He wasn't able to play successfully after that due to vision problems from the tumor, though he spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons training with the team.

He announced his retirement on September 22nd, and a ceremony was planned following the September 26 game. After three seasons off the field, he played center field for the ni-gun team as a defensive replacement, throwing out a runner at the plate in the eighth inning. So, after six seasons, Yokota hung up his cleats.

Yokota only played in 38 games, all in 2016, for the Hanshin Tigers top ballclub, batting .190.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Book Review: Wally Yonamine

One last book review from March. Seriously, I read four books and never wrote about them! Wally Yonamine: The Man Who Changed Japanese Baseball by Rob Fitts came to me through a Mercari purchase of all things. It's the first book by Fitts I've read, though I also have his book Mashi: Masanori Murakami, which I picked up when both Fitts and Murakami made an appearance in Tokyo a few years ago. He's written a few more books on Japanese baseball, collects Japanese baseball cards, and sells cards on eBay, too. (Not right now, due to stay-at-home orders. But usually.)
Wally Yonamine is a man of firsts: he was the first Japanese American to play in the NFL (for the San Francisco 49ers) and the first American to play baseball in Japan after World War II, for the Yomiuri Giants. He was the first foreign manager in NPB, with the Chunichi Dragons. He brought more-aggressive baseball to Japan, playing for the strongest, most popular team in Japan. He won countless awards and was inducted to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1994 - the only American in the Hall as a player.

This book is the definitive record of Wally Yonamine's life. Fitts did his homework, interviewing players, friends, family members, and Yonamine himself. Fitts is most concerned with Wally's baseball career, but he also talks about his upbringing, his football career, Pearl Harbor, and stealing watermelons. We read about his efforts on the diamond and his relationships with his wife and children.

Overall, this book is extremely well-written. It is a passion project, that is obvious. My only minor complaint is the change in style in the last chapter, titled Hall of Fame. For the first 20 chapters of the book, Fitts talks about Yonamine as a third person, telling the story of his life. Chapter 21 continues that story, but this is the point where Yonamine enters Fitts' life, and the book turns first person for a while. And from history to praise. I only wish Fitts had split that chapter in two, talking about Yonamine's post-baseball life (which never really ended; he was involved with the Master League even in 2008, in his 80s) in a chapter, and sharing his personal story and Yonamine's legacy in an epilogue or afterword. It's still a great book.
I have a few Yonamine cards laying around, but no definitive card. As I've been doing with other players I've read about, I'm on the lookout for a good card to represent the book. I've got my eyes on some vintage cards, but until then, here's a card of him sliding in to home.

And with that, I've gotten caught up on books. I haven't been reading these past couple weeks, so I have some catching up to do. My vacation starts tomorrow, so vacation #1 is traveling back in time over 100 years, again.

Until next time...