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

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Thursday, February 25, 2021

Hats Off To Me

A couple years ago, I went through all of the accumulated stuff from my life here in Japan, and made some decisions about what I wanted to keep versus what I didn't really want to keep. Some of it was worthless and is now in a landfill or properly recycled, while other things are in boxes waiting to be sold in some way.

Don't worry, I kept most of the baseball stuff, at least. And last year, while I was cooped up in my tiny apartment, I went back through the boxes to photograph and catalog everything I kept. While organizing and inventorying the baseball souvenirs, I verified that I had at least one, but not too many, souvenirs from each NPB team. And that got me thinking: what if I had one souvenir for every defunct NPB team as well? That includes a few teams that have disappeared, but also teams which have changed their names.

If my research and memory is correct, this is a list of all NPB team names which no longer exist:

  • Pirates (1950)
  • Clippers (1950)
  • Robins (1950-1954)
  • Whales (1955-1977)
  • Unions (1954-1957)
  • Stars (1950-1956)
  • Flyers (1950-1973)
  • Orions (1950-1977)
  • Braves (1950-1990)
  • BlueWave (1950-2004)

Somewhere along the line I picked up a BlueWave souvenir. They aren't that uncommon - the team existed less than 20 years ago and was the home of Ichiro before he moved to Seattle. 

Last month, I finally got a Braves souvenir.

The easiest thing to find for the Hankyu Braves, other than cards, are hats. But most sellers have been asking more than I want to pay. This only cost me about 1000 yen ($10)! It's big enough to fit on a shelf but not too big to dominate it. I believe this is vintage.
 Oh, you noticed a signature. I'm pretty sure this is Yutaka Fukumoto, the Japanese Rickey Henderson. Or should I say, Rickey Henderson is the American Yutaka Fukumoto. Fukumoto broke Brock's career steals record before Henderson, and held the single-season stolen base record with 106 before Henderson broke that record. Fukumoto got 2543 hits and 1065 stolen bases in his career, and is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

I didn't bid on it because Fukumoto signed it, but if this is authentic (I have no reason to believe otherwise) it's a great addition to my collection and my first Japanese Hall of Famer autograph. (Apparently, the seller's kid got the hat signed at Nishinomiya Stadium.)

I'm pretty sure I'll be able to find decent souvenirs eventually for the Orions, Flyers, and Whales. But the remaining teams only existed in the 1950s, so I might turn to replicas or other modern souvenirs.

And as a bonus, these bromide photo cards of Fukumoto were included with the hat:

I'm taking a stab in the dark here guessing they were probably sold at the stadium.


  1. Cool hat... especially for the price. And souvenirs from each NPB team sounds like it'd make an interesting blog series.

    1. It sounds like a good series, doesn't it... (time to jot that down for later...)

      And whether the signature is real or not, I got a good price on the hat. And it does look cool!

  2. Nice! Fukumoto is a favorite of mine. Funny that your first two items are essentially from the same team - Orix bought the Braves from Hankyu after the 1988 season.

    Some corrections because I can't help myself: Whales went to 1992, Orions went to 1991, BlueWave started in 1991.

    If you wanted to add some more impossible tasks you could add the defunct JBL teams from the pre-NPB era like the Eagles and the Senators.

    1. Thanks to needing his card, and getting this hat and photos, I've learned a bit about him. He is kind of interesting, and I am a Rickey Henderson fan.

      I've updated my notes. I think I grabbed the original information from the Wikipedia timeline toward the bottom of the English NPB page or something, and that thing was incredibly difficult to decipher. I'm pretty sure I saw a more easily understandable timeline somewhere, and if not, I think I might create one anyway. And the Whales thing should have set off some sort of alarm in my head, because I knew they were more recent than 1992... but I was trusting my notes.

      I thought about some of those ancient teams. I really doubt it's possible, at all. Are there any souvenirs from that era?

    2. I suspect anything from the JBL years would be pretty rare.

      Meant to ask before - are those cards laminated like a lot of the other team issued stadium souvenir cards from the 1980's that I've seen?

    3. No, these are thin bromide-style cards. If it wasn't for the cardstock, I would think they were just photos. They're photo-sized, too, about 4x6 inches.

  3. Wow, 1000 Yen for a Fukumoto signed hat? Fantastic find!  I just perused some Fukumoto signed stuff on Yahoo Auctions and that definitely looks like his signature.

    1. Yeah, it looks legit. It's a great find if it's real! I'm surprised I didn't have to fight for it.