Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So Taguchi, Former Champion

In my little fits of bargain hunting at card shows I occasionally happen upon something I would probably never think to look for, yet can't wait to put my paws on and take home with me. It boggles the mind why there would be nearly 20 year old Japanese baseball cards in some guy's 5000 ct. nickel box, but there they were. Knowling little about this set, I thought these things might have been cut out of a magazine (a la Topps Magazine or SI For Kids) since the set name, BBM, actually stands for Baseball Magazine. It turns out that these cards were distributed in both pack and set form. They're slightly smaller than your standard American baseball card size and have a glossy coating on the front. I'm guessing that these cards were produced in pretty large numbers, but the Ichiro cards (his first) seem to command a pretty good chunk of change.

Gooch's name caught my eye first, of course, but I recognized all of the players on the cards as having been in MLB at some point.

The design looks strikingly similar to 1990 Pro Set NFL cards, at least on the front. Tsuyoshi Shinjo (spelled with a superfluous 'Y' here which may or may not be a translation-related variation) sandwiched his Japanese professional playing career around three MLB seasons, including the San Francisco Giants title season of 2002.

The photos on the backs of the cards kind of look like mugshots to me.

Ishii's story is fairly similar, as he spent four seasons in MLB (with the Dodgers and Mets) before returning to Japan to finish out his career. Yakult's logo looks like Bazooka gum, does it not?

The (then) Slender Toad made waves in 1997 for leading to the creation of the posting system which we know and love today that has caused teams like the Red Sox to drop tens of millions of dollars just for the right to sign a Japanese professional player. Irabu won two rings with the Yankees but ultimately did not have a lot of personal success in MLB.

By the way, So Taguchi was hitting .364 at last check for the Orix Buffaloes. He'll be 42 in a couple weeks. That's impressive. After learning of Ronnie Belliard's retirement today and seeing another 2006 Cardinal champion bite the dust, it's nice to see that Taguchi is still at it.

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