Tuesday, September 27, 2016
I hadn`t been aware of it until I found this, but in October and November of1956 the Brooklyn Dodgers made a goodwill tour to Japan in which they played 11 games against four different teams (the Giants, an "All Japan" team, a Central League team (I assume this was an all star squad), and an "All Kanto" team). This is a schedule featuring team rosters from that tour.
According to this detailed write up on Walter O`Malley`s (spits on ground in disgust at mention of name) website about the tour, the Dodgers were invited by Yomiuri owner Matsutaro Shoriki and O`Malley (spits on ground again) accepted. They played to huge crowds everywhere they went and the same site has some cool photos of the tour (I like this one, I think that is Carl Furillo in the foreground and you can see Jackie Robinson next to the photographer, check out the rest at their site, which also has some amazing looking posters from the tour that probably sell for a billion dollars these days):
The other four team`s lineups are also included:
Sunday, September 25, 2016
It is so awesome.
Its a pretty good sized picture, about the size of a B4 sheet of paper, and printed on cardstock. According to the text along the bottom edge it was taken at Jingu Stadium on November 25, 1934. It was distributed by the Yomiuri Shinbun, the paper that organized the tour and shortly shortly thereafter would form the first NPB team, the Giants.
The photo features facsimile autographs of each player. Interestingly there is currently an auction for the same photo up on Yahoo Auctions here which rather dishonestly suggests that the autographs are real, but they are clearly not. Bidding on that one is up over 54,000 Yen as I write this (about $500 US) with 4 days remaining, whoever wins it will likely be disappointed when they actually have it in their hands. As I have mentioned before, Yahoo Auctions Japan is a bit of a haven for rip off artists selling fake autographs, though at least in this case the photo itself appears to be genuine. Its an amazing piece and definitely worth something, but nowhere near as much as a photo actually signed by all those guys (one copy, which formed the basis for this photo, must exist somewhere out there assuming it wasn`t burned in the war....wow, what a find that would be).
Anyway, back to the photo. Moe Berg`s signature stands out among the Americans since he signed his in English and Japanese katakana, which is kind of neat. Despite being a relatively minor player, his exploits on the tour are best known since he engaged in some spying for the US government while there, taking some photos that would be useful during the War a few years later.
At some point I`ll try to make a list of the Japanese players. Unfortunately their signatures are pretty difficult to read so I am having trouble identifying the individuals based on that alone.
I should add that this doesn`t seem to have been a stand-alone insert. I actually bought it as part of a 3 piece collection of Yomiuri Shinbun inserts. One of these features the cabinet of then Prime Minister of Japan Keisuke Okada. Okada is a really interesting figure in pre-war Japan and his inclusion in a set with the American all stars is kind of fitting. He was staunchly opposed to any war with the United States and the rising militarism of Japan at the time. He was the subject of numerous assassination attempts as a result, one of which killed his brother in law and led to his resigning from office in 1936. He retained this position even after the war began and was part of the faction that wanted to negotiate peace with the US.
The other photo is a bit less fitting, featuring military leaders some of whom probably led the fight against the Americans during the war!
I`m probably going to have the baseball photo framed at some point, its size makes it perfect for a display piece.
Wednesday, September 14, 2016
The tour was led by Lefty O`Doul, who had also organized the more famous pre-war tours by American all stars like Gehrig and Ruth in the 1930s. The 1949 tour is considered quite important in Japan though since it was the first such tour after the war and in fact occurred while General MacArthur was still in charge of the country.
The Seals played 11 games, including exhibition games, during the tour against a variety of teams including the Giants, an all star team from pro yakyuu, American military teams and college all star teams, winning all but one game. The games were played in Tokyo, Nagoya and the Kansai region in Korakuen stadium (Tokyo), Koshien Stadium (Kansai), Jingu Stadium (Tokyo), Chunichi Stadium (Nagoya) and Nishinomiya Stadium (Kansai). The cards in this set feature players from the Seals and the Giants, who played only one game against each other during the tour (on October 15, 1949, won by the Seals 13-4).
Each player has two cards, one featuring a fairly crude likeness of the player and the other some random close up of the player`s uniform, glove, bat, throwing arm, etc. Below are the two cards of each team`s manager, Osamu Mihara of the Giants (upper row, two cards with yellow background) and O`Doul (next to Mihara, two cards with blue background).
Another interesting fact about the above image is the card on the lower left, featuring the scoreboard. The inning numbers don`t make any sense, they run 7-7-8-9-6-1. I can`t figure out any interpretation of that order which makes sense, I assume the person who did the artwork probably wasn`t a baseball fan. Also the Seals` pitcher Dempsey, featured on the cards immediately below O`Doul, is rendered as having a fairly hideous looking 3 fingered set of claws for a pitching hand.
Its hard to find lineup information for these games on the internet (at least from my 15 minutes of Googling, which turned up lots of generic articles about the series but none that offered any details). The Japanese Wikipedia page does offer some more information though, so I thought I`d try to translate the lineup of each team featured just so that it would exist in English on the internet somewhere (my transcription of the Seals player names is probably wrong in a few places, its hard to convert katakana accurately back into the original language. If anyone can, please correct these. The Japanese player names I am confident in).
6. Roddijohnny (definitely I am getting that name wrong)
(pinch hitter: O`Doul, replaced at second by Morin)
(pinch hitter:O`Teague, replaced as pitcher by Wall)
(pinch hitter: Yamakawa, replaced in right field by Komatsubara)
(pinch hitter: Nagashima, replaced at catcher by Takemiya
(pinch hitter: Bessho, replaced as pitcher by Fujimoto)
Dempsey got the win for the Seals, while Kawasaki took the loss for the Giants. Westlake and Bessho each connected for a home run. The game was played in front of a crowd of 45,000 at Korakuen Stadium.
Sunday, September 11, 2016
The series culminates with the above card, #927 in the set which commemorates home run #700, the back noting that he joins Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron as the only two in the 700 club. Its a kind of cool scene, Oh getting interviewed while holding the typical bouquet of flowers.
These are a few of the other 700 Home Run cards of Oh. I particularly like the one on the lower right, with him swinging away with all his might, eyes closed (card #800 in the set). It is from a 2 home run game in which he hit his 12th and 13th of the season against Taiyo on May 22, 1976.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
Another week, another 1970s Calbee pickup, in this case card #17 from the 1977 set (famous scenes series). It features members of the Yomiuri Giants taken on October 16 at Korakuen Stadium singing a "song of victory" after going from worst to first under Shigeo Nagashima`s management.
The card carries a huge mystery to it which I am having a lot of trouble wrapping my head around. It seems to have been miscut on both the top and bottom, yet on both sides the nature of the miscut precludes the possibility of the other side`s miscut.
Look at the top of the card. The heads of Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto are cut off from above the eyebrows. It seems the card should end a bit higher than that, so at least you get the entire faces of the two main players in the centre, right?
But then look at the bottom of the card. The lower, smaller bottom line of text says "巨人Ｖ１” but it has clearly been cut in half, with the lower part of the text completely off the card.
The miscut on the top suggests the card was cut too low, while the miscut on the bottom suggests it was cut too high. Under the laws of physics currently in force in the known universe it is not possible for these to both be simultaneously correct, yet they both exist. What gives?
In case you are wondering, the card has not been trimmed at all, it is identical in size to a standard card from that set. I can`t make heads or tails of this. The only explanation I can come up with is that the image on the card itself was somehow accidentally printed at 1.1 or 1.2 times magnification, making it too big to fit on the card. But I`ve never seen a card with that before.
Kind of a mystery, I almost feel like I am looking at an MC Escher painting or something. Anyone else come across similarly weird card cuts?
Raz in the comments made a pretty good find, locating the above image which seems to show how the card was intended to look when correctly centred.
This just really opens up a whole new can of "what?" worms. Calbee actually intended this card to have Sadaharu Oh and Isao Harimoto`s faces cut clean out of the photo? In order to provide more room on the bottom for that lovely image of....the backs of photographers?
I`m guessing there were a few quality control issues related to how images were centred on printing plates with Calbee cards in the 70s, there are a couple of other cards I have with questionably centred images. On most it isn`t noticeable since moving the centre of the image a bit only crops out a bit of random background, but on cards where some key element (like say the faces of the NPB all time home run king and hit king) is close to the edge, errors like this become really hard to miss.