A Quick Overview Of 1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball

This past weekend, CommishBob over at The Five Tool Collector featured a set called “Play Ball Japan”, which was a 1980’s Broder set of baseball players who were active in Japan at the time.  That reminded me of the fact that I’ve been meaning to write about another American-produced set of Japanese cards, one I’ve had for many years.

I first encountered the 1979 TCMA Japanese Pro Baseball set in the 1980’s when I ran across someone who was selling a complete, 90-card set for an affordable price.  Having been fascinated by Japanese baseball since the late 1970’s, I jumped at the opportunity and it’s been one off my favorite oddball sets ever since.

I don’t know what else to tell you about the set itself, so I’ll just show you some of the more notable cards in the set… well, notable from a Western point of view… I’ve read that the set contains some Japanese HOFers, but for the most part I couldn’t tell you which ones those are off the top of my head.

I’ll start right off with the key card from the set, Japanese Home Run king Sadaharu Oh.  This card shows Oh near the end of his playing career;  he’d hang ’em up after the 1980 season.
1979 TCMA Japanese Sadaharu Oh
Here’s the back of Oh’s card…  Very basic, but still informative.
1979 TCMA Japanese Sadaharu Oh back

Naturally, the majority of cards in the set are for Japanese players. Here’s another Japanese player that many of you will recognize…
1979 TCMA Japanese Masanori Murakami
…But as he’s the first Japanese player ever in the Majors,  you probably recognize this card of his better:
1965 Topps Rookie Stars Estelle Murakami

Another guy you may be familiar with is a relatively young Charlie Manuel, well before he managed the Phillies.
1979 TCMA Japanese Charlie Manuel

Carlos May was a two-time All-Star and played mainly for the White Sox and Yankees before playing four years with the Nankai Hawks.
1979 TCMA Japanese Carlos May

Tony Muser put in parts of 9 seasons with the White Sox, Orioles and two other teams. 1979 was his only year with the Seibu Lions.
1979 TCMA Japanese Tony Muser

Vern Law was one of the greatest players ever to come out of Idaho, 1960 Cy Young winner and father of former Major League infielder Vance Law.  He was a coach with the Lions.
1979 TCMA Japanese Vernon Law

These last two cards are, to Mets fans like me, the biggest appeal of this set (along with Sadaharu Oh).

Wayne Garrett was a Met for 8 seasons, including a couple where he was the starting third baseman. He played two seasons with the Chunichi Dragons.
1979 TCMA Japanese Wayne Garrett
His older brother Adrian also played in Japan and was featured in this set, but I’ll get to him in another post.

Felix Millan was the starting second baseman for the Braves and Mets in the 1970’s, and capped it off by playing for the Yohohama Taiyo Whales for three seasons.
1979 TCMA Japanese Felix Millan

There are other cards of interest in this set, but as the title of the post says, this was meant to be a quick overview. Even though more than half of the set shows players I know nothing about, it’s still one of my favorite sets in my collection.

Looking For Feedback On Prototypes For My “Hot Stove” Set

Topps released a preview of their 2015 set the other day, and yesterday Jim over at The Phillies Room released a preview of his 2015 Chachi set, so I thought I might get in on the action as well.

For those of you who have not followed this blog through prior offseasons, I’ve been doing a custom set I call “TSR Hot Stove”.  The general idea is to show guys “photoshopped” into new uniforms and the like, while giving me the opportunity to flex some creative muscles and play with my Paint Shop Pro software.

If you’re curious about the prior sets, go up to the top, click on the “Galleries Of Custom Cards” tab, and scroll down to see the 2013/14 set (which was based on 1959 Bazooka) and scroll down even further to see the 2012/13 set (which was based on 1960-1962 Bazooka).

I like the idea of using a vintage “oddball” set for the design, but I don’t really care as much for the other vintage Bazooka designs.  As a result, I’d been toying with using the design from 1974 Kellogg’s for my 2014/15 Hot Stove set.

1974 Kelloggs Felix Millan

The one thing I wasn’t thrilled about was the lack of team identification, and also the fact that it shows only the player’s last name (something I’ve never cared for).

To see what I might be able to do with this, I first made a Bartolo Colon prototype without changing things a whole lot… sort of a “proof of concept”  Here’s what I got.
2014 Hot Stove Prototype 1
The only thing I changed from the original design was altering the text at top to read “2-D SUPER STARS”, just to acknowledge the fact that I’m not quite good enough at this to completely simulate the lenticular “3-D” effect.

I was pretty happy with that custom, so I went back later and decided to expand the box the name goes in, and add in the first name in a smaller font, kind of like Topps did in their 1974 set.

Just for fun and to give myself and all of you an idea of what this might look like “in production”, I went and looked at a list of prospective free agents, picked one of the bigger names and made a not-unreasonable guess as to where he’d end up.

Here’s the second prototype:
2014 Hot Stove Prototype 2

To fit the full name in, I made the box slightly taller, but I doubt that one could even tell without measuring.

So… what do you think?  Are you OK with the liberties I’ve taken, or do you prefer that I stay faithful to the original?  I’ll be honest, I’m still going back and forth on that.

But what’s more important right now is “Would you want to see more of these from November through February?”  I hope so, because as of right now I don’t have a “Plan B”.


Sugar-Frosted Black Friday: Some Kellogg’s Cards I Got From COMC

Even though I grew up in the 1970’s, I never got any Kellogg’s baseball cards.  That didn’t bother me at the time, because I didn’t view them as “real” baseball cards, but recently I’ve been trying to make up for lost time on my Kellogg’s collection.

This is the first 1973 Kellogg’s card I’ve ever seen in person.  You know what’s unique about the 1973 Kellogg’s set?
1973 Kelloggs Jon Matlack
They’re “2-D”!!!! That’s right, they’re just baseball cards, no extra dimensions involved. I can just imagine the disappointment of kids pulling these out of a box of Sugar Pops and wondering why it isn’t 3D.

For 1974, Kellogg’s came to their senses and added the third dimension back in.
1974 Kelloggs Felix Millan

Felix Millan takes that third dimension very seriously.  “The third dimension is a significant part of a nutritious breakfast!”

Just to wander off-topic for a moment, I’m already trying to figure out what oddball design to use for next winter’s “Hot Stove” custom cards, and one idea I’ve had is to use a Kellogg’s design, possibly the above 1974 design… Anybody have any thoughts on that idea?  When the time gets closer I’ll probably share a few prototypes, maybe even do a vote.

Here’s a 1976 Kellogg’s card, and of course 1976 = Red + White + Blue.
1976 Kelloggs Ken Singleton

I always liked Kenny Singleton, even though his time with the Mets came a few years before I started following the team. It says volumes about him that his 16 years in the Yankees TV booth are not held against him.

Another Jon Matlack card, this one from 1979, this time with the Rangers and this time with a huge facsimile autograph.
1979 Kelloggs Jon Matlack
Matlack went to Texas in a confusing 4-team trade which also involved the Pirates and Braves. O! The carnage! Players flying everywhere! From a Mets-centric standpoint, they gave up Matlack and John Milner and in return got Willie Montanez, Tom Grieve and Ken Henderson. Other notables in that deal were “Circle Me, Bert” Blyleven and Al Oliver.

Ed-die! Ed-die! Ed-die! What can I say about Hall-Of-Famer Eddie Murray that isn’t rehashing what you already know? Well, he lead the league in intentional base-on-balls three different years. How about that?
1981 Kelloggs Eddie Murray

In the early 1980’s, Hubie Brooks was among the young Mets players that every Mets fan had hoped would lead us out of the dismal mess the team was in. He was a good player, but one could argue that the biggest role he played in Mets history was being one of four players traded to Montreal for Gary Carter.
1982 Kelloggs Hubie Brooks
He played with Bob Horner at Arizona State University; in 1978 the Braves drafted Horner first overall and the Mets drafted Hubie third overall.

1976 SSPC: #536 Félix Millán (Mets)

1976 SSPC #536 Felix Millan

Félix Millán… Was a three-time All-Star and a two-time Gold Glove winner… naturally this all happened when he was with the Braves, not with the Mets.

‘Round here, folks call me:  Felix The Cat

In 1976, Félix Millán… was the starting 2nd baseman for the Mets, batted .282 and had a .341 on-base percentage.

This card… Makes me wonder why he’s holding the microphone…  Possibly being interviewed by the Mets triumvirate of broadcasters, Ralph Kiner, Bob Murphy and Lindsey Nelson.

So… take your time… and tell me… Is it Shea?  Undoubtedly.

Betcha didn’t know… Millán played three seasons for the Yokohama Taiyo Whales.

1976 Joe… and his friends used to choke up on the Wiffleball bat to imitate Millán’s batting style .

1976 SSPC #536 Felix Millan back

The Spirit Of ’76!!!!

I think it’s safe to say that many of you weren’t around for America’s bicentennial in 1976.  Too bad, you certainly missed something.
1977 Mets Yearbook Photo Of Bicentennial
It was hype and nationalism and commercialism all wrapped into one particular event which was technically one day – July 4th, 1976 –  but had one hell of a lead-up.  Imagine the Olympics lasting for 18 months, and you’ll start to get an idea.

CBS broadcast a “Bicentennial Minute” every day for 2 years.  We had bicentennial TV specials, bicentennial candy bars, bicentennial soda bottles…  We even had special quarters.
1976 US Quarter reverse

That might not seem like a big deal now, but back then it was absolutely crazypants to have anything other than an eagle on the back of a quarter.  There were special half dollars and dollar coins as well, but we didn’t really notice because then, as now, nobody used those.

Everything was Stars & Stripes and three-cornered hats.  If there was anything that could be spangled with stars, Buddy, you’d better believe that it was star-spangled!

1976 Mets Yearbook Dairylea ad

Everything was made to be red, white and blue… fire hydrants, freight trains, water towers, trash cans, park benches…

…baseball yearbooks…
1976 Mets Yearbook Revised Edition
1976 Pirates Yearbook
1976 Tigers Yearbook

…baseball cards…

1976 Kellogg's Felix Millan

1976 Hostess Bucky Dent

After two years of build-up, I’m sure that there were a lot of people who became sick and tired of all the hype surrounding this event… but at least they could comfort themselves with “The Beer For The Bicentennial”.
Schmidt's Beer Ad From Mets Yearbook

An Arbitrary Selection Of Mets I Got At The National

…and, just because it’s Labor Day, my top 10 songs with “work” in the title:

“A Clean Break (Let’s Work)” — Talking Heads
“Dirty Work” — Steely Dan

“Don’t Gotta Work It Out” — Fitz And The Tantrums
“Finest Worksong” — R.E.M.

“I Never Go To Work” — They Might Be Giants
“There’s A Guy Works Down The Chip Shop Swears He’s Elvis” — Kirsty MacColl

“We Can Work It Out” — The Beatles
“Workin’ At The Car Wash Blues” — Jim Croce

“Working Man” — Domestic Science Club
“Working My Way Back To You/Forgive Me Girl” — The Spinners

1979 TCMA Japanese Baseball Félix Millán

I used to watch Japanese baseball on TV, even though I’ve never been in Japan.  Back in the late 1970’s there was a UHF station in New Jersey, outside of New York City, which featured international programming.  I used to flip over every now and then to see what kind of unusual-to-me shows or commercials I might see and not understand (because they were often in languages other than English).  I always enjoyed the Spanish commercials for Colgate toothpaste because they pronounced it as a Spanish word:  Col-GAHT-eh

One night I flipped over, and there was a baseball game from Japan.  The play-by-play was all in Japanese, but fortunately you don’t need to understand the broadcasters to follow a game.

What I really didn’t need a broadcaster to understand was when former Met Félix Millán stepped up to the plate.  It was cool enough to be watching this familiar, yet strange game, but it was off the charts when a player formerly on my favorite team, a guy who me and my friends used to choke way up on the bat to imitate, is on my TV in a Yokohama Taiyo Whales uniform.  I think it safe to say that “freaked out” is an appropriate phrase.

Although I didn’t get to see a whole lot of games – that station wasn’t listed in my newspaper’s TV listings, so finding games was hit-or-miss – it started a lifelong fascination with Japanese baseball.  I bought the entire TCMA set that this Félix Millán card is in (it was relatively cheap back in the day), I read Robert Whiting’s “You Gotta Have Wa” and other books, and until fairly recently every Japanese player who came over to this side of the Pacific was instantly a player I collected.  This only stopped because it got to be too many guys and not all of them were worthy of excitement.  I also reached a certain degree of “Ichiro Fatigue”.

When I went to the National in 2010, one of the highlights of the show was the one dealer who was selling Japanese cards;  Not only was it something I was very interested in, it most definitely fell into the category of “Cards you don’t see at most shows”.  Japanese cards will be near the top of my want list for this year’s National.

My collection of Japanese cards is relatively small, but I’ll be sharing more of these cards in the future.