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.
Here’s the back of Oh’s card… Very basic, but still informative.
Naturally, the majority of cards in the set are for Japanese players. Here’s another Japanese player that many of you will recognize…
…But as he’s the first Japanese player ever in the Majors, you probably recognize this card of his better:
Another guy you may be familiar with is a relatively young Charlie Manuel, well before he managed the Phillies.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.