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.

Contrast And Compare: More 1977 O-Pee-Chee And Topps Baseball

1977 was one of the few times where Topps’ Canadian partner O-Pee-Chee attempted to build upon the Topps baseball set. This was likely due to the excitement over having two Canadian teams for the first time, as 1977 was the first year for the Toronto Blue Jays.

This first card I’m featuring is an example of Topps getting screwed by the roster shuffling of expansion teams.

Shortly after the end of the 1976 season, the Blue Jays purchased several players from the Padres, including Catcher/3rd Baseman Dave Roberts (not to be confused with 1970’s pitcher Dave Roberts).
1977 Topps Dave Roberts
Dave Roberts was the first-overall draft pick in 1972, and like Dave Winfield the following year, Roberts went straight to San Diego. He played 100 games as a rookie and made the Topps Rookie All-Star team. Roberts had some success in 1973, struggled in 1974, spent much of 1975 and all of 1976 in the minors, and it was during that time that the Padres decided to convert him to a catcher.

But then in February, 1977 the Jays traded Roberts back to the Padres for pitcher Jerry Johnson. Topps’ airbrush artists said “Son of a —-” and O-Pee-Chee said “Where are the Roberts photos that haven’t been airbrushed?”
1977 OPC Dave Roberts
Roberts would play one more season with the Padres before being involved in a five-player trade that would send him to to Texas.


Wayne Garrett was acquired from the Mets in July, 1976 and Topps used a photo of Wayne taken in Shea that August or September.
1977 Topps Wayne Garrett

O-Pee-Chee figured they could do better by their Canadian teams, so they got a more current photo taken during Spring Training in home whites.
1977 OPC Wayne Garrett
With the Mets, Garrett was a member of the 1969 Miracle Mets, and also the 1973 NL Champion Mets. Wayne lasted exactly two years with the Expos; they acquired him on 7/21/76 and sold him to the Cardinals on 7/21/78. He would finish out the season in St. Louis and then spend two seasons in Japan with the Chunichi Dragons.

1974 Week: Gary Matthews and Frank Robinson

Nice action shot – or “just-after-the-action shot” – from Shea  Stadium… Wayne Garrett is the Met standing on third, and John McNamara is the Giants’ third base coach.

For those of you who wonder about partial ads in the background, above the 396 mark on the fence is the bottom of an ad for Manufacturers Hanover, a New York bank of the period.

Gary Matthews is the father of recent (and overpaid) Major Leaguer Gary Matthews, Jr.

While trying to confirm that John McNamara was the third base coach of the Giants, I found a February 3rd, 1974 article from the Modesto Bee about how John McNamara was hired as the third manager of the Padres… but what raised my eyebrows was the line “…after team  officials decided against making Maury Wills the first black manager in the Major Leagues…”  I’d never heard about this before, I’ll have to do more research.  The article quoted the team officials as saying they were looking for someone with more experience.

…and here’s the guy who would become the first black manager (and another cool card).