Monday, June 22, 2020

Thanks for my first mailed card packet

While I still read the occasional sports card blog posts when I was on my hiatus between Bleedin' Brown and Gold and Comatoad on Cards, I missed the fun little packets that were fouind in the mail from my fellow card-collecting bloggers.

All that changed this past weekend, as I got a nice little envelope in the mail from Mark at The Chronicles of Fuji. I had put up a post about what to do with the leftovers from sets you purchase in order to get the actual cards you need to complete the sets you want.

Since I collect track and field, in this particular case, it was about leftover cards of Olympic athletes. Fuji expressed an interest in a few of the cards, so I put them aside for him. Long story short, I was finally able to get a packet in the mail to him (after a few weeks of procrastination), along with a few other goodies I though he'd enjoy.

And then, he beats me to the punch with a great packet of track and field cards. I knew he was an avid collector of Sports Illustrated for Kids cards, so I really enjoyed receiving these cards, as SI for Kids has a good representation of track field amongst their athlete cards.

1994 Uta Pippig (#300); 2015 Kate Avery (#403); and 2018 Shelby Houlihan (#762). While Pippig was a three-time Boston Marathon winner,  I particularly enjoyed the Houlihan card, as she's a fellow Iowan, who ran out of Sioux City East High School, and then competed at Arizona State as a collegian. Houlihan was named the 2011 Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year, and is the current women's 1500m world record holder, after setting the record at the World Athletics Championships on Oct. 5, 2019.

He added a couple more SI for Kids cards with 1989 Roger Kingdom (#53) and 1992 Mike Powell (#1) cards. Kingdom, a two-time Olympic gold medalist in the 110m hurdles (1984/1988) went on to serve with the Arizona Cardinals as an assistant strength and conditioning coach in 2014. Powell is no slouch either, as a two-time World Champion, two-time Olympic Silver Medalist. He also broke Bob Beamon's 23-year old long jump world record, with a leap of 8.95m during the 1991 World Championships in Tokyo.

Next up are a pair of 1992 Impel U.S. Olympicards of Heptathlete Jackie Joyner-Kersee (#88) and Sprinter Michael Johnson (#87); and a 2012 Panini Golden Age Babe Didrikson Zaharias (#50). After watching a 1975 TV movie about Babe Didrikson, Joyner-Kersee decided to compete in the heptathlon and long jump, despite suffering from severe asthma. In 1990, Joyner-Kersee, Sports Illustrated voter her "the greatest female athlete of all-time," just ahead of Didrikson.

And finally, he threw in an autograph and memorabilia card for good measure. The auto is a 2009 Upper Deck Goodwin Champions Autograph Mark Allen (#MA), and the memorabilia is from a 2012 Topps U.S. Olympic Team Relics Jerome Singleton (#ORJS). While Allen specializes as a Triathlete, Singleton, a three-time Paralympian, competes on both the track (100m, 4x100m Relay) and in the field (Long Jump).

Thank you Fuji for the great cards, and I hope you enjoy the packet I sent your way. I'm definitely looking forward to jumping on the bandwagon and getting cards out to my blogging brethren.

Stay healthy and safe out there.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

My First Autographed NPB Card

During my last post, I mentioned how I was going to start collection Nippon Professional Baseball cards. I'm finally starting to get a few of my E-Bay shipments, and I think I have a rather nice beginning for my Japanese baseball card collection.

Besides the 1975 Broder Japan Top Star Wes Parker card I had, I discovered another Japanese baseball card of sorts already in hand, which I didn't realize until I started cleaning out my minor league card box.

This particular card was a 1988 Star Masao Kida (#14) minor league card. In 1988, the Miami Marlins were a Class A independent in the Florida State League, as the MLB Marlins wouldn't begin MLB play until 1993. So, in 1987 and 1988, the NPB's Yomiuri Giants sent a few of their players to the States to play with the Marlins, and Kida was one of those players.

Drafted in the first round by the Giants after graduation from Nippon University High School, Kida began his baseball career with the Class A Marlins, going 7-17 with a 3.99 ERA, he returned to Japan to pitch for the Giants (1989-1997), and the Orix Blue Wave (1988). He then began racking up the frequent flier miles, resuming his career in the U.S., where he pitched for the Detroit Tigers (1999-2000), and then returned home to Japan to pitch again for Orix (2000-01). 

From 2003-2005, he began his final U.S. stint, playing for the Mariners and Dodgers (and affiliates), before returning home for good, playing four years with the Yakult Swallows (2006-09), and then the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2010-12). He retired from the Fighters after the 2012 season.

After retiring, he actually closed out his career by pitching for the Ishikawa Million Stars in Japan's Baseball Challenge League (2013-14). They held a retirement ceremony for him on Sept. 14, 2014, whereupon they retired his jersey.

He now serves as a pitching coach for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Karma struck again, as I found a 2018 Epoch Season Achievements and 15th Anniversary Legends Kida autographed card, S/N 40 / 59 (#SGB-MKI) for a very reasonable price on E-Bay. Vying against one other bidder, I actually won it for $1.25.

I'd seen his signature on the 2019 Epoch Fighters Legend Signature card (S/N # / 50), but it wasn't as elaborate and whimsical as this one, as I really like the image he drew of himself. I actually found a website featuring Kida's Painter M's (Ishikawa Million Stars) Stamp that he drew of himself, and it's quite a match with the drawing on this card.

Heaven help me, it looks like I'm now well on my way with my Japanese baseball card collection.

Stay safe and healthy out there.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

A 2020 Fairwell to the Iowa State Fair

Well, it's now official.

August's Iowa State Fair - "Nothing Compares" - will not be held in 2020, after an 11-2 vote by the Fair Board, another victim of COVID-19. Besides being held within the throes of a pandemic, it probably didn't help that Minnesota and Wisconsin, two of our neighboring states, also cancelled their 2020 gatherings.

This was only the sixth Iowa State Fair to be cancelled, and the first since 1945. It was shut down in 1898, courtesy of the World's Fair in Omaha, Neb., and the Spanish-American War, before becoming  a casualty of World War II, from 1942-45.

With an estimated budget of approximately $30 million (plus capital improvement projects), it's cancellation loses an estimated $100+ million, worth of economic impact to our state. During the 2019 fair alone, approximately 1.17 million people attended, from all 50 states and about 17 countries.

I have to admit, I am an Iowa State Fair fan. I try to be there as often as I can during its 11-day run.

To say the Iowa State Fair is a hoot, is an understatement. Where else can you find a butter cow, the best livestock Iowans have produced, everything and anything you'd consider eating on a stick, as well as great music. Last year's free acts included Here Come the Mummies, Hair Ball, and Steven Adler of Guns N' Roses, while the Grandstand shows included national acts, such as the Slipknot (an Iowa band), For King and Country, Zac Brown, and Toby Keith.

One thing I really enjoy is roaming the Varied Industry Building in pursuit of the freebies. You'd be surprised at what you might find. For example, Iowa State Secretary of State Paul D. Pate, gave away this #BeAVoter card last year, using Spiderman to help remind Iowans to register and vote..

There's also a guy who has a card booth amongst the vendors under the Grandstand. His prices aren't too bad, plus he has a really nice basket full of 25 cent pack, ranging from the Olympics, to baseball, football and basketball).

While I'm not one for opening packs at a later date, apparently I still had a $1 pack of 2018 Alan & Ginter from his table. I remember it, because it was the last on, and I had to almost arm-wrestle another buyer to get it. After a rock/paper/scissors session, I had the last pack.

 Babe Ruth (#3); Mark McGwire (#212); and Poker Champion Scott Blumstein (#34).
Kyle Schwarber (#249); Exotic Sports - Sepak Takaraw mini (#MES-7); and a Fantasy Gold Mine Pedro Martinez (#FG-17).

As for the Iowa State Fair, there's always next year - Aug. 8 - 18 to be specific. You know I'll be there.

Stay healthy and safe out there.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Japanese Baseball Cards

Heaven help me (and please don't tell my wife), but I think I'm developing more than a passing interest in Nippon baseball and its sports cards. I'm not exactly sure I can point to any one thing that propelled me down this particular rabbit hole, but in hindsight, I probably should have seen the signs coming.

1) It may very well have begun with the odd black and white card I found while digging through some of my old boxes of cards. I'm not sure how I got it in the first place, but it was in one of those boxes.

2) There's some great blogs on Japanese cards I've been reading lately, such as Dave's Japanese Baseball Cards (featuring his collection of more than 60,000 Japanese baseball cards), and Sean's Getting Back into Baseball Japan. Both blogs provide a great education on these sports cards and I've been learning something new every time I read them.

3) A few weeks ago, I was invited to attend a "Chatter Up" Zoom event by JapanBall. I was among the approximately 60 participants who got to listen to Matt Winters (Kansas City Royals, Nippon Ham Fighters), Carlos Mirabel (Nippon Ham Fighters) and Kevin Beirne, (White Sox, Blue Jays, Dodgers, Orix Buffaloes and Chiba Lotte Marines) share their experiences of playing professional baseball in Japan.

Winters remains involved with the Nippon Baseball League, serving as a scout for the Fighters, while Mirabel serves as director for the Japan Retired Foreign Players Association. Beirne is now a pitching coach for a Houston-based baseball academy.

One of the comments Winters made which apparently struck a cord, was the fact there were a few Yomiuri Giants and Hanshin Tiger hats. "Maybe we can get a few of you to become a Fighter fan after all this," he said with a grin.

4) And then there was this 2015 article I found from Graveyard Baseball, which brings "commentary on the Seibu Lions and NPB one shift at a time." They had a 12-part post on "Your Guide to adopting an NPB team." It gives a brief history of each team, where they play, their uniforms, their cheer songs, who they compare to in the MLB, and ends up with "Why you root for them," and "Why you don't root for them."

5) What may have been the final straw was when I recently PM'd a high school friend who's currently living in Japan. You guessed it, he's a Nippon Ham Fighter fan, and get this, the Fighter home stadium is less than a block away from his in-law's apartment in SW Sapporo.

I know, it's Karma, right?

So, the prognosis is, I'm certainly digging Japanese baseball cards, despite the fact I can't read kanji. However, while card collecting can prove to be expensive enough on its own, I'm definitely not going to break the bank trying to put together those massive BBM or Calbee sets, and there's no way I'd ever match Dave's extensive collection.

Instead, I'll pick up a few cards here and there, or perhaps a few packs or boxes as they pop up on E-Bay.

As an example, here's a 2000 Broccoli Seibu Lions pack I won on E-Bay from Robert Fitts, an author of five books on Japanese baseball who also sells Japanese baseball cards on E-Bay.

And just to show that I haven't totally gone around the bend (yet), here's an on-card autograph of the Chicken, from the 2020 Donruss set, I won off E-Bay. 

We've been fans of his ever since he began as the "KGB Chicken," re-hatched as the "San Diego  Chicken," and then finally, "The Chicken," and we've crossed paths with him on several occasions. Each time, he's been extremely friendly and actually talks to us, once he finds out we knew him in San Diego.

Here's a photo of my wife getting a peck from the Chicken at an Iowa Cubs game. note her Chicken doll, circa 1976, in her hand. He always gets a kick out of seeing it. One year, he took it from her and cuddled it, before tossing it back to her, and waving his arms like it wasn't his and he had nothing to do with it.

And while we've gotten his autograph before, this is the first time I've actually seen him sign something with his actual name on it. Usually, it's just been "The Chicken," so I was especially happy to win this. Next on my list, is one of those game-used pieces from his costume from Donruss.

By the way, the black and white card near the start of my blog is a 1975 Broder Japan Top Star, Wes Parker. In 1974, he played for the Nankai Hawks, batting .301, with 14 homers. 

Stay safe and healthy out there.