Besides Robert Kleven’s guide, another resource I found helpful was the Japanese Pro Baseball Fan Handbook & Media Guide, published annually since 1976 by Wayne Graczyk. By 1990, the guide included team rosters, schedules, stadium diagrams, and a section in the back with photos and stats on every American to play in the Japanese Leagues since 1950. Graczyk also included some league statistics since 1950, which was the beginning of the two league system and the modern day Japan Series. I found the guide very interesting and helpful, but it fueled my desire to know more about the players from the years not covered, 1936-1949. I also noticed that Wayne didn’t include American players who began their careers prior to 1950 like Sam Uchio, who played from 1949 through 1954 with the Hankyu Braves, or the famous Hawaiian Henry “Bozo” Wakabayashi, who’d played from 1936-1953.
Working with fellow enthusiast Jeff Alcorn and with assistance from author Yoichi Nagata in Japan, I began compiling a kind of supplement to Gracyzk’s guide, Foreign Players in Japan 1936-1949 by Ralph Pearce and Jeff Alcorn. As the title suggests, we included not only Americans, but all foreign (gaijin) players. Included are Americans, Taiwanese, a Russian, a Filipino, and a Canadian. One issue that came up is how to define a foreign or gaijin player. Since my primary reference was published by the popular Japanese publication Baseball Magazine, I relied on their interpretation for the most part. Our latest revision included twenty-nine players, six of whom also managed and /or coached. Our compilation includes brief biographical information and statistics in the style of Graczyk’s guide. I sent Wayne a copy with photos for inclusion in his guide, but due primarily to space constraints, they were never included.
During this same period (1992-1994), Jeff and I were also able to locate the families of four players who traveled from Los Angeles to Japan in 1936 to play on the new Nagoya baseball team. I found the son of pitcher Buster North, Herb North, Jr., who was living in Fountain Valley, California. Herb then put me in touch with his older brother Gary who lived near me just north of San Francisco. Jeff located the daughter of Bucky Harris McGalliard, who won the Japanese league’s MVP award in 1937. My friend Yoichi in Japan put me in touch with Wally Matsuura, the son of pitcher George Matsuura. Yoichi was also in touch with the wife of the fourth player, shortstop Sam Takahashi, who had remained in Japan after the war.
I met with Gary North in his San Francisco offices on Market Street in August of 1994. At that time, Gary was president of Matson Terminals, Inc. I felt very humbled taking the elevator up to the offices overlooking the bay, walking up to the receptionist, and asking to speak with the president of the company, “Is he expecting you?” “Yes” I replied, while somehow sharing the receptionist’s doubt. Gary and his brother Herb, both grew up in Hawaii and are two of the nicest guys you’d ever want to meet. Gary took me out to lunch, and told me all about his dad and growing up in Hawaii. He recently sent me his father’s scrapbooks to digitize for a book project.
Ralph Pearce and Gary North: With Gary North in his Matson Terminals office in 1994.A year later, in October of 1995, I traveled to Los Angeles to meet the daughter of Bucky Harris McGalliard. I stayed with Jeff and his wife Doreen at their place in Mission Viejo. On October 10, Jeff and I went out to visit Bucky’s daughter Collece in Newport Beach. Collece answered many questions and provided us with an overview of Bucky’s life. She also put me in touch with her cousin, who was happy to share his experience of Bucky as well. It was very exciting to finally meet Collece after our long search for her, and to learn more about her father’s adventures in Japan.
Ralph Pearce with Collece McGalliard: Jeff took a shot of me with Collece McGalliard, a photo of her dad, and his sayonara flag signed by his teammates in 1938.
The trip didn’t end there though. The following day we headed out to Riverside to meet Mel Bailey and Bud Ackerman in what was their first reunion in twenty or so years. Among the photos and cards that Mel shared with us, were the four extremely rare Kabaya-Leaf cards that Mel acquired in 1967. Mel joked that he should run Jeff and I through a paper scanner on our way out of the house!
Mel Bailey, Ralph Pearce, and Bud Ackerman: Mel Bailey, myself, and Bud Ackerman. I’m holding the four very rare Kabaya Leaf cards numbers 2, 3, 8, and 17. Photo by Jeff Alcorn
Bud Ackerman, Jeff Alcorn, Ralph Pearce, and Mel Bailey: A shot of Bud, Jeff, myself, and Mel in 1995 taken by Mel’s wife.
One of the aspects of collecting Japanese baseball cards that I enjoyed in the early days was the card show get-togethers. From about 1991 through 1996, Robert Klevens would show up regularly at west coast card shows, usually in San Francisco. I’d take the train up from San Jose to the Fourth and Townsend Station in San Francisco, and walk to wherever the event was being held. If I was lucky, it would be close-by at the Concourse Exhibition Center on Eighth Street. I remember one year arriving a little late, and getting impatient with the event staff person who was more interested in what was going on behind me than taking my money and letting me in the door. Finally he looks at me and says, “Muhammad Ali is right behind you.” I turned around and he was just a few feet away, looking right at me with a big smile on his face as he walked passed. Okay, well that doesn’t happen every day.
Tim Taira and Robert Klevens at a San Francisco card show in September 2007.
On September 5, 1993 at the Labor Day Card Show in San Francisco, we held what I called “The 1993 JBE Get-together.” This was a sizable group of Japanese baseball enthusiasts that met formally for a discussion of our mutual interest in collecting Japanese baseball cards and memorabilia. Attendees were Jeff Alcorn, David Block, Gary Engel, Dan Johnson, Robert Klevens, Nelson Okino, Robert Shadlow, Tim Taira (aka T. Kichigai), and myself. We each shared how long we’d been collecting, what motivated us to collect, and what our primary collecting interests were. Robert Shadlow had been collecting the longest, since the early 1960s, and his good friend Jeff Alcorn had been collecting since 1979. The rest of us were comparatively new to the scene.
David Block stood in for his brother Philip, who was still working in Japan and tracking down cards for collectors in his spare time. Gary Engel was still dealing primarily in American cards at the time, and Dan Johnson had yet to write his very helpful, “Japanese Baseball; a Statistical Handbook.” Nelson Okino’s focus was on Hawaiian players, and Tim Taira explained that his interest was primarily as an investment. Robert Klevens of “Sports Card Heaven” had a table at the show, and is the person most responsible for the Japanese baseball card hobby being where it is today. Robert told us that he’d visited Japan in 1988, and had come across some menko. He was intrigued with the cards, and soon returned to Japan to see if he could track down more.
Collectors meeting: Japanese baseball card collectors meet at the San Francisco Labor Day Card Show in San Francisco on September 5, 1993. Clockwise from left: Tim Taira, Nelson Okino, Ralph Pearce, Gary Engel, David Block, Dan Johnson, Jeff Alcorn, and Robert Klevens (in white cap). Photo taken by Robert Shadlow.
In 1990, Robert created the first real Japanese baseball card guide that I’m aware of, “The Sports Card Heaven Japanese Baseball Card & Memorabilia Reference Guide.” Well illustrated, it provides a timeline of Japanese baseball history, an overview of cards by Larry Fuhrmann, a listing of Japan Baseball Hall of Fame members and MVPs, numerous checklists, and a one page price guide for cards from the 1940s through 1990. Robert produced an expanded second edition in 1991, though he replaced Larry’s original overview with another of Larry’s articles specific to Calbees. These guides, with their blank note pages in the back, became a tremendous stimulus to collectors. I still refer to mine, which is well-marked and falling apart from years of use. Twenty-five years later, Robert is still a primary source of Japanese cards as the owner of Prestige Collectibles.
Robert Kleven’s second guide to Japanese baseball cards, which came out in 1991. After moving to Japan in 1996, Robert eventually returned to the U.S. and resumed selling Japanese baseball cards and memorabilia under the name Prestige Collectibles.
Finding hats and jerseys to wear has always been popular with collectors, but again, in those pre-Internet days a Japanese baseball cap was a hard-to-acquire item. At one point I decided that it would be fun to try and get a couple of Tokyo Giants baseball caps for my son and me. I’d been picking up Japanese baseball magazines at our local Japanese bookstore in San Jose, and had seen a number of ads for baseball merchandise, all located in Japan of course. With the help of Japanese language books and dictionaries, I put together some simple phrases, then with a few time zone calculations, made a long-distance call to Japan:
Japanese Store: Moshi moshi [name of store] de gozaimsu..
Me: Konnichi wa. Boku no namae-wa Rarufu desu. Amerika kara yon de imasu. Eigo wa hanashite kudasai.
Japanese Store: Yes I can speak English. How can I help you?
So I had basically just called, told them who I was, where I was calling from, and asked if they spoke English. I got lucky and was able to proceed with an order by sending them an International Money Order for the amount, pretty cool.
A few weeks ago I picked up this set of postcards depicting the Second Game of the 1920 University of Chicago vs. Waseda University series. It has held on May 19 with Chicago winning 4-2.
The Chicago-Waseda rivalry is one of my favorite stories and hopefully will be a subject of a future book. Here's the basic story, reprinted from Banzai Babe Ruth and in turn cribbed from Robert Whiting's Samurai Way of Baseball and You Gotta Have Wa.
Wrapper from the 1920 Uni. Chicago vs Waseda Postcard set
In 1904 both Waseda and Keio University teams defeated Ichiko, ushering a new era of Japanese baseball. Both universities were run on western models with the mission of strengthen ties between East and West. Waseda’s manager, Iso Abe had attended the Hartford Theological Seminary in Connecticut, was a Christian, fluent in English, and a committed socialist. He eschewed Ichiko’s samurai approach to baseball and an instituted more relaxed training methods, emphasizing egalitarianism and fair play. Despite Waseda’s success on the diamond, not all of his players agreed with Abe’s philosophy. Team captain Shin Hashido, upon returning from Waseda’s 1905 baseball tour of the United States, concluded that to compete with Americans, Japanese needed to adopt their "3,000-year old martial arts” that combined “physical and spiritual strength" to baseball.
The Waseda and Chicago teams
Five years later (1910), the University of Chicago baseball squad came to Japan and easily defeated Waseda in six straight games including a 20-0 blowout. Frustrated by the one-sided contests, second baseman Suishu Tobita assumed responsibility for the losses and quit the team—vowing to avenge the humiliating defeats. After graduation, Tobita became a sports writer before returning to Waseda as their manager in 1919.
Tobita had been raised in a conservative samurai household that cherished traditional Japanese values, opposed the Meiji restoration and opening the country to the West. Although Tobita had attended liberal Waseda and played the American pastime over his father’s protests, as a manager he returned to his family’s values and instituted an approach to baseball modeled after Ichiko’s Spirit Baseball.
Pitchers Paul Hinkle and Ito
By explicitly forging ties between baseball, Zen Buddhism and bushido, Tobita’s brand of baseball surpassed even Ichiko’s rigor. He called his practices shi no renshu (death training) and worked his players past their limits of endurance to improve their spirit. Players would field ground balls “until they were half dead, motionless, and froth was coming out of their mouths.” He explained in one of his many tracts on baseball theory, “a manager has to love his players, but on the practice field he must treat them as cruelly as possible, even though he may be crying about it inside. That is the key to winning baseball. If the players do not try so hard as to vomit blood in practice, then they cannot hope to win games. … The purpose of training is not health but the forging of the soul. To hit like a shooting star, to catch a ball beyond one’s capabilities … such beautiful plays are not the result of technique but … are made possible by a strong spiritual power.”
Action from the May 19, 1920 Game
Following this rigid approach that Tobita would call yakyudō (the way of baseball), Waseda became Japan’s best team, winning nine of thirteen championships during Tobita’s reign. In 1920, the University of Chicago club returned to Japan. The two teams met five times, each winning twice with one game ending in a tie. Tobita must have been pleased but his revenge for the 1910 drubbing was insatiated. Five years later, Chicago came again. This time, Tobita was ready for them. Chicago opened the tour by beating Waseda 2-0, but Tobita’s team played the Americans to 0-0 and 1-1 ties, before winning 1-0 in the trip’s eighth game. Chicago went 11-1 against the other Tokyo Universities before facing Waseda in the tour’s final contest. Waseda crushed the Americans 10-4 and took the series two games to one (along with the two ties). Deeming his revenge on Chicago complete, Tobita stepped down as manager and returned to sports writing.
More Action from May 19
Tobita’s views had dramatic impact on Japanese baseball for decades and even linger in a watered-down form today. Waseda’s success and Tobita’s works on baseball theory caused many high school and collegiate coaches across the country to adopt aspects of yakyudō.
The newsletter ran just over a year, with the seventh and final issue coming out in June of 1994. Using an old 1982 Xerox word processor, I employed the soon-to-be obsolete method of physically cutting and pasting issues together. I could have employed modern software, but realizing that we were coming to an end of an era, I intentionally wanted it to have an old school feel. I was able to get about forty subscriptions as I recall which included such notables as former Nankai Hawks MVP Joe Stanka.
In the July 1993 issue of the newsletter I ran a column on the upcoming World Children’s Baseball Fair featuring Sadaharu Oh and Joe DiMaggio. The fair hosted a “Heroes Game” which took place on Saturday July 31 at Jack Murphy Stadium in San Diego. I flew down for the event and had a great time. One of the event highlights was meeting Sadaharu Oh and getting his autograph on a number of items. I practiced some Japanese just for the occasion, “Hajimemashite. Boku no namae wa Rarufu desu. Dozo yoroshiku.” Mr. Oh smiled politely and then went to work signing the number of items I’d brought for him to sign (several were for my friend Robert Klevens).
I ask Sadaharu Oh to sign two photos from his rookie season, as his wife and daughter attend to a bat I had signed for my friend Robert Klevens.
When he came to two enlarged photos I’d brought, he paused for a moment and smiled broadly. They were from a color photograph taken his rookie year with him kneeling and Shigeo Nagashima standing behind him. Two women that I believe were his wife Kyoko and a daughter also leaned over to look at it. He explained through an interpreter that he remembered when the photo was taken. Oh-san signed the two prints for me which I later sent to the Tokyo Giants for Shigeo Nagashima to sign as well.
Here’s the 1959 print that Oh signed for me. I had it enlarged from a photo that caught my eye in a copy of the Japanese “Baseball Magazine.”
Later in the day I found my place in the stands close to the field along the first base foul line. While watching various activities and pre-game preparations, I noticed a small group of men on the field about to pass quite close to my spot. I soon recognized one of them as Joe DiMaggio. I considered asking him for an autograph, but then seeing how he was getting on in age, I decided to give him a break. As soon as he passed me though, calls came from a few others in the stands, “Joe, hey Joe, will you sign this for me?” The security detail wasn’t pleased, but Joe seemed happy to sign, though I satisfied myself with a couple of photos. Other notables participating in the Heroes Game were Masayuki Kakefu, Sachio Kinugasa, Isao Shibata, and former New York Yankee and Tokyo Giant Roy White.
Joe Di Maggio stops to sign autographs for fans while his entourage waits impatiently.
As game-time approached, the stands began to fill, and I handed out some free copies of the newsletter. At one point, a fellow who had been reading the newsletter turned to me and said, “You know my grandfather once got a hit off of Victor Starffin of the Tokyo Giants.” I was surprised and asked when his grandfather had played in Japan. He said that it hadn’t been in Japan, but in San Jose, California. I was blown away, I had no idea that the Tokyo Giants had ever played in San Jose. The fellow’s name was Jeff Hayamizu, and a couple weeks later he was back in San Jose introducing me to his grandfather Joe Jio, who’d played with the Japanese American San Jose Asahi team in the 1920s and 1930s. Joe soon introduced me to the rest of the team that had beaten the visiting Tokyo Giants in 1935. I then began gathering interviews which would lead to the 2005 publication of my book “From Asahi to Zebras: Japanese American Baseball in San Jose, California.” The books’ creation was such an exciting and satisfying project for me, and all because of a chance meeting in a crowded stadium.
The cover of my book, “From Asahi to Zebras” which was published by the Japanese American Museum of San Jose in 2005.
This week I would like to share a rare and unusual Japanese baseball card -- not made in Japan. It is the first known card of a Japanese American team. It dates to 1911 depicts the Japanese Base Ball Association called by the Albuquerque Morning Journal “the only Japanese professional baseball team in the United States.”
The 1911 Japanese Base Ball Association Card
(Back Row – Shiomichi, Kawashima, Soharo, Kubo, Motohashi, Shiraishi, Naga; Front Row – Toyo, Saisho, Suzuki, Tachiyama, Kitsuse)
Harry Saisho formed the team in Los Angeles in April 1911 and the squad struck out to barnstorm across the Southwest and Midwest until the end of September. Despite the Albuquerque Morning Journal’s claim, it was a semi-pro team. During their two-month journey, they played in small towns and cities in California, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Illinois, and especially Iowa.
The card was made as a promotion to attract fans to watch their games. On the reverse it states, “Admit three ladies to the ball game and grand stand, Japs Ball team J.B.B. Mgr.”
On August 23 in Red Oaks, Iowa, the team’s ledger book lists “picture cut of JBB Team $2.75.” The same day, the team gave $13 to a printing company. In all likelihood, the cards were created on this date.
The Japanese Base Ball Association team had an interesting history. In 1906, Guy Green, the organizer of Green’s Nebraska Indians Baseball Team decided to create an all Japanese team to barnstorm across the United States. He recruited top collegiate and high school players from Japan and spring and summer playing in the Midwest. The team included future JBB team members Kitsuse, Toyo, and Kawashima.
Instead of returning to Japan that fall, many of Green’s players stayed in the United States. In 1907 they abandoned Green and calling themselves the Mikado Japanese baseball team continued to barnstorm across the United States.
Around 1908, Harry Saisho joined the squad—now known as the Nanka Japanese Base Ball Club. Before immigrating in 1903, Saisho had attended Waseda University and became friendly with members of the their famous baseball team. When the Waseda team traveled to United States in 1905, Harry rekindled old friendships and invited players to come to California to form a baseball club. Several players accepted the offer, including Shin Hashido, a future member of the Japan Baseball Hall of Fame, as the Nanka transformed into the Japanese Base Ball Association.
This history of this early Japanese-American barnstorming team, from its inception as Green’s Japanese in 1906 to the Japanese Base Ball Association will be the focus of my next book.
When I contacted Mel Bailey back in the early 1990s, he was very pleased to hear that there were people out there who had an interest in Japanese baseball and card collecting. Encouraged by my success in locating Mel, and our positive exchange, I decided to see who else I might be able to locate. Again, this was in the pre-Internet days, so resources like Wayne Gracyzk’s Japanese baseball guide were very helpful to my efforts. I was both nervous and excited to see if I could locate former players whom I’d read about. It wasn’t long before I was making phone calls and chatting with people like Daryl Spencer, Gene Bacque, and Randy Bass.
They were all very affable, answering all of my questions, and letting me send items for signing. I remember finding Daryl’s hometown listed on the back of an old American baseball card. He seemed especially pleased to hear from someone who was interested in his days in Japan, and he took great joy in recounting his experiences there. This was all a new experience for me, and I while I missed a number of early interview opportunities, I soon acquired the technology and began recording conversations (with permission, of course). My first device was a microphone that attached to the phone by means of a suction cup. It was primitive, but it worked.
One of my more interesting interviews was with former Taiyo Whales and Tokyo Giants second baseman, John Sipin. John lives near my parents’ house in the Santa Cruz area of California, and he agreed to stop by one afternoon for an interview. Of Filipino and Caucasian ancestry, John had grown up in nearby Watsonville, and he told how he’d gone from the St. Louis Cardinals, to the San Diego Padres, and then to the Japanese leagues. I was fortunate that John was very articulate, and it didn’t take much effort to draw a very interesting interview from him.
From left: Me, John Sipin, my son Michael, and my father Glenn in 1993.
1975 Calbee of John Sipin
When I sent items for players to sign, I tried to make the task as easy as possible for them. I usually included not only return postage and address labels, but pens for signing and even a small roll of packaging tape. I also included a brief note of thanks and a package of Japanese rice crackers. My typical items for signing were two balls and two shikishi (square signing boards). Sometimes there would be extra items included in the return package. Masaichi Kaneda for example, also sent 1970s baseball cards and a small plastic Lotte Orions bank. It helped that my Japanese mother-in-law was able to write thank you notes in Japanese to my Japanese signers who included Kaneda, Nagashima, Murakami, and Korean pitcher Dong-yeol Sun (I also included a Korean thank you note for him). One return package included two 1960s jerseys, but that’s a whole other story.
Locating and talking with former players was a lot of fun, though the person I was most excited to find was Adrian “Bud” Ackerman, the earliest known importer of Japanese baseball cards. I’d heard about Bud from Mel Bailey, and at some point decided to try and track him down through the Navy Reserve Personnel Center. It took some time, but I finally got in touch with him, and on March 6, 1993 I interviewed him regarding his experiences hunting for Japanese baseball cards in the early 1960s. My assumption prior to our conversation was that Bud had long sold off all of the cards that he’d brought back. It came as a complete surprise to learn in the middle of the interview that he still had a shoebox of cards tucked away. I received a letter a week later indicating that he had about 1400 cards that he was willing to part with. These were all the early 1960s tobacco style cards. We agreed on a price and a trusting friend loaned me the money to make the purchase.
Mel Bailey’s family helps him sort 300 sets of Kabaya-Leaf cards in 1967. From left: Steve, Marty, and Ed.
Both Mel Bailey and Bud Ackerman provided me with all kinds of photos, stories, and information related to the cards they’d imported (early 1960s tobacco style menko, 1964 Fujiya Gum, 1965 Morinaga Stand-ups which were headed to an orphanage in Viet Nam, and 1967 Kabaya-Leaf). With Bud and Mel’s material and the stories that I was gathering from former players, I decided that I wanted to create a forum for other collectors where we could share information, and provide more opportunities to trade. I decided to contact Robert Obojski, author of the first book I’d read, “The Rise of Japanese Baseball Power,” and see what he thought. He advised me to publish a newsletter, and even contributed an article on his experience in Japan to help it along. Taking his advice, I put out my first issue of “The Japanese Baseball Enthusiast” in May of 1993.
The January 1994 issue of “The Japanese Baseball Enthusiast” featured an interview with Bud Ackerman, the first importer of Japanese baseball cards.
When I really began collecting Japanese baseball cards in 1991, Sports Collectors Digest or SCD was a primary resource. In those pre-Internet days I had SCD, a handful of dealers, and the occasional card show to support my interest. SCD didn’t normally have much in it regarding Japanese cards, but you could occasionally find something. Early on, I saw an ad by a collector in Canada who was seeking others interested in Japanese cards. We began corresponding by mail, with an occasional expensive long-distance call just to touch base. His name was Bob Fleming, and we soon began the first of several trades. Having pretty much kept all of my correspondence related to the hobby; I still have the details of my first trade.
Bob’s interest in Japanese cards began as a kid, when he ordered a set of Kabaya-Leaf cards from the original importer, Mel Bailey. This was all new to me, and I decided to see if I could track down this Mel Bailey. This was before the Internet, so it wasn’t an easy task. Not knowing where to begin, I got a lucky break. Flipping through a baseball publication, the name Mel Bailey suddenly jumped off the page as a contributing photographer from Riverside, California. With a 411 call to Information, I was soon speaking with the man himself. Mel was very pleased to hear from me, as interest in Japanese baseball and card collecting had been limited at best. He also told me about his friend Bud Ackerman, the first importer of Japanese cards, who’d been his inspiration and partner for a time. That gave me a new goal of trying to track down Bud Ackerman. I’ll share more about Mel and Bud (and their eventual reunion) in future posts.
Contributing Photographers credit for Mel Bailey, I believe found in a 1991 copy of “Baseball America.”
Bob was happy to hear of my tracking Mel down, and I believe that he enjoyed some correspondence with him as well. Mel sent me quite a bit of Kabaya-Leaf related material which I photocopied and shared with Bob. Bob had more of a collection than I did, and began offering items for sale or trade. I didn’t have much to offer for trade, but I gave it a shot. Some of the items that I offered were (copies of) relatively rare Japanese baseball videos. We have a large Japanese grocery store in San Jose, and in the early 1990s they had a video rental department. I used to check out not only baseball games, but a number of various programs featuring former players and season or historic highlights. Though completely in Japanese, they’re very entertaining to watch. Here then, for whatever it’s worth, is what I have written down for my first trade:
To Bob: 4 videos, 5 ’77 Yamakatsu Premiums, 1 set ’87 Bees, 2 ’65 Murakamis.
To Me: ’91 BBM set, ’67 K-L Gene Bacque, ’67 K-L common, ’89 Mermaid common, ’59 bromide (Hiroshima), ’89 Big League Star Cecil Fielder.
1967 Kabaya-Leaf Card of Gene Bacque. The only American winner of Japan’s Sawamura award, Bacque made the All Star team five consecutive seasons and retired with an even 100 wins.
I won’t try to figure out who came out ahead, we were both happy. You may have noticed the “’87 Bees” set. An interesting note is that the San Jose Bees minor league team had an arrangement with the Seibu Lions for most of the 1980s. As a result, many of the Lion’s future players like Koji Akiyama got valuable experience playing for the Bees. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Salinas Spurs had a similar agreement with the Daiei Hawks and the Yakult Swallows.
1983 San Jose Bees card of Coach Hiromi Wada. A five-time All Star, Wada caught in 18 seasons with the Nishitetsu Lions.
Bob kind of fell out of the hobby just prior to the appearance of the Internet, and a few years ago we had an opportunity to catch up a bit by email. We both reflected on how the hobby had changed over the years and the influence of the “Japanese Baseball Card Price Guide,” and internet auction sites like eBay. We were both surprised at how little many rare and desirable cards often sold for, though I’ve noticed things picking up in the last few years. I have a feeling that the great influx of Japanese players since 1995, and the efforts of historians like Rob Fitts, will continue to encourage interest in the Japanese game, its history, and the cards and memorabilia that go along with it.