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Talkin' (Japanese) Baseball

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Over the course of the years, I’ve followed a twitter account that goes by Sons of Johnnie LeMaster (they have a blog, although it doesn’t appear as though it’s been updated recently. But in any event, I’ve corresponded with them (him), and occasionally they (he) have contributed a ticker item or three. I barely remember Johnnie LeMaster as a player (though he was certainly in my “wheelhouse” years for following baseball), but he of course lives on in Uni Watch (and other) lore for having one of the greatest NickNOB’s in history:

Boo-Johnnie-LeMaster-San-Francisco-Giants-1979

Anyway (and it seems as though the Sons of Johnnie LeMaster are not his actual kids), about a month ago the proprietor of the account and I corresponded and he said he was going to Tokyo and would be checking out a couple games in the Tokyo Dome at the beginning of July (with a goal of securing some Yomiuri Giants authentic merchandise).

As a quick aside, my best friend from High School went on to teach English in Japan, and while there, he took in a fair number of Japanese baseball games, regaling me with stories of the eccentricities of that league and its players. Back then he made particular note of the relative dearth of American players, but also noted that each team seemed to always have one (almost always black) American player — no more, no less — he believed there was literally quota system; I’m not sure that’s still the case. But he’d always talk about the fields, slightly different rules, crazy cheering sections, etc. I said if I ever visited him in Japan I’d want him to take me to a game. Alas, as the years passed we grew apart and that never happened. But I’ve always been fascinated by Japanese baseball.

After chatting with SoJL, I asked if he’d like to document his experience (with an emphasis on unis) and he obliged. The account is run by a gentleman named Henry Yu, and here’s his piece. Enjoy! (For any photos below, you can click to enlarge.)

• • •

Baseball in Japan
By Henry Yu

Recently, we took a trip to Tokyo for a culinary and baseball adventure. A few months ago, we secured game tickets to see the Yomiuri Giants and Yokohama Bay Stars at the Tokyo Dome. One of our goals for attending the games was to purchase some Yomiuri Giants gear, since it’s next to impossible finding any of their stuff here in the States. Here’s a recap of our experience.

Around Tokyo

One of the first things we noticed when we were in Tokyo is that no one wears any team related items around town. We didn’t see one person wearing a Tokyo Giants hat, jersey, or shirt around the city. In addition, none of the stores had any Giants gear to purchase ”“ not even the airport. The team has a small shop at the Sky Tower, but after viewing pictures of the place online, we figured it wasn’t worth the trip to check it out.

Fitted Caps

One of the things we really wanted was an authentic field fitted cap that the players wear. Unfortunately, fitted caps are not available anywhere. Even at the Tokyo Dome, the only hats that were available were adjustable. We saw several of the Under Armour adjustable caps at the Under Armour store located on the exterior of the stadium and at the lower level inside the Dome, but none of them appealed to us.

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Jerseys

Another thing that caught our attention was the fact that only replica jerseys are available for purchase. Again, none of the on-field apparel worn by the players was available for purchase. All of this seemed odd to us since we saw plenty of fans wearing jerseys and caps. If the team sold authentic on-field merchandise, fans would definitely purchase them, even at a higher price point.

Souvenir Stand

The Tokyo Dome has numerous souvenir stands located inside the ballpark and outside as well. However, most of the items were limited to player shirts, various rally towels, a few flags, and various knick knacks (keychains, dolls, stickers, etc.). Again, nothing at the souvenir stand caught our attention to the point where we wanted to purchase anything.

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Under Armour

UA occupies two locations at the Dome, the UA store on the exterior of the Dome, and a concession stand located in the lower level inside the Dome.

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Items consist of replica jerseys, adjustable caps, t-shirts, and polos. Of the items available, we purchased a road “Tokyo” replica jersey, and a home “Giants” jersey.

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Photo Jun 30, 11 56 36 PM

The replicas are on par with the replicas you see in the States, but the UA jerseys did incorporate a mesh fabric on the back of the jerseys.

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[Note that gaudy UA makers mark — we’ll be seeing that on MLB jerseys soon enough — PH]

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Also, it was interesting to note that when we purchased our road jersey (blank) inside the Dome it cost 8,600 yen, but when we purchased the home jersey (blank) at the UA store outside of the Dome it cost 8,000 yen. Apparently, the outside UA store is able to tender duty free pricing (purchases over 5,000 yen) for individuals that have a valid passport. So, if you plan on visiting the Dome and want to purchase UA gear, we would suggest purchasing the items before entering the stadium.

Photo Jun 30, 11 56 08 PM

Final Thoughts

We were shocked that a famous team like the Tokyo Giants didn’t offer the plethora of gear that teams in Major League Baseball have. It would be a major cash cow and revenue stream if they offered more authentic gear, and fans from around the world would be more than happy to open their wallets purchasing the merchandise. Hopefully, with the help of UA, they will help turn things around. At the very least, it seems they’ve made an effort to produce some gear, but the club still has a long way to go to match the offerings available by their Major League Baseball brethren.

If you have any questions on our experience at Japanese baseball game, send us a tweet @SonsofJohnnieLe

• • •

Thanks, Henry! In addition to this writeup, Henry also sent along a video, which gives a bit of a feel for watching a game inside the Tokyo dome:

I know there are a few readers who are very familiar with Japanese baseball — if you’d like to collaborate on a post (with an emphasis on unis, stadia, fans, etc.) please let me know!

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Vilk Baseball Card front
In Search of…
…the “Perfect” Baseball Card

Earlier this year, I ran a post in which reader Ray Hund described his quest — and “rules” — for a “Perfect” baseball card. I had asked readers to submit their own submissions for what they considered to be their own version of the perfect card. I’ll run these periodically. If you have a submission for your own “Perfect” baseball card, shoot me an email with a short(ish) writeup and of course, an image (or images) of your own perfect card.

• • •

We begin today with Adam Leitel:

Phil,

This was always one of my favorites growing up. I always loved the Expos unit and there was something about Perez’s jheri curl that was intriguing to a young man in North Dakota. Pascual may not be the prettiest man, but I’ll never forget this card!

PastedGraphic-1

Adam Leitel

• • •

And we conclude today with Dave Robb, with an oldie and a goodie:

Hi Phil:

As a card collector I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a lousy Warren Spahn card. His cards are all angles..his nose, crooked grin, off kilter cap, etc. And then you factor in the beautiful Braves gear he’s wearing and you have cardboard art. Probably his best, and certainly my favorite, is the 1953 Spahn. From one of the only ‘pure’ sets ever produced. Nothing adorns the front except the player. And in this case it’s a great photo of Spahn!

1953BowSpahn

I have a few more I’ll send your way as time permits.

-Bob Andrews

• • •

I may have one more of these to run — so if you guys would like to continue with the this little segment, please send me your “perfect” card, my e-mail address is above.

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Uni Watch News Ticker
By Phil

Baseball News: It would appear as though Bryce Harper has another new set of cleats (from Megan Brown). … You know that yellow Gold cap featured on UW yesterday, which the Pirates will supposedly wear on August 20 (while playing at the Little League World Series)? It seems as though every team is getting one (although I’m not sure if they’ll merely be for sale, or actually worn on the field by the respective teams). H/T to a reader who prefers to remain anonymous. — It appears as though this may be an older iteration, as noted here by J.A. Worobec). … Here’s (another) beautiful colorization from Chris Whitehouse, this one of Joe Tinker, in 1913. … If you think the *alternate* jerseys some MLB teams wear (or in the case of Mom/Pop/Mem Day/Indy Day, are forced to wear) are bad, check out the “fire red” jerseys being worn by the Seibu Lions (from Graveyard Baseball). … The Rochester Red Wings had “football” night last evening, featuring Thurman Thomas autographs + specialty jerseys (from Rochester Red Wings). Good article here on how “The DeChief movement has been going on for a few years now and I know that MLB has demoted Wahoo in favor of the block C. So it didn’t jump out at me to see that Topps was using the block C as the logo on its 2017 flagship set.” … The “Modest Proposals” (for unis) are back — here’s the NL East (h/t Kate Bowen). … “This fan miffed his shot to catch a foul ball at the Giants game [Friday] night and as they were going to commercial the broadcast crew noticed he was wearing a Kuiper jersey so Duane Kuiper himself popped out of the booth and gave the poor schmuck a signed ball to ease his pain,” says Ed Casey. “Also in gif form. At least SOMETHING good happened to someone wearing a Giants uniform.” … “[To]night the Jacksonville (FL) Jumbo Shrimp will honor the Negro Leagues by wearing Jax Red Cap unis,” says John Mac. “The Red Caps played just one season in Jacksonville, 1938. One note on the pic: the left sleeve appears to have a different logo patch than the “J” worn per Ebbets Field jersey replica. Ironically, the giveaway, which is a replica shirt, has the “J” on its left sleeve. Of course the giveaway has the sponsor printed on the sleeve.” … IS NOTHING SACRED??? The Washington Nationals have changed the name of Garage B to GEICO Garage. Submitter Dave Raglin coyly says, “I still call it Garage B.” .. The NOLA Baby Cakes threw back to the Pelicans last night, and looked good (from Wayne Muller). Here’s another look. … The Cincinnati Reds have a tarp with Bounty advertising on it (from Jimmer Vilk, Christy and a couple others). … The Daytona Tortugas did a Sager strong jersey last night (from the Fresh Prince of Daytona). … Here’s a great photo of the 1967 Angels wearing Halo’ed helmets (from Josh King). … I’d not only wear this, I’d buy it (apparently this item was found in Niagara Falls, no less — submitted by Rob S.). … The Salt Lake Bees wore Star Wars Night jerseys yesterday (from Salt Lake Bees). Took me a minute to figure out they were probably channeling Obi Wan with those tops.

NFL/College/High School/CFL Football News: Is there a new white uniform in the works for Mizzou? Here’s a slightly better look (from Matt Gurnow and Jim Grundy). … Apparently a sports bar in Wisconsin steals derives its inspiration from Sparty (from TheBrokenTendy). … Speaking of unauthorized logos, Viking Pizza is most likely not paying for this one (from Dan). … Here’s a good look at the new Nike’s template for Clemson, particularly on Ray-Ray McCloud (34) — from Ben Whitehead. … When it comes to the periodic issue of players committing uniform violations, the NFL previously has punished only the players. Starting this year, that could change. Teams can now be disciplined for uniform violations (thanks Brinke). … Tweeter Ben Taylor says, “Good read on #Illini equipment guy who’s worked for 8 football coaches. 1 key skill: sewing.” … Clearly it was more of a Love than a Love/Hate relationship: Adrian Peterson (now a member of the New Orleans Saints) leads all NFL jersey sales — in Minnesota(!) … An anonymous donor has bought data-tracking helmets for every Omaha Public School high school football player (from Greg Mays). … Whoa — this is apparently an original prototype helmet for the Dallas Cowboys (from Jim Bob).

NBA/G-League/Summer League/College Basketball News: Via the NBA Store, here’s our first look at the new jersey number fonts for the Cavs, Wolves, Sixers and Blazers (h/t to Conrad Burry). Also from Conrad, “Here’s an interesting find…a black tee for the Warriors with a new number font. Looks like it will be the basis for one of their alt unis.” … This was sent in with no context, but here’s a photo of Bill Russell and Michael Jackson (from Phil Lawson). Looks like some kind of athletes vs. celebs thingy. Is that Rosey Grier in the background?

Soccer News: Stoke City FC have revealed their third kit for the 2017-18 season, and it’s nice. You can read more about that here (from Ron Duany Derksen). … Real Madrid, AC Milan, Juventus and Bayern Munich reveal fan-designed third kits (via Paul). … The Mirror has ranked the 25 worst ever Premier League kits — including Man United’s infamous grey shirt and other such monstrosities (from Josh Hinton).

Grab Bag: The Men’s Italian volleyball team will wear the Taiwan emblem on their jerseys. Why you may ask? Here ya go. … Did you ever wonder why Starbucks baristas wear green aprons? Wonder no more. … Tiger Woods has an Oakland Raiders cloth on his pool table (from Jennifer Schrum).

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And that’s it for today. Thanks to Henry for the interesting look at Japanese baseball and his quest to find an authentic Giants uni. I’ll be back with one last weekend piece until after Labor Day tomorrow (I’ll be taking over weekdays beginning August 1st while takes his much deserved sabbatical sanity break) and you won’t want to miss that one. Free stuff will be given away. So everyone have a great Saturday and until the morrow…

Follow me on Twitter @PhilHecken.

Peace.

.. … ..

“I’m still calling it the British Open”

— Adam N.

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32 comments to Talkin’ (Japanese) Baseball

  • Skyline Jackson | July 22, 2017 at 8:19 am |

    Henry! So sorry you didn’t get a chance to go to the baseball shop in shinjuku! They have an awesome section not only caps but retro jerseys from all of the teams! Wish you could have gone to see the Swallows at Jingu stadium!

  • Jon Rose | July 22, 2017 at 8:37 am |

    Behest Field Flannels has some excellent retro Japanese baseball stuff. A fitted modern Yomiuri Giants cap is on my wish list.

    • Jonathan Fox | July 25, 2017 at 2:06 pm |

      Try Japan-Zone.com, I just received my Yomiuri Giants fitted hat from them last week. I ordered it back in April and it takes about 3 months to get but they are special ordered and hand made items from Japan.

  • ChinUp | July 22, 2017 at 9:05 am |

    Michael Jackson appears on set with Rosey Grier and Bill Russell during the Jackson Five’s television special, The Jackson Five, Goin’ Back to Indiana, in 1971.

    here is a color shot that includes BEN DAVIDSON;ROSEY GRIER;ELVIN HAYES;ELGIN BAYLOR;BILL RUSSELL

    http://www.gettyimages.com/detail/news-photo/the-jackson-5-tv-special-airdate-september-16-1971-ben-news-photo/118985069?esource=SEO_GIS_CDN_Redirect#the-jackson-5-tv-special-airdate-september-16-1971-ben-davidsonrosey-picture-id118985069

    • mild bill | July 22, 2017 at 10:53 am |

      Thanks for the info. Couldn’t help but take a look at wiki, other two players with Bill Russell must be Elgin Baylor (21) and Elvin Hayes (54).

    • mild bill | July 22, 2017 at 10:55 am |

      Totally missed your post from 9:05 a.m.

    • SlimeyLimey | July 22, 2017 at 1:25 pm |

      So each team had one white dude!

  • Dave Murray | July 22, 2017 at 9:30 am |

    I like some of those Little League caps, but I wish the Mets would have used them as an opportunity to do something fun, like with Mr Met or the home run apple.

  • DJ | July 22, 2017 at 9:36 am |

    It’s not the Italian national volleyball team wearing the “Taiwan emblem,” but a club team, Top Volley Latina.

  • Joe Hickey | July 22, 2017 at 9:42 am |

    I’m about to fly home from a two-week trip to Japan during which I had similar goals (final damage count: 1 game witnessed in person in Tōkyō, 1 game watched at a Hanshin Tigers bar in ÅŒsaka, 2 jerseys, 2 caps, 2 t-shirts and a soccer scarf).

    Most of Henry’s report matches my experience with Tōkyō, but I can report that it varies city to city. If you want to see a town full of pride and just crazy about their teams, check out ÅŒsaka or Kyōto where the Tigers a revered, or Hiroshima, a town straight-up obsessed with their Carp. I had a blast!

  • R.S. Rogers | July 22, 2017 at 10:09 am |

    Among those mostly ughworthy LLWS caps, the Marlins version is exactly what the team should wear full time. Red Sox, almost, too.

    • Jim Vilk | July 22, 2017 at 1:05 pm |

      Marlins and Mets.

  • Les | July 22, 2017 at 11:15 am |

    That Replica Tokyo Giants jersey looks to have a lot better stiching than the Majestic US equivalent which just use a single layer faux stitched team logo.
    Also the multiple tiers of jersey is very much a US thing and only recently have come about in the rest of the sports world, for many years in Europe if you buy your teams “Replica” jersey that was all there was on offer the Authentic shirts we’re usually very similar any way ,it’s only in the last couple of years we have seen different tiers of shirts available i.e. in soccer Nike now offers the authentic shirt at around £90 and a Replica or “Stadium” branded jersey for £60, on be face of it their design is the same with the major difference being the Authentic using the latest fabric technology and usually having a screen printed club crest to stop nipple chafing of all things, while the Replica will have the older material and an embroidered team crest and often more durable.
    So the Authentic/Replica situation is something that was exclusively a US Sports merch thing until very recently!

  • Collin | July 22, 2017 at 12:48 pm |

    The uniform young Michael and the rest of the Jackson 5 are wearing are on display at the Motown Museum in Detroit. Wish I’d taken pictures when I went on the tour, but if I remember correctly they were prohibited.

  • Jim Vilk | July 22, 2017 at 1:18 pm |

    he believed there was literally (a) quota system

    The CFL has one, and pretty much any cricket league of which I’m familiar. Wouldn’t surprise me at all if Japanese baseball had one.

    I remember when we got our first PC (ah, those were the days…for the simple graphics, mind you, not for the dial-up access). When I realized I could look up and read about Japanese baseball it hit me that it truly *was* a word wide web.

    • Phil Hecken | July 22, 2017 at 4:21 pm |

      Word

  • Jim Vilk | July 22, 2017 at 1:30 pm |

    and there was something about Perez’s jheri curl that was intriguing to a young man in North Dakota.

    It was intriguing to a young man in Ohio, too. In 1985 USA Today had some half-page sports survey that asked all kinds of questions. One was “Which athlete has the best hair?” I chose Pascual Perez.

    • Phil Hecken | July 22, 2017 at 1:44 pm |

      Was this when you had your perm?

      • Jim Vilk | July 22, 2017 at 1:59 pm |

        That was 1986.

  • linolocerous | July 22, 2017 at 1:57 pm |

    not sure if it was supposed to but this made me laugh and spit coffee all over my keyboard.

    gets my vote for COMMENT OF THE DAY

    “and it seems as though the Sons of Johnnie LeMaster are not his actual kids”

  • Rob S | July 22, 2017 at 3:22 pm |

    To be fair, that Blue Jars jacket item was just me retweeting Chris Creamer’s retweet of the guy who originally posted it on Twitter… so it’s weird seeing me credited for that.

  • Jet | July 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm |

    Got a big ol’ smile on my face from that Duane Kuiper moment. Awesome…

    -Jet

    • Smokin' Joe | July 23, 2017 at 7:17 am |

      “This fan miffed his shot to catch a foul ball at the Giants game”

      Well, he was probably miffed that he muffed his shot, I think.

  • Cole S | July 22, 2017 at 3:47 pm |

    Worst Premier kits – that Huddersfield for this year: Oof. Literally my high school soccer jersey from 1994 (sans ad).

  • Ted Mark | July 22, 2017 at 4:11 pm |

    The photo of Joe Tinker looks like it was shot with high quality Kodachrome film in the sixties or seventies. Absolutely gorgeous!

  • Name redacted | July 22, 2017 at 9:00 pm |

    Every year, i get a Giants hat, either off ebay or a store specializing in Japanese baseball stuff.

    The hat i got this year was one of those “fitted/mesh” caps. I was informed by folks here those kind of hats are common there.

  • Michael Emody | July 23, 2017 at 4:37 pm |

    That card with the pic of Warren Spahn has him wearing a Braves jersey with buttons! DTTN has the Braves in zippers from the inception of the classic tomahawk jersey. Interesting!

  • Jonathan Fox | July 25, 2017 at 1:52 pm |

    You can get the Authentic on field caps and uniforms but you have to order them and it takes 3 months to receive them. They are expensive but if you want it you will have to pay the price. Japan-Zone.com is the best place (only place) to order them. The caps are on the website but you’ll have to ask them to add the jersey that you want so you can purchase it. The NPB stores don’t mail outside Japan so Japan Zone will buy directly from the team and the order will be placed, the hat or jersey is then custom made by hand and shipped out to Japan Zone who then will ship it overseas to you. It’s a long wait and expensive but it’s worth it. I’ve bought several different teams caps from them and the quality is outstanding! New Era is like a Honda Civic compared to these Ferrari like caps, it’s that substantial of a difference. I just received my Yomiuri Giants cap last week, fitted of course, and I’ve yet to take it off! You definitely get what you pay for!