1978 NST Giants

Veteran’s Day always coincides with a two-day education conference in New Jersey. As a result all the kids in New Jersey have a nice four-day weekend and all the parents have to figure out what to do.* As the primary parent I was pretty relieved to send the kids back to school and get a bit of rest again. When I checked the mail that afternoon it was wonderful to find a plain white envelope in my mail from Jason.

*Apparently Disneyworld is full of New Jersey families this weekend.

Opening and engaging with a small batch of cards is one of my favorite ways to relax and a PWE often contains the perfect amount. In this case, I opened the envelope to find a pack of Japanese cards with Shigeo Nagashima’s photo on the front. I mentioned him in my post on my first Calbee cards, and seeing him here looking about the same age allowed me to put some google searches together to figure out that this was a pack of 1978 NST Yomiuri Giants cards.

The Japanese Baseball Cards blog has a nice rundown of NST’s offerings during the 1970s and includes the information that these were intended to be pasted into an album.* All the player identification information is in the album and the cards themselves are clean and simple—basic photos and a thin white border.

*There’s also a post featuring the 1983 album which provides a sense of how these cards were intended to be displayed.

The card backs are all identical except for the card number which tells you where to paste the photo. Do I know what the cards say? No.* But given how the backs are basically the same year-to-year it doesn’t seem like the text is particularly important and is probably something along the lines of exhorting fans to collect all the cards, trade with their friends, and buy the official album.

*I’d love for translation assistance on the card and packaging backs.

Thankfully however, someone’s translated the album and put the checklist together so I can use the numbers to figure out (or confirm) who the player on the card is.

Of course this leaves me at a loss in terms of identifying who the coach (I’m assuming) on the menko-like parallel card is. He doesn’t look like Nagashima to me and with no name on the front, no number on the back, and not even a uniform number to provide a hint I’m kind of stuck.

Which is a shame since as far as coaching cards go this is kind of a great card with the blue milkcrate full of balls and the scattered equipment in the background. Coach cards don’t lend themselves well to action shots—let alone action shots that look like coaching. This one though clearly features coaching action and represents a photography type I’ve never seen before. Very cool.

Moving on the the regular cards, the first part of the checklist appears to have a lot of cards featuring players out of uniform—or, well, game uniform, The first one, number 46, features three players wearing what looks like school uniforms. The checklist identifies them as “ Suzuki, Kinoshita, and Nakazawa” but as far as I can tell there are no players for the Giants with those names in the years around 1978.

I don’t know that much about how Japanese baseball is organized but I can’t help but think that these must be young/new members to the organization and none of them managed to break into the big league club.

Two more non-uniform cards. Number 50 features Shigeru Takada, the Giants 3rd Baseman, getting off of an airplane. Not a great baseball card but kind of a wonderful photo showing a more civilized age of air travel as well as some wonderfully 70s power neckties. I can’t find an english-language bio of him but I am intrigued by his conversion from outfielder to third baseman. That switch isn’t particularly common in baseball anymore as 3rd base has increasingly become a power position so I’m just not used to seeing it.

Card number 54 meanwhile shows manager Shigeo Nagashima washing his hands at a Chōzuya. I almost didn’t recognize Nagashima out of uniform and I wish I knew the baseball significance of the shrine he’s at.

Card number 98 features Sadaharu Oh speaking at a press conference. I really really want to connect the flowers in front of him, this set being a 1978 release, and the fact that Oh passed Hank Aaron’s home run record on September 3 the previous year into guessing that this is celebrating him being the home run king. But that’s only a guess and for all I know all the press conferences have flowers.

Anyway it’s always nice to add another Oh card to the collection and I love that this one is so different from the other ones I own.

Card number 94 features a dynamic photo of Kazumi Takahashi. It’s oddly cropped but I dig it since he’s striding so strongly into the frame. I was surprised to discover had last played for the Giants in 1975. I saw some other all-time greats on the checklist* but wasn’t expecting a card of a player who was still playing in 1978 only not for the Giants.

*Victor Starffin and Wally Yonamine for example are both on the checklist and I’d’ve been ecstatic to have found either of those cards in the pack.**

**Yes as with Oh and Hisao Niura, I apparently have a soft spot for Japanese ballplayers who push the definition of what it means to be Japanese. I wonder why that could be?

But maybe Takahashi’s service to the club really stood out. His 1973 looks amazing where he completed 24 of 37 starts with a 23–13 record and 2.20 ERA. That’s a career year in any league. Unfortunately it looks like he must’ve ruined his arm that year since in 1974 he only completed 2 of his 22 starts with a 2–11 record and 5.12 ERA. and never really recovered his form after that.

Card number 102 meanwhile shows career-Giant and Hall of Famer Tsuneo Horiuchi who by 1978 was in the decline portion of his career—still eating up innings and starts but not with the same effectiveness as he had in the late 60s and early 70s. His 1972 season for example is a monster of a year where he completed 26 of 34 starts and went 26–9 with a 2.91 ERA.

And yes the math for the number of decisions doesn’t add up to the number of starts for both Takahashi and Horiuchi. Both of them also came out of the bullpen between starts—a fact that blows my mind since 1960s/70s starting pitcher usage is already so far removed from the way pitchers are used today.

Card number 242 features Teruyoshi Matsuo whose single season with the Giants occurred in 1973 (5 games, 2 starts, no decisions, 4.91 ERA) but appears to have been retained as a coach or at least a batting practice pitcher.

Card number 246 also features a coach or batting practice pitcher. Checklist identifies him as Tomio Yamaguchi but the only guy with that name I can find was an infielder for Daiei in 1950. Daiei did play in the same stadium as the Giants though so maybe it’s the same guy. If it is he’d be just over 50 in this photo (he does look older than I’d expect a player to look).

Supercool Jason! This was a lot of fun and I always love being able to see cards and photography from other parts of the world. Thanks!

Author: Nick Vossbrink

Blogging about Photography, Museums, Printing, and Baseball Cards from both Princeton New Jersey and the San Francisco Bay Area. On Twitter as @vossbrink, WordPress at njwv.wordpress.com, and the web at vossbrink.net

4 thoughts on “1978 NST Giants”

  1. I’d put this one off until I had time to sit down and read it, and this is immensely cool – even more so in light of my recent Japanese pickup.

    It’s definitely some work, but I’ve had some success with using http://www.jisho.org for translation. I was able to decipher the throw R/L and hit R/L on the back of my menkos. There’s a great tool that helps you identify characters by allowing you to select combinations of radicals: https://jisho.org/#radical

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