History of Japanese Baseball Cards
Japanese Baseball Cards 1965-72
In 1965, the Yomiuri Giants, under the direction of former batting star Tetsuharu Kawakami, won the first of nine straight Japan Series championships. The Giants were led by Shigeo Nagashima and Sadaharu Oh, the two best players in the history of Japanese baseball. Batting in the third and fourth spots, the duo, known as the ON Canon, combined for eight MVP Awards, six batting titles, nine homerun crowns, and nine RBI titles during this nine year run.
Although this streak is one of the most famous accomplishments in Japanese baseball history, few baseball cards were issued during this period. The only major set produced during this time was the valuable Kabaya Leaf set issued in 1967. This set of 105 cards included only players from the Giants, Dragons, Tigers, Flyers, Hawks and Lions. These cards were imported to the United States by Mel Bailey and sold through baseball card newsletters. As a result, although the set is rare, they are more common in the States than in Japan. Because the importer was not able to purchase equal amounts of each card in the set, there are four very rare and an additional five rare cards. The set includes two styles of card fronts: one has a circular picture - similar to the 1959 Topps set, while the other contains a square picture.
The only other known sets dating to this period were magazine inserts, regional team issues and playing cards. Examples of most of these smaller sets are rare.