No sooner had I finished discussing the wonders of parallel records and mentioning that there is an extremely rare Baseball Super Record Game vinyl in my recent blog entry, than the inevitable happened. A copy of said extremely rare record shows up for sale. And yes, I bought it.
As it turns out, this rare little ball yard beaut is quite the handsome offering.
巨人 vs 阪神
So here it is, in all of its twelve delicious extruded polyvinyl inches of glory. 巨人 vs 阪神 Super Record Game aka Giants vs Tigers. A ridiculously rare title in the wonderfully niche Super Record Game series of vinyl record games.
I’ve labelled this a rare title myself for a number of reasons. Firstly, when conducting any form of research at all, precious little to, well, no information at all appears to be available about this record. In fact, I can barely remember how I actually came across it’s existence in the first place! Second, this is the only copy I can find for sale, this includes using Internet Archive search. Although such is life I am sure now I own a copy, fifty more will show up the second I click the publish button on this article. Lastly, information not only appears scarce online, but also on the actual sleeve notes of the record itself. Loose translations aside, there doesn’t even appear to be a copyright year anywhere in sight.
A quick (albeit loose) translation of the reverse sleeve appears to suggest the record is following the ‘wave of popularity of game records in Canada, UK and Norway (?) since 1973’. So we have 1973 as a starting point at the very least. Given that Maas Marketing published their horse racing records in Canada circa 1975, and CBS/Sony released their Horse Racing and Rene Van Dale titles circa 1977/78, I’d wager this title followed soon after.
David, It’s Over To You
The clues are there. Not as we go through… the keyhole, but as we take a top down look at the game board. The record sleeve itself folds out in to four to reveal the game board, a bright, primary-coloured baseball field. Although it may appear complex it’s actually fairly straight forward. More about that later though.
Take a look over the three blue rectangle data sheets and you will find (from left to right) the Hanshin Tigers team members (columns numbered 1 through 9 written in Japanese) with their batting order (1 through 9) written below their names as numerals. Next is a blank score table with innings 1 through 9 written in Japanese along with the team names Hanshin Tigers and Yomiuri Giants in the left column. Finally, the third blue data rectangle lists the Yomiuri Giants players and their batting order.Upon translating the player names I was able to get a better idea of when this record may have been produced. For example, player number 8 for the Yomiuri Giants is 笠間, whom upon a quick dip in to the world of Japanese baseball statistics would prove to be Yuji Kasama, a catcher who played for the Yomiuri Giants from 1977 to 1979. This falls in line perfectly with the Super Record Game release timeline. Interestingly, Kasama would leave the Giants in 1979, playing for the Hankyu Braves in 1980, only to be traded to the Hanshin Tigers in 1981! Kasama would spend the rest of his playing days with the Tigers, retiring in 1984.
Baby Elephant Walk
So how do you play the game? Well, according to the illustrated instructions that are printed on both sides of the inner sleeve, you can make the game as simple or as complicated as you wish. Essentially this is a gambling game (which falls in line with the aforementioned Horse Racing title). The board resembles a ‘baseball roulette’ table (the rear sleeve notes warn prospective players that it is illegal to play this game using real currency!) with points (in the form of tokens, or ‘chips’) awarded for specific actions that are played as the game progresses through the regulatory 9 innings of a baseball game.
A minimum of two players is required, one of whom is designated the banker. In the ‘roulette’ version of the game, players place bets on what they think will happen next as the baseball game progresses. Once all bets are in, the needle is dropped on to the record and players await the result of the next play. The commentary is in Japanese and is provided by Kazuo Huaguchi (sic) 胡口和雄, a very popular baseball announcer at Nippon Broadcasting from 1972 to 2008. Curiously, Huaguchi was an announcer for the network racing coverage entitled Nippon Sunday Horse Racing. You’ll forgive me if I put two and two together and assume that this is the very same gentleman that recorded the Super Record Game Horse Racing title! Kazuo Huaguchi is still active today, freelancing rather than working directly for a network.
With the record spinning, the wonder of parallel-grooved vinyl records kicks in. 30 to 40 seconds later, the play is over. Like the other games in this series, at this stage you’ll either be crying in to your hands, or begging your friends for a lend of a few quid so you can buy in again. Ah, the joys of gambling.
It’s not all about gambling though. The game also offers an alternate ‘simulation mode’ of sorts. You can go head to head with a friend, picking a team each and take turns to use the random plays on the record to play though a proper nine inning game of baseball, keeping score as you go. Quite how the record handles extra innings or employs the mercy rule remains to be seen though!
Ah, Mancini. A mascot’s best friend.
I’m really pleased that I own this rare and wonderful piece of history. Sure, I’m unable to truly play it properly as I cannot understand the audio commentary. But I don’t care about that. I care about the simplicity of the whole thing. Back in 1977 you could purchase a record, the sleeve doubling as a game board and have yourself a game of baseball with a bit of celebrity-recorded commentary thrown in for added ‘lux’. It’s a brilliant idea and it’s executed exquisitely.
As I’ve focused more on the history of this record I’ve ended up learning quite a lot. For example, the photo of Yokohama Stadium that graces the front of the sleeve is possibly one of the last photos of the stadium in that incarnation. Built in 1876 as a cricket ground, used as a POW camp during World War II and renamed Lou Gherig Stadium during the allied occupation of Japan, the stadium was renamed in 1955 to Yokohama Peace Stadium. It was demolished in April 1977 and construction of a new Yokohama Stadium commenced. April 1977. A further hint for our timeline to date this record.
I think it is a shame that products like this are no longer made. Though who knows, with the current resurgent interest in vinyl it may spur someone to put out some new content, or, wishfully thinking, republish these wonderful, rarely discussed treasures that are truly Super Record Games.
Download Audio Samples Giants vs Tigers - Baseball Super Record Game Track 1 Giants vs Tigers - Baseball Super Record Game Track 2
Errata Since completing this article, I've conducted further research and noticed I'd run in to some misleading information. The stadium on the front of the record sleeve is actually Korakuen Stadium (後楽園球場) which was built in 1937 and demolished in 1988 to make way for the Tokyo Dome which sits on the same site. The Tokyo Dome is still the home of the Yomiuri Giants, just as the Korakuen Stadium was. Famously it hosted Michael Jackson's Bad and Madonna's Who's That Girl? world tours as well as the first ever NFL game outside of the USA between the Saint Louis Cardinals and San Diego Chargers. The Cardinals won the preseason game 20-10. Take a look at the stadium render below and you'll notice a clear match. Although it taints an affirmative date of 1977 for the record release, at the very least we know it would have been released between 1977 and 1979. Given the other records in my collection were released in 1977, I'd be keen to wager this was also released the same year.