The JBR 44 set was a special gift to purchasers of Shonen Book magazine in October 1962. The cards were originally enclosed in a silver foil cardboard case. Each uncut panel of either two or three cards has a hole at the right edge where it was attached to a bolt inside the case. Attached card pairs or trios have a tab with the team name. All cards in a panel share the same card back. The set is rare and carries a scarcity factor of R4 in the Japanese Baseball Card Checklist & Price Guide, Vintage Edition 2.1, signifying that 10 or fewer copies of each panel are known.
This panel (panel #48) features three members of the 1962 Hankyu Braves. From left to right, they are catcher Kazumi Matsunami, and infielders Chico Barbon and Larry Raines. As a 22-year-old, Havana Native Chico Barbon left his native land to join the Hankyu Braves in 1955. He ultimately played 11 seasons in Japan. Rather than returning to Castro's Cuba after his playing career ended, Barbon remained in Japan, where even today, he is a prominent member of the Japanese baseball scene.
One of only three men to play in the Negro Leagues, U.S. minor leagues, U.S. Major Leagues and Japan Pro Baseball, Larry Raines (1930-1978) began his career with the Chicago American Giants. He then journeyed to Japan, where he spent the 1953 and 1954 seasons with the Hankyu Braves. In 1954, he led the Pacific League with a .337 batting average. The next year, he embarked on a career in American minor league baseball, playing primarily for Indianapolis of the AAA American Association. In 1957, he finally reached the U.S. Major Leagues, appearing with the Cleveland Indians and batting .262 in 96 games. In 1958, he appeared in the 1958 Topps set. Unfortunately, he was sent back to the minors early that season, where he remained through 1961. In 1962, he rejoined the Hankyu Braves for a final year.
Matsunami, a backup catcher, spent five mostly unproductive seasons with the Braves, finishing his career with a .158 lifetime batting average in 148 games.
Size: The uncut panel is 4 1/4" x 2 3/8". Each card is 1 1/4" x 2".