Friday, April 10, 2020

2020 Calbee Series One

We're living in a very weird time right now so it's reassuring that some things are still constant.  The sun still comes up, the tides still go in and out and Calbee still issues card sets that are pretty much the same from year to year.

I'm being a bit unfair to Calbee as there are actually some minor changes this year but the cards in Series One (which was released a few weeks back and is the first of what is usually three Series each year) look pretty much like Calbee cards have looked for the past 22 years.

The base set has 88 cards in it - 72 player cards (6 per team), a nine card subset called "The Record", three cards celebrating the league and Nippon Series champions last year and four checklist cards. 

Calbee's been alternating having the player names in English and in Japanese on the front of the player cards lately and with this being an even numbered year, the names are in Japanese this time.  Traditionally I feel like Series One is a little light on the stars but this set includes Tetsuto Yamada, Yuki Yanagita, Ryosuke Kikuchi, Sho Nakata, Masataka Yoshida, Takahiro Norimoto, Shita Imanaga and Tomoyuki Sugano so that's not really a problem this year.  It only has a couple foreign players (Zach Neal and Jose Lopez) and it somewhat surprisingly doesn't have ANY players who changed teams over the winter.  It also doesn't have any rookies which may mean Calbee is planning a "1st round draft pick" subset in a later Series.

I've been beating up Calbee (and BBM and Epoch) the past few years about their lack of imagination in the photos they use of the players.  I've felt they've fallen into a rut of "batters batting, pitchers pitching" photos with the occasional "catcher catching" shots.  For this set I'd say they improved slightly.  There's a lot more photos of players base running and fielding and a couple photos of players celebrating something with the team mascot.  Even some of the "batters batting" photos show a slightly different variation on the theme, catching the batter late in his swing rather than just standing at the plate.  There's also more cards with a horizontal format than has been usual lately - I counted five while there's usually only one or two.

Here's some example cards:

#049 (Yoshio Itoi)

#029 (Chihiro Kaneko)

#017 (Ginji Akaminai)

#012 (Ukyo Shuto)

#062 (Shuhei Takahashi)

#044 (Kazuki Kamizato)

#067 (Tetsuto Yamada)
The nine card "The Record" subset highlights several milestones achieved last season (not all of which were actually records).  They are Yasuaki Yamasaki's 150th save, Munetaka Murakami becoming the youngest player ever to hit a sayonara home run, Takeya Nakamura extending his career grand slam record to 20, Kodai Senga and Yudai Ohno throwing no-hitters, Koji Chikamoto setting the Central League record for hits by a rookie, Katsunori Hirai setting a new Pacific League record by appearing in 79 games, Ryutaro Umeno making 123 assists as a catcher (I think that's what his card's for at least) and Seiichi Uchikawa having a perfect fielding percentage, the first player in PL history to do so (again I think that's what the card's for).  Here's the Nakamura card:

The league and Nippon Series championship cards highlight the teams that won those championships - the Lions (Pacific League), the Giants (Central League) and the Hawks (Nippon Series) which only makes sense if you remember that the league champions are the team that finished first in the regualr season and not the team that represented the league in the Nippon Series (the Hawks finished second but beat the Lions in the PL Climax Series).  Technically these are two different subsets since they're numbered separately - the league championship cards are #LC-1 and #LC-2 and the Nippon Series card is #NS-1.  The backs of the league championship cards each league's final standings, team stats and head-to-head records (non-interleague) while the back of the Nippon Series card has the line scores of all the games (just four of them as the Hawks swept the Giants.  Here's the Lions and Hawks cards:


The four checklist cards show highlights from late last season and the post-season.  Card #C-01 shows Tomoya Mori jumping into Tatsushi Masuda's arms when the Lions clinched the PL pennant on September 24th, card #C-02 shows Yoshihiro Maru laying down a bunt in the Climax Series on October 13th, card #C-03 has the Hawks tossing manager Kimiyasu Kudoh into the air in the traditional do-age after winning the Nippon Series on October 23rd and card #C-04 shows the Baystars celebrating at home plate after Tomo Otosaka hit a walk off home run to beat the Tigers in Game Two of the First Stage of the CL Climax Series on October 6th.  Here's the Otosaka card:

Once again you can see all the cards for the set over at Jambalaya, including the two insert sets (8 "Legend" cards for players who retired in 2019 and 20 "Title Holder" cards for players who won awards or led the league in some category in 2019 - but first the first time in years no "Star" cards) and the special box set ("Slugger") available (I think) in exchange for "lucky" cards randomly inserted in packs.

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