On December 26, 1934, Matsutaro Shoriki, the head of Yomiuri Newspapers in Japan, announced the formation of Japan’s first professional team, the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants. The team consisted of players signed to compete against the American all-star team (originally called the Great Japan Tokyo Baseball Club). However, professional league play, with six teams, would not begin until 1936 with the formation of the Japanese Baseball League.
Today, the Yomiuri Giants are considered “The New York Yankees of Japan” due to their widespread popularity, historical dominance of the league, and their polarizing effect on fans.
The Red Sox and the Cubs aren’t the only teams in the baseball world to have suffered the effects of a curse. A Japanese team, the Hanshin Tigers, found itself the victim of the “Curse of the Colonel,” with the “colonel” being none other than KFC’s Colonel Sanders.
The Hanshin Tigers are located in Kansai, the second largest metropolitan area in Japan. In 1985, the Tigers faced the Seibu Lions and took their first and only victory in the Japan Championship Series. The team’s success came in large part due to the efforts of an American playing on the team, slugger Randy Bass (who would later serve as a Senator for Oklahoma).
As one might expect following a major championship victory, the Tiger fan base launched into celebration. A particularly raucous crowd gathered at Ebisu Bridge in Dōtonbori, Osaka. Fans here would yell the players’ names, and with every name, a fan resembling that member of the Tigers leaped from the bridge and into the canal. However, lacking a Caucasian person to represent MVP Randy Bass, the crowd seized a plastic statue of Colonel Sanders (who apparently resembled Bass, in their minds) from a nearby KFC and tossed it off the bridge as an effigy.
According to the legend, thus began the Curse of the Colonel. The Hanshin Tigers began an 18-year losing streak, placing last or next-to-last in the league each year. The Tigers had a surprisingly good season in 2003, winning the Central League and earning a spot in the Japan Championship Series. However, the Tigers lost the series to the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks, so the curse was presumed to still be in place. The curse, fans believed, would continue until the Colonel statue had been recovered from the river.
The Colonel was finally discovered in the Dōtonbori River on March 10, 2009. The statue was, not surprisingly, in pieces, and it lacked the glasses the Colonel held in his left hand. It was believed that the curse could only be lifted by returning the Colonel’s glasses, so a replacement set of glasses were given to him in order to ensure the breaking of the curse.
The KFC restaurant to which the statue originally belonged no longer exists, so the now-restored Colonel Sanders makes his home at the branch near Koshien Stadium in Nishinomiya, Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan.
I love this video. The environmentalist in me has always felt guilty about supporting a game that uses up so many trees. I’m glad to see that there are folks like Mr. Uratani who have found a way to further make further use of all those broken bats.
In 1905, a team of Waseda University students visited the United States and conducted a tour in which it played American baseball teams up and down the West coast. One of those games, on May 17th, was against Los Angeles High School, which Waseda won 5-3. According to some sources, this was the first game of a tour that included games in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Los Angeles, Bakersfield, Fresno, Eugene, Oregon, and Seattle (other sources cite a start date from April of that year). Regardless, the tour marked the first time that a Japanese team played baseball in the United States.
Located in Naniwa-ku, Osaka, Japan and owned by Osaka Stadium Corporation, Osaka Stadium was built in 1950 over the site of a tobacco plant that had been destroyed during World War II. The original stadium seated approximately 32,000 people and was home to the Nankai Hawks baseball team.
In 1988, the Hawks were sold to Daiei Group and moved to Heiwadai Stadium in Fukuoka City. Osaka Stadium was then converted into a sample housing showground.
The stadium was finally demolished in 1998, and a shopping center was built in its place.
Madonna held her first Japan concerts in this stadium, kicking off her Who’s That Girl World Tour with two sold-out concerts on June 14 and 15,1987. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson finished the first leg of his Bad World Tour at Osaka Stadium with three consecutive sold-out shows, held October 10–12, 1987.
Seventeen-year-old Japanese pitcher, Eiji Sawamura, took the mound against a team of touring All-Star players from Major League Baseball on November 20, 1934. He came into the game in the fourth inning and pitched nine innings, striking out nine batters and giving up only one run. At one point, he successively struck out Charlie Gehringer, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmie Foxx. The only run came on a home run by Gehrig as the American team won, 1-0.
American team manager Connie Mack was so impressed by the young man’s performance that he tried to sign him to a contract. Sawamura declined, however, as anti-American sentiment was strong in Japan at that time.
The first game between an American and a Japanese professional baseball team was played on November 22, 1908. In the game, the Reach All-Americans defeated Waseda University in Tokyo, 5-0.