Hanshin Tigers

A condensed history of the Tigers
Koshien - the Tigers' home ballpark
Meet the mascots
Rokko Oroshi - the Tigers' fight song
Essential Tigers glossary
2007 roster
2007 schedule
The latest standings

Baseball pioneers
The Hanshin Tigers baseball club is the second oldest pro baseball franchise in Japan, founded on December 10, 1935. The Tigers took part in the first professional baseball "season" in Japan the following year, which consisted of three spring tournaments played at Koshien Kyujo (ballpark), Narumi Kyujo in Nagoya and Hiratsuka near Osaka.

The successful 1938 team

From 1936 to 1938, the Tigers were arguably the best team in Japanese pro baseball. However, from 1939 the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants began to dominate, beginning the bitter rivalry between the two teams which continues today. In Central League pennant races the Tigers have come second to the Giants on 13 occasions, including 6 times in the 1950s alone! No wonder Hanshin fans hate the Giants with a passion!

Gene Bacque
In the '60s, Hanshin won two CL pennants ('62 and '64), and the decade was also memorable for the efforts of pitcher Gene Bacque, who compiled a 100-80 record with a 2.83 ERA in eight years with the Tigers - winning Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award - the Sawamura Award - in 1964. He is the only foreign pitcher ever to be honored in this way.

1985 and Randy Bass
The Tigers were extremely successful in the early years, winning championships in 1936-38, 1944 and 1947, and compiling a 730-472 franchise record by 1950 (when the two-league system was introduced). Since then they have won the Central League pennant five times - in 1962, 1964, 1985, 2003 and 2005.

The year 1985 is still fondly remembered by all Hanshin fans. Not only did the club win the Japan Series for the first (and so far only) time, but their first baseman Randy Bass won the Triple Crown award AND the Japan Series MVP award as well - in the process elevating himself to God-like status in the Kansai region.

He probably would have set a new home run record, too, except for the skullduggery of the Giants. In the very last game of the 1985 regular season, the Giants gave Randy Bass four free passes - you see, he was one homer away from matching the legendary Giants slugger Sadaharu Oh's single season home run record.

And who was the Giants' manager that day? None other than Mr. Oh himself!

Celebrating the 1985 championship

Wild scenes at Dotonbori
When the Hanshin Tigers won the Japan Series in 1985, the fans went delirious. Among other things, they hijacked a train in Tokyo, and at Dotonbori, one of the entertainment districts in Osaka, people were jumping into the polluted river. The story goes that as the crowd yelled their way through the Hanshin roster, someone who looked like each of the players jumped into the river.

Can you spot the difference?

Apparently nobody looked like Randy Bass, so some bright spark thought the life-sized statue of Colonel Sanders outside the local KFC would do. Well, he had a beard, he wasn't Japanese...

Anyway, you can guess the rest - Colonel Sanders found himself at the bottom of the river.

The colonel's curse
The whereabouts of the Colonel remain a mystery to this day. They've even had divers down in the murky depths trying to find him, but to no avail. It is said that the Hanshin Tigers will never win again until he is found.

The Tigers finally won the CL pennant again in 2003 after 18 very lean years, leading to a repeat of the crazy celebrations of the mid '80s. But they lost the ultimate prize to the Daiei Hawks in 7 games. And the Hawks were managed by... you guessed it - Sadaharu Oh! The curse continues.

UPDATE MARCH 11, 2009: They've found the Colonel!! Yesterday the statue was retrieved from the river - still smiling after 24 years. Is this finally the end of the curse?

The KFC near Koshien stadium

The author with the great Randy Bass

For more Hanshin Tigers history and info about past players, check out Christopher Hope's Hanshin Tigers Fan Page.

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