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Chunichi, Lotte have shared history

by Jim Allen (Oct 31, 2010)

Even when the only thought is to focus on the present, the past has a way of making itself heard.

The roads the Chiba Lotte Marines and Chunichi Dragons have taken here have intersected Memory Lane more than a few times.

The clubs last fought in the postseason in 1974, when the Lotte Orions defeated the Dragons in six games. Although the two clubs haven't done any deals in recent seasons, there used to be a regular shuttle of players between Chunichi and Lotte, which moved to Chiba in 1992 and renamed its club the Marines.

The biggest of those deals was a five-player swap engineered after the 1986 season at the insistence of Lotte's biggest star, two-time triple crown-winner Hiromitsu Ochiai.

The Dragons sent starting second baseman Seiji Kamikawa (currently a Marines coach), closer Kazuhiko Ushijima and two other pitchers to Lotte--then based in Kawasaki--in exchange for Ochiai.

Within two seasons, Ochiai helped bat the Dragons to the Central League pennant, but prior to the trade, Ochiai and current Marines manager Norifumi Nishimura were teammates.

"I once played for that team," Ochiai said Friday. "It was good that we [Nishimura] played together, but now I'm here as manager of the Dragons and I'm not really thinking about my playing for some team so long ago."

Nishimura, who was a rising star at the time Ochiai moved to the CL, paid his respects to the Dragons skipper.

"I remember those days as teammates, playing together with Lotte," Nishimura said. "He was my senior and it's an honor to meet here as managers."

Although his club failed to win a league championship this season, Nishimura has emulated Ochiai by taking his team to the Japan Series in his first year at the helm.

The iconoclastic Ochiai, who ushered in the free agent era when he left Chunichi to join the Yomiuri Giants and finished his playing career with the Nippon Ham Fighters, is now managing in his fourth Japan Series since taking over the Dragons in 2004. As side note, Ochiai's Dragons have beaten the Giants twice in the Climax Series and defeated the Fighters in the 2007 Series, snapping Chunichi's 53-year Japan title drought. This week gives him the chance as a manager to take down one more former team in the postseason.

But Ochiai said his opponent matters less than the prize.

"I'm here as the manager of the Chunichi Dragons organization," he said Friday. "As the representative of the Central League, I'm here to battle the representative of the Pacific League, the Lotte Orions."

Sometimes, there's just no escaping the past.


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