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A question: In the Beginning...

Discussion in the Pro Yakyu History forum
A question: In the Beginning...
Back when baseball was evolving into a professional sport in Japan, how did the teams come to be identified with the companies that owned them rather than the regions in which they were located? Was it a conscious decision, or did it just pan out that way?

Two things make me ask that question: firstly, maybe it's because people are used to the way things are in MLB, but I can't see people supporting the "Walmart Cubs" or the "TimeWarner Yankees" (fictitious names, obviously) as much as they support the teams now with their strong regional identification. It seems obvious to me here and now: I wonder if it wasn't that clear to the pioneers of professional Japanese baseball way back when.

Secondly, when the J League went professional back in the '90s, a deliberate decision was made not to name the teams after thir sponsor companies, but to make them chiiki-gata (regional-type) teams, for the very reason that they could distance themselves from the more "mercenary" (for want of a better term) pro baseball.

Having said that, there are exceptions within NPB. For instance, it's said that the "Kintetsu Osaka Buffaloes" are thinking about removing the "Kintetsu" from their team name because they moved their home ground away from any line in the Kintetsu railway network. Hanshin, of course, has the added bonus of their name being both the name of the company that owns them and the region they are based in.
Re: A question: In the Beginning...
[ Author: Sara B | Posted: May 9, 2003 4:25 AM | HT Fan ]

This is an interesting question that also applies to Korean baseball, where some teams are likewise sponsored by various corporations. I can't recall the names of the Taiwan teams at the moment, though I will check this site for that info later.

I am dismayed by the current American trend of letting ballparks carry corporate logos as advertising -- Houston's Enron Field being a particularly galling example. Hard to feel pride about such a place.

I suspect that the function of a company in Japanese society as a near-replacement for family may have something to do with the comfort level of teams with corporate names, but that is just conjecture on my part. It would be great to get more info about the origins of Japanese team names.

I have a recurring fantasy in which Japanese and American teams face off against each other based on common uniforms. Thus you could see a Yomiuri - SF Giants series, a Hanshin - Yankees (or possibly Detroit) matchup, Dragons - Dodgers playoff, Hiroshima - Cincinnati, etc. I wonder if the American uniform styles were copied in Japan with some intent, or just catch-as-catch-can.
Re: A question: In the Beginning...
[ Author: Guest: null | Posted: May 9, 2003 11:47 AM ]

I think a lot of the copying of MLB uniforms by Japanese teams was started by the working agreement that Japanese teams have/had with MLB teams.

For example, the Dragons had a working agreement with the Dodgers back in the late '80s when they came out with a facsimile of the Dodgers' great unis. I don't know if they still do have that agreement in place, but this season the Dragons took it a step further with an exact replica of the Dodgers' road uniforms for their road duds.

Another team that had a working agreement that I think led to copying of the uniform style was the Yakult Swallows and the Cleveland Indians. The Swallows' road uniforms are obviously a copy of the Indians' alternate uniforms.

Which brings up the question of some of the other teams. I know that the Yomiuri Giants took their team name from the original New York Giants back in the early part of the 1900s since they were known only as the Yomiuri baseball club when they first toured the U.S. That's probably why they use the same colors. The Yomiuri Giants have their own uniform style though, and I think that it's good that they don't try to copy the SF Giants' uniforms.

In the mid 1970s the Taiyo Whales copied the Oakland A's flashy green and gold uniforms, but I doubt that there was a working agreement between those two teams.

The Carp seem to always copy the Reds' uniforms, but I'm not sure about a working agreement between those teams either. I personally liked the Carp's previous uniforms, but they copied the Reds again by going to pinstripes.

This is a site about Pro Yakyu (Japanese Baseball), not about who the next player to go over to MLB is. It's a community of Pro Yakyu fans who have come together to share their knowledge and opinions with the world. It's a place to follow teams and individuals playing baseball in Japan (and Asia), and to learn about Japanese (and Asian) culture through baseball.

It is my sincere hope that once you learn a bit about what we're about here that you will join the community of contributors.

Michael Westbay
(aka westbaystars)

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