In 1998 the BayStars won their first Central League pennant in four decades and it looked as if the team might be strong for several years. But after dropping to third place the following year and losing MVP relief pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki to the United States, the BayStars may have to wait another 40 years until their next pennant.
Often compared to the Chicago Cubs, the BayStars haven’t won a pennant or a Japan Series championship since 1960. Founded in 1950 by the Taiyo fishing company and known as the Whales until 1993, the team has only compiled twelve winning seasons despite having good players like 193-game-winner Noboru Akiyama and slugger Makoto Matsubara, who hit 301 home runs in the 1960s and ’70s. Pitcher Kazuhiro Sasaki broke almost every Japanese record for relievers from 1990-99.
Playing in Yokohama Stadium since 1978, the BayStars ballpark lies in one of the best locations in Japan, a few blocks from Chinatown and the waterfront. It is set in the midst of a small park just a long block from the train station. There is plenty to see, do and eat within walking distance in almost every direction from the park.
The ballpark has undergone a bit of a facelift with lots of bright colors and upgraded concession stands and kiosks throughout the concourse. The high outfield walls may cut down on the number of home runs, but the steep seating puts fans right on top of the action.
Acknowledgment: Dan Latham