The Mainichi Orions played their first professional baseball game in 1950, the year that the two-league NPB was formed. Consisting in part of players from the Hanshin Tigers and other teams, the Orions won the very first Japan Series that fall; it would be another 24 years before they won their second. Despite high-profile players like Hiromitsu Ochiai (three-time Triple Crown, three-time home run king, five-time batting champ among other titles), Leron Lee, Choji Murata, and Michiyo Arito in the 1980s, the team came up empty-handed year in and year out. Upon Ochiai’s departure after the 1986 season, mediocrity (or misery?) set in as the Orions spiraled down into irrelevance for a long spell.
Stints in Tokyo (1950-72), Sendai (1973-77) and Kawasaki (1978-91) had this transient team leaving behind stadiums and fan bases. Two dates are key in forging their current identity: Korean confectionery company Lotte purchased the team in 1969, and in 1992, the team finally settled in Chiba when it moved into its current home stadium. Because of its proximity to the seaside, the team was renamed Marines.
Still, it took until Bobby Valentine’s second stint with the team in 2005 for them to win another Japan Series. Bobby V became a huge celebrity in Japan, and had a six-season tenure with the team, but their split after the 2009 season was hardly amicable or even mutually agreed upon. The very next season, under a new manager, they finished in third place but won three consecutive series started on the road, giving them one of the most improbable Japan Series wins in league history.
In 2017, the Marines treated the baseball world to one of the most bizarre mascots you’ll ever see: a skeleton with a giant fish head. The two parts are separable, and the mascot makes random appearances not only at the ballpark, but anywhere the cameras will follow it. At the end of the 2021 season, Nazo no Sakana announced its retirement.
Team Slogan 2022: 頂点を、つかむ。(Choten wo, tsukamu.) = Grab the Title
Current Standout Player: Brandon Laird (34, 1B): .262/.330/.478, 29 HR, 95 RBI, Best Nine in 2021
Franchise Established on: September 21, 1949
Pacific League Pennants Won: 5 (1950, 1960, 1970, 1974, 2005)
Championships Won: 4 (1950, 1974, 2005, 2010)
Spring Training Location: Ishigaki, Okinawa; Itoman, Okinawa