Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. This is true of both the city of Osaka and its favorite team, the Hanshin Tigers. Naturally, the bride represents Tokyo and the Giants. In fact, no fewer than 16 times in Central League history, the standings have ended with the Giants in first and the Tigers in second. Nevertheless, the Tigers and their fans hold a strong, angst-filled, scrappy, never-say-die attitude towards their superior rivals.
Formed in late 1935, the Tigers are the second oldest team in Japanese Professional Baseball history, and have the second largest following as well. They are owned by Hanshin Electric Railway, though they were bought out by Hankyu Holdings in 2006. With a brand name as popular as Hanshin’s, the team name remained as-is despite the buy-out.
Hanshin is not known for success on the field, with just a single Japan Series championship in 1985. Featuring one of the fiercest lineups in the history of baseball in Japan, they tore through the nation like a tornado: here and gone in the blink of an eye. In the years following that miraculous run to the top, the Tigers finished in last place in 10 of the subsequent 16 seasons. Their inexplicable failure gave birth to the Curse of the Colonel, a story that has been spread especially in the English-speaking baseball fan community. Connecting American slugger Randy Bass and the founder of KFC (Colonel Harland Sanders), it defies fiction and is an enjoyable urban myth, though it does not hold up when measured against the facts.
In the decades since their Dark Ages (1986-2002) ended, the team experienced something of a revival with two CL pennants and a recharged fan base. But Koshien Stadium is not only bursting with yellow and black, it also reverberates with more jeering for the home team than any other park in Japan does. Known as tsukkomi or yaji, picking apart one’s partner’s flaws is the essence of Japanese standup comedy, which also thrives in Osaka more than anywhere else in Japan. At least Osaka has the leg up on Tokyo in something!
Team Slogan 2023: A.R.E. (Aim, Respect, Empower)
Current Standout Players: Koyo Aoyagi (29, RHP): 13 W, 4 L, 162.1 IP, 2.05 ERA, 132 K, Best Nine in 2022 / Koji Chikamoto (28, OF): .293/.352/.352, 30 SB, 71 R, Golden Glove, Best Nine in 2022
Current Manager: Akinobu Okada (since 2023, also 2004-08)
Franchise Established on: December 10, 1935
Central League Pennants Won: 5 (1962, 1964, 1985, 2003, 2005)
Championships Won: 1 NPB (1985), 4 JBL (Fall 1937, Spring 1938, 1944, 1947)
Notable MLB Exports: Tsuyoshi Shinjo (Mets, etc.), Kei Igawa (Yankees, etc.), Kyuji Fujikawa (Cubs, etc.), Seung-hwan Oh (Cardinals, etc.), Robert Suarez (Padres), Shintaro Fujinami (A’s)
Spring Training Location: Ginoza, Okinawa