Just a few years after the end of World War II, the people of Hiroshima Prefecture collectively funded its first professional baseball team. Unlike other professional teams, it was not owned by any private corporation (It is now partially owned by the Matsuda family, founders of Mazda Motor Corporation. Mazda was once called Toyo Kogyo, which is why the Carp’s official team name includes “Toyo”). The club struggled financially for several years, and required donations from its citizens to build the team’s first full-time stadium in 1957. Their struggles were not just financial, though, as the Carp failed to even contend for championships in its first 25 seasons.
Then, in 1975, thanks to a combination of stellar players like Koji Yamamoto (536 career home runs) and Sachio Kinugasa (2,215 consecutive games played), the Carp finally won its first Central League pennant. It would take another 4 seasons before their first Japan Series championship, though. They won back-to-back Nippon-Ichi (Japan champions) in 1979 and 1980, thanks in part to the above two players, plus ace pitchers Manabu Kitabeppu, Yutaka Ohno, and stellar reliever Yutaka Enatsu. Another championship came in 1984 and a CL pennant in 1986 gave them an impressive 12-year run (5 pennants, 3 Japan Series), but after Yamamoto (1986) and Kinugasa (1987) retired, the club managed just one pennant in the next 30 seasons.
Kenta Maeda was the premier pitcher in the Central League in the 2010s, but it was not until after his departure to MLB in the 2015 offseason that the team achieved significant success. The return of ace Hiroki Kuroda plus the emergence of import ace Kris Johnson (Sawamura Award winner for best pitcher in 2016) brought the team back to the top, and in convincing fashion. No one came close to knocking them out of first in the second half of the 2016-18 seasons. However, the Carp bowed out to the Fighters in 2016, the BayStars in 2017, and the Hawks in 2018. They currently have the longest championship drought in NPB, dating back to 1984.
They have faltered since their mini-dynasty, finishing in 4th and 5th in the 2019-20 seasons, but continue to stockpile great young talent that should help them jump back into contention in the near future.
Still, there is no doubt that the city of Hiroshima has a passionate love for its team, whose mascot Slyly more closely resembles an American mascot than any other team’s. (It was designed by the same group that created the Philly Phanatic.) The fans travel extremely well, turning the visiting section (and beyond) of other teams’ stadiums bright red. They are among the loudest and most supportive fans in NPB, and whether the team is winning or not, they make it difficult for outsiders to snap up tickets for their home games.
Team Slogan 2022: ガツガツGUTS (Gatsu Gatsu Guts) = (Hiroshima Dialect for) Greedy greedy grit
Franchise Established on: November 28, 1949
Central League Pennants Won: 9 (1975, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1986, 1991, 2016-18)
Championships Won: 3 (1979, 1980, 1984)
Spring Training Location: Okinawa City, Okinawa