The Lions are the most successful team in the history of the Pacific League thanks to a dynasty that ran from 1982-92. They won 8 Japan Series during that stretch and also finished as the runners up once as well. This is the second most impressive title run in NPB history, after the Giants’ “V9” dominance from 1965 to 1973.
The club finds its roots in Fukuoka, where it spent nearly 30 seasons, winning several titles in the 1950s (led by legendary pitcher Kazuhisa Inao) but struggling through the next two decades. Their fall was precipitated by a gambling scandal in the late 1960s that resulted in four of their players being banned for life from the game.
In the late 1970s, the team moved to Saitama prefecture and was bought by one of the wealthiest men in the world, Yoshiaki Tsutsumi. With deeper pockets, the Lions put an extremely talented product on the field that led to their rise to the top of Japanese baseball in the post-Sadaharu Oh era.
In recent years, the team has once again produced some of the most talented players in the game. Regardless of their performance in MLB, talent like Daisuke Matsuzaka, Kazuo Matsui, Yusei Kikuchi and Shogo Akiyama helped the Lions remain relevant for much of the 21st century.
Unfortunately for the Lions, playing in the less-visible Pacific League and competing for fans with multiple other teams in the greater Tokyo area (including the Yomiuri Giants) means that the team’s fan base is not as numerous, and attendance is not as consistent as one might expect for a team with such an illustrious history. The team has seen multiple players leave for greener pastures upon eligibility for free agency. Success on the field will only get you so far, it seems, and after that, the business side of the game drains this club of its most enticing talent.
Team Slogan 2021: BREAK IT
Current Standout Players: Hotaka Yamakawa (29, 1B): .205/.357/.450, 24 HR, 73 RBI in 2020
Franchise Established on: November 26, 1949
Pacific League Pennants Won: 23 (Most Recently in 2019)
Championships Won: 13 (Most Recently in 2008)
Spring Training Location: Nango, Miyazaki