Orix Buffaloes

Founded in 1950 by Kintetsu Railways and known as the Pearls until 1958, the Buffaloes have won fewer games than any other PL franchise. Until the mid-1960s, the team nearly always placed last and in 1961 they lost a record 103 games. Kintetsu has won three PL pennants but they are the only team that hasn’t won a Japan Series championship.

After years of low attendance, the Kintetsu Buffaloes got a big boost moving into Osaka Dome in 1997. But the fans hoping to see the Buffaloes win often go home disappointed because the team has finished near the bottom of the league the past two seasons.

Having long ago earned a reputation for stinginess and abusing valuable players, the Buffaloes overworked Hideo Nomo then tried to cut his salary after arm trouble sidelined him. Before indignantly retiring and declaring himself a free agent, Tornado Boy had a short but impressive career with Kintetsu before bolting for the United States.

Tight with their yen, the Buffaloes refused to pay the extra Osaka Dome rent that would have allowed them to practice in their home park.

Typical of all Japan’s indoor ballparks, the facility is a donut-shaped mall surrounding a few acres of green carpet. But the visibility is good and the seats behind home plate feature personal air conditioning vents and miniature television monitors.

In 2005 financial woes saw the Kintetsu Buffaloes merge with the Orix Blue Wave.

Probably no Japanese team relied on one player as much as the Orix BlueWave depended on outfielder Ichiro Suzuki before he went to the Seattle Mariners. When he was 21 years old, Ichiro set a new Japan record by collecting 210 hits in his first full season. Since his 1994 breakthrough, Ichiro earned seven batting titles while twice leading Orix to the Japan Series.

Long before Ichiro joined Orix, the BlueWave (originally the Hankyu Braves) had their share of stars. Playing all but the last two seasons of his career (1956-77) with the Braves, Tetsuya Yoneda compiled a lifetime 350-285 record with 3,388 strikeouts and a 22-year 2.91 ERA. From 1969-88, Yutaka Fukumoto stole a record 1,065 bases. Greg “Boomer” Wells (1983-91; played in 1992 with the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks) earned a triple-crown in 1984 and compiled a ten-year .317 batting average with 277 home runs.

Founded in 1936 by the Hankyu railway company and named the Braves a decade later, the Osaka-area franchise joined the Pacific League in 1950. One of the strongest teams in the league, the Braves were purchased by the Oriental Leasing company (Orix) in 1988 and renamed the BlueWave two years later.

After years of playing at Nishinomiya Stadium, between Kobe and Osaka, Orix moved to the 35,000 seat Green Stadium Kobe in 1991. It was later called Yahoo! BB, the first stadium with a naming rights sponsor, and is now Hotto Moto Stadium. It is located on the edge of Sogoundo Park, and green trees surround the natural grass field with Major League dimensions, and it offers a relaxing baseball atmosphere.

Upon the merger of the Blue Wave with the Buffaloes in 2005, the new team is called the Orix Buffaloes. The Kyocera Osaka Dome is its home park, with many games played at Hotto Motto Stadium.

Acknowledgment: Dan Latham and Wayne Graczyk