SoftBank Hawks

Founded in 1938, the Hawks played poorly during the early years, but when Kazuto Tsuruoka took over as skipper, he led the team to either a first or second-place finish every year from 1950-66. During the last half of Tsuruoka’s tenure, catcher Katsuya Nomura became the team leader, eventually belting 657 home runs.

Nomura later managed the Hawks during the 1970s, but after he was fired, the team posted 16 straight losing seasons even while slugger Hiromitsu Kadota compiled 567 career home runs.

In 1988, the Daiei supermarket chain bought the Hawks and moved them to Fukuoka in Kyushu , Japan ‘s southern island. When the Fukuoka Dome opened in 1993, the Hawks moved into their new home.

With a relatively new ballpark modeled after Toronto ‘s SkyDome, the Hawks have a loyal following and have occasionally rivaled the Giants for the attendance lead.

While the Fukuoka Dome offers Japan ‘s only removable lid, the playing field and high walls around the field move fans far away from the action.

Even if the sight-lines are miserable, the ballpark offers several bars and restaurants with a birds-eye view of the field. The team’s mascot, Harry the Hawk, loiters around foul territory at home games.

Managed by Japan s all-time home run king Sadaharu Oh since 1995, the Daiei Hawks won the Pacific League pennant in 1999, 2000 and 2003 with a potent batting attack led by first baseman Nobuhiko Matsunaka (Triple Crown batting winner in 2004) and catcher Kenji Jojima.

Financial woes suffered by the parent company caused Daiei to sell the team to SoftBank, an Internet company, and in 2005 the club became known as the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks.

Acknowledgment: Dan Latham and Wayne Graczyk