Tokyo Yomiuri Giants

The oldest and most popular team in Japan, the Yomiuri Giants have won more pennants and Japan Series titles than any other team.

While most other teams don’t have the money to negotiate with free agents, the Giants sign some of the best players in Japan.

Although the Giants spend a lot of money, they don’t always spend it wisely. Many of their free agents have cost more than they were worth, and the team has a habit of giving large contracts to foreign players who often don’t fit the team’s needs.

The Giants usually come out on top during the annual amateur draft. Because of the “reverse designation” system, which allows college and industrial league players to designate their preference of a professional team, Yomiuri usually can sign the best amateur players.

In addition to being the wealthiest Japanese team, the Giants also offer more prestige than other ball clubs. Yomiuri is the only team that has all of its games televised nationally. The Giants also receive far more press coverage than other teams, particularly in the Yomiuri Shimbun, Daily Yomiuri and Sports Hochi, three newspapers that are run by the same company that owns the Giants.

But the appeal of the Giants goes beyond the fact that they are always in the public eye. Founded in 1936 as the Tokyo Kyojin, the Giants became Japan’s first professional baseball team. From 1965 to 1973, the Giants won nine straight Japan Series championships at a time when the economy was booming. Even today, the thought of a Giants victory reminds many Japanese fans of better times. In 1988, the Giants moved into Tokyo Dome, Japan’s first indoor park.

The Giants have played in Japan’s capital city since 1936, and moved into the Tokyo Dome in 1988. Covered with a white inflatable canopy reminiscent of the Minneapolis Metrodome, the enormous gas bag earned the nickname “Big Egg.” The seating is comfortable and the sightlines are pretty good, but because of the large crowds at Giants games, some think it a better idea to watch a Giants game on TV.

Some of the best Japanese players of all time have worn Yomiuri’s orange and black uniforms, including home run king Sadaharu Oh.

Today’s Giants are a confused team. With plenty of young talent sitting on the sidelines and bottlenecked on the team’s minor league squad, the Giants have been either unwilling or unable to develop their prospects. Instead of giving the kids a chance, Yomiuri’s management routinely spends big bucks to fill its roster with heavy-hitting free agents whose best days are behind them.

At Yomiuri home games, you’ll likely see the team’s mascot, a half Y & G logo, half rabbit. The odd creature goes by the name “Giabbit” (Pronounced “Jabbit”).

Acknowledgment: Dan Latham