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Also known as the team Tom Selleck played for in the film Mr.
Baseball, the Chunichi Dragons at first glance resemble the Los Angeles
Dodgers since both clubs wear similar uniforms.
When the Dragons moved to Nagoya Dome in 1997, they
celebrated the occasion by falling to last place. But two years later, after making several roster changes, the
Dragons clinched their first Central League pennant in over a decade.
While the old Dragons usually won games because their hitters had just enough
power to clear the short outdoor Nagoya Stadium fences, that strategy didn't
work indoors because the Nagoya Dome's outfield dimensions matches those of any
major league park. So Chunichi traded away their sluggers and concentrated on
building a team that had solid pitching, good base-running and a line-up filled
with contact hitters. The Dragons
score just enough runs to keep their starting pitchers in the game.
Hot-headed manager Senichi Hoshino, who helped create an ugly
international incident by shoving first baseman Yasuaki Taiho into American
umpire Mike DiMuro, who had been invited to umpire in Japan by the Central
League . Hoshino also forbade his
pitchers to apologetically tip their hats after drilling a batter.
The seating at Nagoya Dome is comfortable and there's a wide selection of
food and drinks. The sightlines are
not the best in Japan, but neither the high walls around the perimeter of the
field nor the higher ticket prices have stopped fans from coming.
With or without the
roof, Nagoya fans have always loved the Dragons. Founded in 1936, the Dragons
played miserably during the war years but matured into a perennial contender
after joining the Central League in 1950. In
the last 48 years, Chunichi has compiled 32 winning seasons four pennants and
one Japan Series championship.
Acknowledgment: Dan Latham