Chunichi Dragons

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

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