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The Hanshin Railway Company owns and operates the
Hanshin Tigers. Representing Osaka in that city's rivalry with Tokyo, the
Tigers have been the Kansai region's counterpoint to Tokyo's Yomiuri Giants
since both teams started playing in 1936.
But as with politics, economics and culture,
Tokyo usually prevails at the ballpark. While Hanshin has compiled the
Central League's second-best franchise record, they are a distant second from
the Giants in numbers of pennants and Japan Series championships won.
Waiting impatiently for nearly five decades, when
Hanshin finally won their first Japan Series, Osaka residents went
berserk. Some Tigers fans shaved the team's logo on their scalps or dived
into polluted canals while others were accused of hijacking a train.
In less successful times, Hanshin fans have been
known to confront and assault opposing players outside the ballpark while
hurling batteries and pachinko balls inside.
Seating 55,000 fans, Koshien Stadium is also the
site of the summer high school baseball tournament every August. Built in
1924, the aging concrete and steel ballpark features natural grass, an all-dirt
infield and visible bullpens. Though a must-see for its history as much as
its ivy-covered exterior, Koshien's large foul territory, high chain-link fences
and scores of posts hamper visibility.
Still, no other Japanese park may offer as much
old-fashioned baseball atmosphere. And no matter how destined for
disappointment, few Japanese fans show as much enthusiasm as those wearing
yellow and black happi coats at Koshien Stadium.
Acknowledgment: Dan Latham