If you don’t already know, the Chuunichi Dragons won the Nippon Series this year! I listened to most of the games on NHK Radio (I don’t have TV right now, but I don’t really need it). Honestly, I hadn’t been following baseball so much this year, but enough to know what was going on in the playoffs.
This year, there was the first ever playoffs in the Central League (The Pacific League had been doing it for a few years). Those are called the Climax Series. The first series is a best of three between the 2nd and 3rd place finishers. (In this case it was Chuunichi in 2nd place and the Hanshin Tigers in 3rd place.) The Dragons swept the first two games against the guys from Osaka. The next round is a best of 5 of the winner of that series and the winner of the league. This year the Dragons finished 1.5 games back of the Yomiuri Giants - they’re basically the Yankees of Japan, with the biggest payroll and the biggest popularity, etc. So obviously I have a great deal of disdain for that team. The Dragons also swept the Giants in 3 games, which was awesome, of course. In the Pacific League, the Nippon Ham Fighters, out of Sapporo, won the division again, just like last year. The Chiba Lotte Marines (who won the Series in 2005, and are probably best known in America for having Bobby Valentine as their manager), beat the Softbank (whose phone I have, and used to have Tadahito Iguchi play for them when they were sponsored by Daiei) Hawks out of Fukuoka, and then lost to the Fighters in the League finals. So that brought up a rematch of last years Series.
In the Series, the Dragons lost the first game, and it looked a little scary. But then they came back and won four straight to take it all! It’s the first title for the Dragons in 53 years, so it’s quite significant. The greatest thing about it is this, though, is that in the final game, the starting pitcher for the Dragons, Daisuke Yamai, had a perfect game through 8 innings, but they took him out for the closer Hitoki Iwase for the 9th, and they had a combined perfect game. Man, I wish I could have seen it, but I had some work-related stuff going on. No biggie though, it’s still exciting for me.
So that evening, I happened to be in Sakae, the center of Nagoya, to observe how a Japanese city reacts to a championship. I’ve been in the middle of a lot of big sports celebrations in my life - most notably Michigan’s NCAA Basketball Championship in 1989 and the Red Wings Stanley Cup of 1996. This celebration seemed a little more, well, subdued. Nagoya’s a big city, like 2 million people, but they still have to leave at 12:00 to catch the last train. So there wasn’t the big throng of screaming fans until the late hours. But, the parade isn’t until the 17th, so we’ll see what happens. There was a significant crowd at Central Park Fountain, and lots of singing and spilled beer and stuff, and so I can’t say I wasn’t impressed. Also, I did take a video with my phone of all that, and the costume they stuck on the fountain’s statue, but due to technical difficulties with my phone’s video format, I can’t show it to you at the moment.
Anyway, this brings to 8 the number of teams that I root for that have won the whole thing in my lifetime. Let’s take a look, shall we?
- Detroit Tigers MLB ‘84
- Detroit Pistons NBA ‘89, ‘90, ‘04
- Detroit Red Wings NHL ‘97, ‘98, ‘02
- U of M Basketball ‘89
- U of M Hockey ‘96, ‘98
- U of M Football ‘97
- Denver Broncos NFL ‘97, ‘98
- Chuunichi Dragons ‘07
And I’ve been a big White Sox fan for a long time, but I’m not even going to put their recent title in that list. I don’t mean to brag or anything, it’s just kind of cool. But you know what else - it’s also caused me to not take sports so seriously so much anymore. Except of course for writing these long detailed posts about Japanese baseball. Anyway, I think I’m rambling.