April 30, 2012

England, Non-League Football/6th Level, 2011-12 – Conference South: the 1 promoted club – Woking FC – and the 4 play-off clubs.

Filed under: 2011-12 English Football,Eng-6th level — admin @ 7:29 am

2011-12 Conference South, Top of the Table

Conference South (aka Blue Square South) site,
From, from 28 April 2012, ‘Saturday’s Blue Square Bet South Wrap – Chelmsford missed out on the play-offs with a 3-2 defeat to champions Woking on Saturday, while Maidenhead were relegated despite claiming a three-point haul‘.

Conference South and Conference South play-offs begin Wednesday 2 May, fixtures.
Conference South Play Offs:
Dartford FC v. Basingstoke Town FC.
Welling United FC v. Sutton United FC.

Semi Finals,
First Leg – 2nd May 2012
Sutton United v Welling United. Kick Off 19:45
Basingstoke Town v Dartford. Kick Off 19:45

Second Leg – 6th May 2012
Welling United v Sutton United. Kick Off 15:00
Dartford v Basingstoke Town. Kick Off 1500

Play Off Promotion Final,
Sunday 13th May 2012 at the the highest placed Club.

The map page shows the top 5 finishers in the 2011-12 Conference South – the one automatically promoted club (Woking FC) and the four play off clubs (Dartford FC, Welling United FC, Sutton United FC, and Basingstoke Town FC). Photos of each club’s ground are shown at the far left, next to each club’s profile box. The profile box includes the basic club info plus highest league placement by the club, 2011-12 kits, and 2011-12 home kit badge. At the center of the map page is a location-map of the 5 clubs. At the upper right is attendance data (from home league matches) from the last 2 seasons for the 5 clubs (2011-12 average attendance, 2010-11 average attendance, and numerical change from 11/12 gates versus 10/11 gates).

After 3 seasons in the Conference South, Woking FC won promotion back to the Conference National, on 14 April 2012, with a 1-0 victory at Maidenhead United. 7 days later, in their next home match, in front of a crowd of 4,064 at the Kingfield Stadium, Woking and their supporters celebrated their 2011-12 Blue Square South title (see link to video below).

From, ‘VIDEO: Party time for Woking FC’s title triumph‘.

In the photo below, Woking teammates congratulate forward Giuseppe ‘Gez’ Sole, after scoring (on 21 April 2012). Sole is a 24-year-old former Woking youth academy player, who went on to lead Woking FC in scoring in 2007-08 (as a 19/20-year old) with 14 league goals [in the Conference], and then led Woking in scoring again in 2009-10 [in the Conference South]. Sole had loan spells at Newport County and Dorchester Town, before signing with Conference South side Havant and Waterlooville in 2010. Sole was brought back to Woking in the summer of 2011 by recently-hired manager Garry Hill. Gez Sole started the 2011-12 season out on loan to Basingstoke Town, and after coming back to Woking in January 2012, scored 19 goals in 20 league games, and set a club recored with goals scored in 9 strraight games.
Photo credit above – David Holmes at

Woking FC are from Woking, Surrey, which is 37 km. (23 miles) SW of London, and has a population of around 62,000 {2010 figure}. Woking, nicknamed the Cards (or Cardinals), have a 17-season history in the 5th Level/Conference National (from 1992-93 to 2008-09). Around fifteen years ago Woking had a big push for promotion that fell short – Woking finished in 2nd place for two consecutive seasons (1994-95 and 1995-96), back in the era when there was only one promotion-spot in the Conference (the 2nd promotion-spot, via the 4-team play-offs, was instituted for the Conference in 2002-03). In 1994-95, Woking finished 5 points behind Macclesfield Town. And in 1995-96, Woking finished 8 points behind Stevenage Borough (but Stevenage Borough were denied a promotion to the Football League because they did not meet Football League ground requirements, so nobody went up to the Football League that season).

Woking were relegated from the Conference National following the 2008-09 season, after finishing in 21st place. The next season, their first in the Conference South, Woking saw their gates dwindle from 1.7K to 1.3 K, and finished in 5th, then lost in the play offs final to Bath City in May 2010. Midway through the next season [2010-11], manager Gaham Baker was sacked after claiming the fans were expecting too much of the team. In January, 2011, former Rushden & Diamonds manager Gary Hill stepped in. For 2010-11, the Cards saw their attendance fall again, to 1,167 per game, and again they finished in 5th, and again they lost in the play offs, this time to Farnborough in the 1st round.

Now in Hill’s first full season with the club, he has ably guided Woking to a successful promotion campaign.

Woking’s Kingfield Stadium is unusual in that one of the goal-end stands – the Leslie Gosden Stand – is a modern roofed stand that completely towers over the other stands. So three quarters of the ground look definitely like a Non-League ground, while the Leslie Gosden Stand would not look out of place in League One. Woking draw very decent-sized crowds for a club with no League history. In their last season in the Conference National, in 2008-09, they had the 9th-best attendance in the 5th Level at 1,727 per game. This season, the Cards’ for-real-this-time promotion-run drew back many disaffected fans there in west Surrey, and the club pulled an average of 1,833 per game through the turnstiles. This figure was best in both Conference South and in Conference North by a considerable margin of over 400 per game (the second highest drawing club in the 6th Level in 2011-12 were FC Halifax Town at 1,422 per game).

Photo credits for the map page -
Woking/Kingfield Stadium – Salmonboy at

Dartford/Princes Park –’s Eye satellite view. Awards 2007.

Welling United/Park View Road –’s Eye satellite StephenHarris at

Sutton United/Borough Sports Ground, Gander Green Lane –’s Eye satellite view. Chris Hayes Photography at

Basingstoke Town/The Camrose –

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘2011–12 Football Conference‘.

Thanks to, for Conference South attendances.
Thanks to, for 2010-11 Sutton United attendance (in Isthmian League, here).

Thanks to David Holmes at for the photo from 21 April.
Thanks to Salmonboy at for the nice panorama image of Kingfield Stadium,

April 28, 2012

England, Non-League Football/6th Level, 2011-12 – Conference North: the 1 promoted club – Hyde FC – and the 4 play off clubs.

Filed under: 2011-12 English Football,Eng-6th level — admin @ 12:23 pm

2011-12 Conference North, Top of the Table map

Conference North (aka Blue Square Bet North) site
From, from 28 April 2012, ‘Saturday’s Blue Square Bet North Wrap – Nuneaton Town grabbed the final play-off spot while Hinckley United’s relegation was confirmed after the final round of Blue Square Bet North fixtures‘.

Conference North and Conference South play offs begin 2 May fixtures.
Conference North Play Offs:
2nd place, Guiseley AFC v. 5th place, Nuneaton Town FC.
3rd place, FC Halifax Town v. 4th place, Gainsborough Trinity FC.
First Leg – 2nd May 2012
Gainsborough Trinity v FC Halifax Town
Nuneaton Town v Guiseley

Second Leg – 6th May 2012
FC Halifax Town v Gainsborough Trinity
Guiseley v Nuneaton Town

Conference North Play Off Promotion Final,
Final – Sunday 13th May 2012 at the the highest placed Club.

Conference South (aka Blue Square Bet South) site,
Conference South Play Offs:
2nd place, Dartford FC v. 5th place, Basingstoke Town FC.
3rd place, Welling United FC v. 4th place, Sutton United FC.

Semi Finals,
First Leg – 2nd May 2012
Sutton United v Welling United
Basingstoke Town v Dartford

Second Leg – 6th May 2012
Welling United v Sutton United
Dartford v Basingstoke Town

Conference South Play Off Promotion Final,
Sunday 13th May 2012 at the the highest placed Club.

[ Note: post of 2011-12 Conference South/Top of the Table map incl. champions Woking FC will be posted on Monday 30 April at 12:30 pm GMT/7:30 am ET.]

The map page shows the top 5 finishers in the 2011-12 Conference North – the one automatically promoted club (Hyde FC) and the four play off clubs (Guiseley AFC, FC Halifax Town, Gainsborough Trinity FC, and Nuneaton Town FC). Photos of each club’s ground are shown at the far left, next to each club’s profile box. The profile box includes the basic club info plus highest league placement by the club, 2011-12 kits, and 2011-12 home kit badge. At the center of the map page is a location-map of the 5 clubs. At the upper right is attendance data (from home league matches) from the last 2 seasons for the 5 clubs (2011-12 average attendance, 2010-11 average attendance, and numerical change from 11/12 gates versus 10/11 gates).

Champions and the sole automatic promotion winner are Hyde FC, nicknamed the Tigers, who are from Hyde, which is in the eastern end of Greater Manchester, 11 km. (7 miles) east of Manchester city center. This is the second season (of a current 3-season agreement) in which Hyde FC have had a sponsorship deal with nearby Premier League club Manchester City, and the blue half of Manchester’s financial support of Hyde has done the trick, helping Hyde win their first-ever promotion to the 5th Level and the Conference National, one year after escaping relegation on the last day (of the 2010-11 season). The turn-around is especially striking, as Hyde have now gone from near-liquidation (circa 2009) to promotion in the space of three years.

Manchester City FC now uses Hyde FC’s Ewen Fields ground as the home of their reserves team. There were some raised eyebrows when Man City got Hyde to expunge all the red-half-of-Manchester references. So out went the red-painted stands of Ewen Fields (they are dark blue now), out went the red in the club badge and the kit of Hyde FC (for 2010-11 only, though, as Hyde are back in red now, but the badge still has sky blue, and not red, in it), and out went the name ‘Hyde United’. A big part of why it rankled many is that the club pretended that their sponsorship deal with Manchester City had nothing to do with the elimination of red, or ‘United’, from Hyde’s name and colors {see this article from, by Ian King, from 17 July 2010, specifically the 3rd paragraph, ‘Manchester City Prepare To Turn Hyde Blue‘}.

In the summer of 2011, Hyde appointed Gary Lowe to lead the Tigers for 2011-12. Lowe spent 11 years as manager of western-Greater-Manchester-based Northern Premier League club Curzon Ashton [a 7th Level club].

On Saturday, 21 April, in front of a crowd of 1,036 at Ewen Fields, Hyde FC clinched promotion to the Conference National with a 4-1 win over Boston United. From, by Paul Prole, ‘Champions!‘.

Hyde FC drew 7th-best in Conference North in 2011-12, at 645 per game, up an impressive +298 per game compared to 2010-11. And while that 645 per game is pretty low for a club going up to the 5th Level, with their working agreement with City, Hyde FC should probably be OK for survival in the 2012-13 Conference National.

Below, second-highest scorer in the league, Hyde FC forward Scott Spencer, who netted 32 goals in 33 league games for Hyde this season. The Oldham, Greater Manchester-born Spencer is 23 years old, and an England-C international, and among his travels he scored 4 goals in 17 games for League Two’s Southend United in 2010. Spencer is seen below in action from 8 October 2011, in a 1-1 draw at Ewen Fields versus Nuneaton Town.
Photo credit above – Media Image Ltd. via

Photo and Image credits on map page –
Hyde FC/Ewen Fields,’s Eye satellite view. via
Paul Prole at

Guiseley AFC/Nethermoor Park –’s Eye satellite view. Matthew Wilkinson at [ Matthew Wilkinson's photostream ]

FC Halifax Town/The Shay –

Gainesborough Trinity/The Northolme,

Nuneaton Town/Liberty Way (aka Triton Showers Community Arena) – LeamDavid at
Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘2011–12 Football Conference/Conference North‘.
Thanks to, for Conference North attendances.
Thanks to, for 2010-11 FC Halifax Town attendance (in Northern League, here).
Thanks to Paul Prole for the nice photo of Hyde FC’s Danny Broadbent heading in a goal in their title-clinching win over Boston United (seen at the top of the map page, and here).

April 23, 2012

UEFA Euro 2012, Group A – Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Russia – map of the 8 venues and the 16 teams in UEFA Euro 2012 / plus Group A schedule & venues, and statistics on the 4 nations in Group A & their teams’ all-time competitive records (in FIFA World Cup and in UEFA Euro tournaments).

Filed under: UEFA Euro 2012 — admin @ 12:16 pm

UEFA Euro 2012, Group A – Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Russia: schedule, venues, and national team data

UEFA Euro 2012 (
UEFA Euro 2012 [official website) (

UEFA Euro 2012 Group A matches -

8 June 2012
18:00 UTC+2
Match 1 - Poland v. Greece, National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland.

8 June 2012
20:45 UTC+2
Match 2 - Russia v. Czech Republic, Municipal Stadium, Wrocław, Poland.

12 June 2012
18:00 UTC+2
Match 9 - Greece v. Czech Republic, Municipal Stadium, Wrocław, Poland.

12 June 2012
20:45 UTC+2
Match 10 - Poland v. Russia, National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland.

16 June 2012
20:45 UTC+2
Match 17 - Czech Republic v. Poland, Municipal Stadium, Wrocław, Poland.

16 June 2012
20:45 UTC+2
Match 18 - Greece v. Russia, National Stadium, Warsaw, Poland.

Group A venues (in Warsaw, Poland and in Wrocław, Poland) -

Photos of the host-cities in the illustrations below from [note: there are lots of other photos and info of the eight host cities in the tournament, in the 8 galleries at this link].

Warsaw, Poland -
Capital of Poland.
Founded 12th century.
Warsaw city population 1,716,000; metro area population 2.6 million {2009 figures}.
National Stadium, Warsaw. Opened 2012. Capacity 58,145. 5 matches in UEFA Euro 2012 will be played here: 3 Group A matches, a Quarter-finals match, and a Semi-finals match.
Photo of Warsaw from
Photo of National Stadium (Warsaw) by Vincent A. at, here; and at the following,

Wrocław, Poland -
Founded 10th century (historic capital of Silesia).
Wrocław city population 632,000; metro area population 1.0 million {2009 figures}.
Municipal Stadium (aka Stadion Miejski, Wrocław). Opened 2011. Capacity 42,771. 3 matches in UEFA Euro 2012 will be played here: 3 Group A matches.
Photo of Wrocław from
Photo of Stadion Miejski by Łukasz Czyżykowski at Wroclaw.

Notes on nations’ data…
The GDP numbers and nation-rankings are from the CIA World Factbook, via this page at, ‘List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita‘. Excerpt from that page’s intro…’GDP dollar estimates here are derived from purchasing power parity (PPP) calculations. Such calculations are prepared by various organizations, including the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. As estimates and assumptions have to be made, the results produced by different organizations for the same country tend to differ, sometimes substantially. PPP figures are estimates rather than hard facts, and should be used with caution.’

Population numbers and nation’s-population-rankings are from this list at ‘List of countries by population‘. As paragraph 2 there says, ‘Figures used in this chart are based on the most recent estimate or projection by the national census authority where available and usually rounded off. Where national data is not available, figures are based on the 2012 estimate by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.’


Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘UEFA Euro 2012‘.

Base map of Europe from .

Photos of jerseys from
Photo of Poland jersey from

Kit illustrarions from the national teams’ pages at, list of qualified teams here.

Thanks to for the photo of the Poland home 2012-13 jersey.

Thanks to for the photo of most of the jerseys on the map page.

April 14, 2012

Minor League Baseball: the Carolina League (Class A-Advanced).

Filed under: Baseball,Baseball: MiLB Class A — admin @ 7:08 pm

2012 Carolina League

The Carolina League is an 8-team Class A-Advanced minor league in Organized Baseball, 3 levels below Major League Baseball. In 2011, the Carolina League, as a whole, drew 3,448 per game. That figure was better than the other two Class A-Advanced leagues in Organized Baseball, the California League (which averaged 2,303 per game in 2011), and the Florida State League (which averaged 1,642 per game in 2011). The Carolina League also drew better than one league in Organized Baseball which is higher-placed than it – the Southern League, which averaged 3,242 per game. {List of all minor leagues’ 2011 league-attendance-averages, along with a map of the 122 highest-drawing MiLB teams in 2011, here.}

The Carolina League traces its history back to 1945, when it was established as a Class C minor league with 8 teams, 2 of which were unaffiliated (or Independent). The 8 teams in the 1945 Carolina League were all based in either southern Virginia (2 teams) or North Carolina (6 teams) – the Independent team the Burlington (NC) Bees, the New York Giants’ farm team the Danville (VA) Leafs, the Independent team the Durham (NC) Bulls, the Philadelphia Phillies’ farm team the Greensboro Patriots, the Chicago Cubs’ farm team the Leaksville-Draper-Spray (NC) Triplets, the Philadelphia Athletics’ minor league team the Martinsville (VA) A’s, the Cincinnati Reds’ minor league team the Raleigh (NC) Capitals, and the St. Louis Cardinals’ minor league team the Winston-Salem Cardinals.

These days [2012], there are still 2 teams from southern Virginia in the Carolina League – the Boston Red Sox’ farm team the Salem Red Sox, and the Atlanta Braves’ farm team the Lynchburg Hillcats. But there is no longer a majority of teams from North Carolina in the Carolina League, because the range of the Carolina League has expanded north to include teams from northern Virginia (the Washington Nationals’ farm team the Potomac Nationals, based in Woodbridge, VA), from Maryland (the Baltimore Orioles’ farm team the Frederick Keys) and from Delaware (the Kansas City Royals’ farm team the Wilmington Blue Rocks); and the Carolina League range has spread south to include a team from South Carolina (the Texas Rangers’ farm team the Myrtle Beach Pelicans). Rounding out the rest of the 2012 Carolina League teams are the Winston-Salem Dash (a Chicago White Sox farm team), and the Carolina Mudcats (a Cleveland Indians farm team). These last two teams are from two areas in North Carolina which have had a long connection with the Carolina League.

The top 3 drawing teams in the Carolina League
Winston-Salem, North Carolina has had a team in the Carolina League all throughout the league’s 68-year history [up to 2012]. Here are all the names of the Winston-Salem minor league baseball teams -
Winston-Salem Dash (2009-present)
Winston-Salem Warthogs (1995-2008)
Winston-Salem Spirits (1984-1994)
Winston-Salem Red Sox (1961-1983)
Winston-Salem Red Birds (1957-1960)
Winston-Salem Cardinals (1945-1953)
Winston-Salem Twins ([pre-Carolina League teams: 1905, 1908-1917, 1920-1933, 1937-1942], 1954-1956).
Below – Winston-Salem Dash
Photo credit above – BB&T Ballpark/

The highest drawing team in the Carolina League these days is the oldest team in the league, the Winston-Salem Dash, who drew 4,662 per game in 2011. It must be pointed out that Winston-Salem’s league-leading gate figures are pretty much the result of a brand-new stadium (their BB&T Ballpark opened in 2010), because in 2008, the Winston-Salem team, then called the Warthogs, drew 2,575 per game; and in 2009, when most every baseball fan in town, it seems, was waiting for the new ballpark to open, they only drew 901 per game (and Winston-Salem drew 4,593 per game in the inaugural season in BB& T Ballpark, in 2010).

Below – Wilmington Blue Rocks
Photo credit above – Stadium.
The other two teams in the league that draw over 4,000 per game are the Wilmington Blue Rocks (see above), and the Frederick Keys (see below). Unlike Winston-Salem, both Frederick and Wilmington have been drawing above 4,000 per game since at least 2005 (which is as far back that the attendance data I could find goes,here, at the Biz of site). Wilmington, Delaware, with a city population of around 70,000, is 21 miles south of Philadelphia, PA. Frederick, Maryland, with a city population of around 65,000, is 40 miles NW of Washington DC.
Below – Frederick Keys
Photo credit above –

Below: franchise and league shifts of teams in the Carolina League between the 2011 and the 2012 seasons…
The Greater Raleigh/Durham area has one team currently in the Carolina League – a new team, the second incarnation of the Zebulon, NC-based Carolina Mudcats, who took over the Kinston, NC-based Kinston Indians’ spot in the Carolina League after the 2011 season. [Zebulon, NC is 18 miles east of Raleigh, NC.] The Carolina Mudcats dropped down a level, from being a Double-A level Southern League team (in the Cincinnati Reds’ farm system), to being a team in the Class A-Advanced Carolina League (as a team in the Cleveland Indians’ farm system). This was implemented by the Carolina Mudcats taking the league-place of the Kinston Indians, who are now defunct (the Kinston Indians were the lowest-drawing team in the Carolina League, drawing 1,780 per game in 2011). The franchise that was the Carolina Mudcats (I) of the Southern League (1991 to 2011) moved to Pensacola, Florida to become the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, in 2012. ['Pensacola Blue Wahoos' (]

Bull Durham and its connection to the 1987 Carolina League
At one time there were 2 teams from the Greater Raleigh/Durham area in the Carolina League – the Durham Bulls and the Raleigh Capitals. The Durham Bulls still exist…they moved up a couple levels to Triple-A baseball, and have been in the International League since 1998, where they flourish as the top minor-league affiliate of the talent-loaded Tampa Bay Rays’ organization. The Durham Bulls were a Carolina League team from the league’s establishment in 1945 to 1967, and were re-established from 1980 to 1997, then made the aforementioned jump up to Class AAA. This second incarnation of the Durham Bulls, circa the mid-to-late-1980s, was concurrent with the filming and release of the classic film Bull Durham (1988), which was the brainchild of ex-minor league baseball player Ron Shelton, who wrote the screenplay and directed the movie. Sports Illustrated called Bull Durham the greatest sports movie of all time. {Here is the official site for Bull Durham at}

While Shelton never actually played in the Carolina League {Ron Shelton minor league stats at}, he did have a 5-year career in the Baltimore Orioles organization, playing in the Appalachian League, the Texas League, the California League, and the International League. He retired from baseball during the 1972 player strike. Cut to around 14 years later, and Shelton began writing what would become the screenplay for Bull Durham as he took a meandering road trip through North Carolina. He then went back to Los Angeles and wrote the screenplay for Bull Durham in a 12-week period (I am guessing that this occurred in 1986).

Shelton at this point had 2 filmed screenplays to his credit (including The Best of Times (1986), which starred Kurt Russell and Robin Williams as former high school football players), but Bull Durham was his directorial debut. Many of the scenes in Bull Durham are reconstructions of incidents, anecdotes, and general characteristics of the minor league baseball world which Shelton encountered as a minor league ballplayer. The character of the veteran catcher called “Crash” Davis (played by Kevin Costner) was named after a former MLB and Carolina League player named Lawrence “Crash” Davis {his Wikipedia page, here}. The baseball-groupie/seductress/ “Church of Baseball” proselytizer character played by Susan Sarandon in the film, Annie Savoy, was so-named because minor league ballplayers often called the groupies that hung around the ballparks “Baseball Annies”. But the Annie Savoy character was not a shallow groupie, she was a pretty deep thinker…via the site, here/scroll down a bit for quote that starts with ‘opening narration’ is the great soliloquy Annie has in the film, on why baseball is a better religion than any of the other established religions. Incidentally, the “Nuke” LaLoosh character (a cocky young phenom pitcher), played by Tim Robbins, which is so instrumental to the greatness of the film, was set to be played by Anthony Michael Hall, until Shelton put his foot down and threatened to leave the project unless Robbins got the role.

A scene from Bull Durham, which you can see here
Image credits above – Orion Pictures/MGM via Trelvis68 at [see the video clip, here].

In Bull Durham, the team, the fictional 1987 Durham Bulls, and the real-life Durham Bulls’ ballpark of the time, are two of the primary features of the film. [Durham Athletic Park (1926-present, not in use today/Wikipedia page, here.] The teams in the film wear the actual uniforms of the real-life teams in the 1987 Carolina League (and not just the Durham Bulls uniforms, but also the Peninsula White Sox, the Winston-Salem Spirits, the Salem Bucs, etc. are the real 1987 uniforms of those teams). The only place where Bull Durham lacks versimilitude is that, in the film, teams from another actual minor league, the South Atlantic League of 1987, play against the Durham Bulls, which would never happen in real life (such as, in the scene above, where the Durham Bulls were playing the [now-defunct] Fayetteville Generals, who were a South Atlantic League team from 1987 to 1996). Not that that detracts at all from the film, it’s just that, as a baseball geek, I felt duty-bound to point that out.

Bull Durham filming locations‘ (

Here were the teams in the 1987 Carolina League -
North Division
Team (with Affiliation):
Salem Buccaneers PIT
Hagerstown Suns BAL
Prince William Yankees NYY
Lynchburg Mets NYM

South Division
Team (with Affiliation):
Kinston Indians CLE
Winston-Salem Spirits CHC
Peninsula White Sox CHW
Durham Bulls ATL

Here is where the 1987 Carolina League teams/franchises are today, and what those teams are named today:
In the 1987 Carolina League, there was 1 team from Maryland –
Hagerstown Suns (still an MiLB city as of 2012, having moved over to the Class-A South Atlantic League in 1993).

In the 1987 Carolina League, there were 4 teams from Virginia -
- Lynchburg Mets (still a Carolina League city as of 2012 – today known as the Lynchburg Hillcats).
- Peninsula White Sox (Hampton, VA; no minor league team there today [2012], but the franchise still exists…the Peninsula Pilots moved north to Wilmington, Delaware in 1993, where the Wilmington Blue Rocks still exist as a Carolina League team).
- Prince William Yankees (franchise started as Alexandria (VA) Dukes (1978-80; 1982-83)/ moved to Prince William (VA) (1984-98)/ moved to Woodbridge (VA) today the franchise (from 1999 to present) is known as the Potomac Nationals).
- Salem Buccaneers (still a Carolina League city as of 2012 – today known as the Salem Red Sox).

In the 1987 Carolina League, there were 3 teams from North Carolina -
- Durham Bulls (still exist as a Triple-A team in the International League [since 1998].
- Kinston Indians (went defunct after 2011, franchise moved east to become Carolina Mudcats (II) (est. 2012 as a Carolina League team).
- Winston-Salem Spirits (still a Carolina League city as of 2012 – today known as the Winston-Salem Dash).

Here is a Q&A with Ron Shelton, by Richard Deitsch at, ‘Ron Shelton Q&A‘.

Here is a very comprehensive interview of Ron Shelton, by John Zelazny, at, ‘Ron Shelton: From the Red Wings to BULL DURHAM‘.

Photo and Image credits on the map page -
Frederick Keys/ Harry Grove Stadium,
Lynchburg Hillcats/ Calvin Falwell Field,
Potomac Nationals/ G. Richard Pfitzner Stadium,
Wilmington Blue Rocks/ Daniel S. Frawley Stadium,

Carolina Mudcats/ Five County Stadium, thread, ‘Little Ballparks‘.
Salem Red Sox/ Lewis-Gale Field at Salem Memorial Baseball Stadium, “the basebal travele…” at
Myrtle Beack Pelicans/ BB&T Coastal Field,
Winston-Salem Dash/ BB&T Ballpark,

I used this list, from, ‘2011 Baseball Attendance by Average [350 minor league baseball teams' 2011 average attendances]‘. Thanks very much to the site for the comprehensive attendance data.

Thanks to the contributors to the pages at, ‘Minor league baseball‘; ‘Carolina League‘.

April 2, 2012

Japan: Nippon Professional Baseball, 2012 – location map, with titles list, and 2011 attendance data / Plus an editorial on Japan’s baseball stadium deficiencies / Plus a short article on Japanese-born players in MLB.

Filed under: Japan: Baseball — admin @ 8:16 pm

NPB location map w/ titles list and 2011 NPB attendance data

English language version of official NPB site,

2011 NPB season‘ (
Below, 2011 attendance data. Note: attendance figures that might have been affected by the March 31 2011 earthquake / tsunami (directly or indirectly) include Yomiuri Giants, Saitama Seibu Lions, Chiba Lotte Marines, Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Tokyo Yakult Swallows, and Yokohama Bay Stars. The 2011 baseball season in Japan was delayed by the Tohoku earthquake. Hardest hit were the northern Japan-based Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles – the quake severely damaged the Miyagi Baseball Stadium, and the team did not return to Sendai to play their home games until April 29 2011.
Attendance data from,
Image credits above – circular NPB logos by Captain Walrus at, ‘CAPTAIN WALRUS’S CIRCULAR LOGOS (at’.

2011 Japan Series winners and 2011 NPB champions – the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks. ‘Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks‘ (
From Asahi Shimbun (, from Nov.20,2011, ‘Hawks shut down Dragons in Game 7, win Japan Series‘.
The Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks won the 2011 Japan Series title by beating the Chunichi Dragons in 7 games, shutting out Chunichi 3-0 in Game 7. It was the Hawks’ 5th title, and their third since moving to Fukuoka, Kyushu Island from Osaka in 1989. Fukuoka are the southern-most team in Nippon Professional Baseball (see small map, below).
Photo and image credis above – Hawks’ uniforms illustrations by torsodog at Yuichi Honda hi-fiving teammates, 2011 Japan Series Game/Matsuda play at plate, KYODO via DJ Houlton, Map from ‘Fukuoka‘ at Seiichi Uchikawa, Fukuoka Dome photos,

Nippon Professional Baseball was formed in 1950.
The set-up consisted of 12 teams, with 6 teams in the Central League, and 6 teams in the Pacific League. Like Major League Baseball back then, the teams in one league did not play teams in the other league during the regular season. This 12 team / 2 league format remains to this day. The Japanese mimicry of Major League Baseball’s format continued, when, in 1975, one league – the Pacific League – adopted the Designated Hitter rule (this was 2 years after MLB’s American League instituted the DH rule, but the National League did not). NPB continued to take its cues from Major League Baseball when inter-league play between the Central League and the Pacific League was instituted in 2005 (8 years after inter-league play was introduced in Major League Baseball).

Rules in NPB & league format:
The rules in NPB are the same as in MLB, except with tie games going into extra innings…after 12 innings, the game is declared a tie (a draw) in the standings, except in the post-season, when tied games after 15th innings are abandoned, and then later re-played.

The 2 leagues both play 144-game regular seasons. Unlike in MLB, in Japan, the pennant-winner is crowned before the playoffs begin… the teams with the best regular season records in the two leagues are the Central League Pennant winner and the Pacific League Pennant winner. (In other words, unlike in MLB’s World Series, in Japan, the teams that meet to decide the NPB title in the Japan Series are not necessarily pennant winners.) The top 3 teams in each league make the playoffs. The Pennant-winners (again, the first place team from the regular season), gets a bye to the second round; while the 2nd-place and 3rd-place finishers play in the First Stage (a 3-game-series). Then the First Stage winners play the Pennant winners in the Second Stage (a 5-game-series). Those two playoff-winners then play for the title, in the Japan Series (a 7-game-series).

Distribution of NPB teams throughout Japan:
While it is true that Japanese baseball franchises do sometimes move, that is part of a broader trend of teams simply going to areas that had been historically ignored by Nippon Professional Baseball. Because as recently as 1988, 24 years ago, 9 of the 12 NPB teams used to be located in just two regions – the Greater Tokyo Bay area [the Kanto region], which previously had 6 teams (5 teams are located there now), and the central Japan/Osaka/Kobe area, which previously had 3 teams (2 teams are located there now). Since then, franchises have moved to Kysuhu Island (where the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks [est. 1989] are located), and Hokkaido Island (where the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters [est. 2004] are located. [Note, the Osaka region lost its 3rd team when the Orix BlueWave merged with the Kintetsu Buffaloes, and then when the only-ever players' strike in NPB (in the late summer of 2004) forced the league to reverse their decision to contract to 11 teams in 2005, the new franchise (the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles) was not re-placed in the Osaka region, but instead put in the Sendai region north of Tokyo.] There is one area that has never had an NPB team, and that would probably support one pretty well – the NW Honshu Island (main island) city of Niigata, which is on the west coast on the Sea of Japan. Niigata is home of the perennially-highest-drawing J-League soccer team in Japan – Albirex Niigata, who became the first-ever J-League team to average over 40,000 per game, in 2005.

Foreign player restrictions:
4 foreign players on the 25-man active roster allowed, with no organizational limit.

Minor leagues in Japan:
Each NPB team has 1 minor league team in its organization, and most of the minor league teams use the name and uniforms of their parent-club, and the minor league team also plays in the same area as their parent-club (exception – in location: Hokkaido’s minor league team is still located in the Tokyo Bay area).

Attendance in NPB, and Japan’s glaring lack of fan-friendly asymmetrical ballparks with retro-features and modern amenities
Attendance was down 2.4% overall in NPB in 2011, compared to 2010. And in 2010, attendance was down 1.8% overall in NPB, compared to 2009. However, it must be pointed out that the March 31, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami certainly affected attendances of the teams in NE Honshu Island (main island) – the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles and the 5 Tokyo Bay/Kanto region teams (Yomiuri, Seibu, Yakult, Lotte, and Yokohoma).

Below, Nippon Professional Baseball and Major League Baseball attendance (league averages), 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011…
For over 60 years now, the people who run baseball in Japan have maintained their emulation of Major League Baseball – by aping every aspect of MLB’s format, even the problematic aspects like forcing the pitchers to bat in one league yet maintaining the Designated Hitter rule in the other league. However, the folks that run NPB never got the message that baseball fans absolutely hate impersonal dome stadiums and artificial turf (see 6 paragraphs down). And there is a larger issue that looms – now that Japanese ballplayers can play in Major League Baseball (see further below), that slavish devotion to the format of American baseball has become the NPB’s albatross, because attendance at big league baseball games is plateauing in Japan, and revenue from televised games is a fraction of the value of MLB’s television revenue, and over 75% of Japanese major league baseball teams are big money-losers, year-in, year-out. And the superstar Japanese ballplayers, usually forced to play 9 years before the chance to play in North America – want to play in North America. To be blunt, in the eyes of many Japanese baseball fans, Nippon Professional Baseball fails in comparison to Major League Baseball. Many Japanese baseball fans would rather follow Major League Baseball, and specifically, Japanese-born MLB players like Ichiro Suzuki and Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui, and soon, Yu Darvish, than they would follow Nippon Professional Baseball. Japan’s national television, NHK, broadcasts 270 MLB games a year – live, despite the time difference between North America and Japan, which puts these live North American baseball games on in the early morning in Japan – yet these broadcasts still get very good ratings. Good enough ratings that NHK shows way more American baseball than Japanese baseball…those 270 Major League Baseball games that NHK broadcasts in Japan each year is more than twice the total of Nippon Professional Baseball games broadcast by NHK each season.

Here are the recent words of one of NHK’s baseball commentators, the NPB and MLB veteran, the former Angels and Mariners relief pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa, (from the article linked to below) “Japanese baseball is losing TV audience, and MLB is gaining here. It’s kinda tough to see Japanese TV ratings go down, but there’s nothing we can do about it. It’s not like 20 years ago when Japanese was the only baseball on TV. Serious Japanese fans see Nomo, Ichiro, and me go to the U.S., and they start watching American baseball. They can tell the difference in the games. They want to see the best, just like soccer fans in the U.S. like to watch the best in the world.”
From [Seattle-based website], from March 26, 2012, by Art Thiel, ‘Japanese baseball: An American hottie is still a cultural challenge‘.

And not only do most NPB teams never make a profit, they almost universally lose an estimated average of 50 million dollars per year (and some teams are losing much more than that each year). These losses are written off by the corporations that own NPB teams as advertisement expenses. The exceptions to this situation of money-losing NPB franchises are widely believed to be the two best-drawing teams, the Yomiuri Giants and the Hanshin Tigers, both of whom draw over 40,000 per game regularly.

What makes it even more difficult for NPB teams is that the idea of municipally-funded state-of-the-art stadiums provided for with very generous terms to ball clubs – like in the United States – usually doesn’t exist in Japan. MLB (and NFL) franchises can hold an American city hostage – either the taxpayers there pony up, or the team bolts lock stock and barrel to another municipality which offers a sweetheart deal on a new venue. And crucially, unlike in the USA, in Japan there never has been the current trend for building new, asymmetrical, retro-themed ballparks with modern amenities. In Major League Baseball {2012 MLB attendance map, here}, the impressive recent gate figures of MLB teams in several cities has been significantly boosted by new ballparks that tick all the boxes for fan-friendliness and a genuine ballpark experience. Examples are in Philadelphia, PA (‘Citizens Bank Park‘); in San Francisco, CA (‘AT&T Park‘); in Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (‘Target Field‘); in Milwaukee, WI (‘Miller Park‘); in Greater Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX (‘Rangers Ballpark in Arlington‘); in Detroit, MI (‘Comerica Park‘) and in San Diego. CA (‘Petco Park‘). These are not stadiums walled off from the city, these are ballparks that let the fan sitting in the grandstand see the view of the city’s skyline. These are ballparks that venerate tradition, with asymmetrical layouts similar to ballparks built a century or so ago (circa 1910s to 1930s), which were back then necessarily part of the ballparks being able to fit into the tight urban grids found in northeastern and midwestern United States cities. So the logical outcome of the tight confines of these ballparks is that the fans are very close to the field of play. You see this in the ballparks listed above, as well as in places like Seattle; in Queens, New York; in St. Louis; in Washington DC; and, of course, in the two remaining ballparks that helped inspire the modern retro-themed asymmetrical ballparks – Fenway Park in Boston, and Wrigley Field in Chicago. And in several instances, the value that the ball club places on its connection with the city’s past is shown where old buildings adjacent to the site often become part of the design of the new venue (such as in Baltimore, Detroit, San Diego, and even in minor league ballparks like in Toledo, OH).

Meanwhile, in Japan, only 3 teams in NPB have built new stadiums in the last 25 years that are open air, while 4 fixed-roof dome stadiums have also gone up, 2 as recently as 1997, and one as recently as 2001. In 1997, folks in American cities that were saddled with dreary astro-turf-laden, fixed-dome, multi-purpose sports stadiums were already clamoring for them to be torn down (as in Seattle). But in Japan, in the past 25 years, and even as recently as in the early 21st century, NPB teams have moved into the kind of stadiums that they tear down these days in America – monolithic Death-Star-like domed stadiums with plastic turf and all the charm of a parking garage. Those 4 teams are the Yomiuri Giants, who moved into ‘Tokyo Dome‘ in 1989; the Chunichi Dragons, who moved into the ‘Nagoya Dome‘ in 1997; and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes’ franchise (which later merged with Orix BlueWave to become the Orix Buffaloes in 2005], who moved into the ‘Osaka Dome‘ in 1997; and the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, who moved into the ‘Sapporo Dome‘ in 2004.

Finally, in 2009, an NPB stadium in Japan was built with no dome and no artificial turf. The Mazda Stadium, home of the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, opened in 2009 ‘Mazda Stadium. The other two open air NPB stadiums built in the last 25 years are the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks”Fukuoka Dome‘, opened in in 1993; and the Chiba Lotte Marines’ ‘Chiba Marine Stadium‘, which opened in 1990. The latter 2 of these stadiums belong to a past era in ballpark design that just wouldn’t cut it in Major League Baseball these days…because the Lotte stadium is a bowl-shaped venue with artificial turf and too much foul territory – an impersonal venue similar to the notoriously bleak plastic-turfed concrete purgatory that was Philadelphia’s Veterans Stadium. And Fukuoka’s retractable-dome stadium is too much like the Toronto Blue Jays’ stadium (previously called Skydome and now called Rogers Centre) – modern, but stark and pretty soul-less, and with the inexcusable inclusion of artificial turf in a stadium which has access to sunlight with the flick of a switch.

Below: the best 3 NPB stdiums -
hiroshima-toyo-carp_mazda-zoom-zoom-stadium_.gifPhoto credits above – large photo: image now unavailable on Internet.

There are probably only a few NPB ballparks that would get positive reviews from North American baseball fans today, like the aforementioned Mazda Stadium in Hiroshima, which opened in 2009 (see above).

The other stadium that would be a good tourist destination would definitely be the Hanshin Tigers’ Koshien Stadium which opened in 1924 (see below), and is the oldest NPB ballpark. Check out the gigantic main grandstand there at Koshien, and how close fans are to the field of play – behind home plate, and all the way up the 1st and 3rd base lines. You look at Hanshin’s stadium and it is no wonder the ball club draws best in Japan, despite their lack of success in Japan Series titles, with just 1 Japan Series championship title, (won in 1985). Koshoen Stadium is also the annual site of the national Japanese high school baseball tournament – so it’s sort of like the Mecca of Japanese baseball.
Photo credits above – (Ivy).

Also the Tokyo Yakult Swallows’ Meiji Jingu Stadium, in the Shinjuku ward in Tokyo would get some good reviews from visitors from the States. Like Koshien Stadium, Meiji Jingu Stadium is a venerable old ballpark – it opened in 1926. It is one of the few ballparks still standing in the world where Babe Ruth played in (in 1934, when MLB stars were on a tour of Japan). The Yakult Swallows franchise has played here since 1964. But Meiji Jingu Stadium has artificial turf, and it has way too much foul territory, needlessly separating even front-row-seated fans from the field off play (see photo illustration further down, of 4 examples of NPB stadiums with far too much foul territory).
Photo credits above – Aerial photo, Swallows cap, at

Japan is a country whose climate allows most every surface to be green and growing and verdant – except in 10 of their 12 big-league-ballparks. That’s right – 10 of the 12 major league teams in Japan play their home games in ballparks that feature artificial turf. I am sorry, but in the year 2012, when modern turf-management systems make it feasible to have natural grass almost anywhere outside the Arctic Circle, that is just not acceptable. MLB has 30 teams, and 28 of them (or 93% of them) play on natural grass, and only one team – the Tampa Bay Rays – play in a fixed-roof dome stadium. But in Japan, 83% of their major league ball clubs play on artificial turf, and almost half of them (5 of the 12 teams) play in fixed-roof dome stadiums.

As far as baseball venues go, until the Mazda Stadium opened in Hiroshima in 2009, Nippon Professional Baseball had been stuck in a mind-set that Major League Baseball evolved out of more than 2 decades ago. The design of most NPB stadiums looks like they built them to accommodate a baseball team and a gridiron football team, even though Japan has no big-time American-style football league. Again, here is yet another example of NPB aping MLB, even if the aspect they are mimicking is problematic. Even during the 1990s, after Camden Yards in Baltiimore (which opened in 1992) showed the way forward for what fans want in a ballpark {‘Oriole Park at Camden Yards‘}, Japanese city officials and NPB top brass were stuck in the circa-1960s-to-1980s American municipalities’ mindset, when the thinking was, to save money, you build a stadium that would house both the city’s MLB team and it’s NFL team. This was the now-dreaded multi-purpose, circular concrete stadium that made for a horrible baseball fan experience…those largely-now-since-demolished stadiums were pretty much all horrible. You can see this by the fact that so many NPB stadiums have the vast foul territory necessary to pull of this dual-purpose capability…but there never were any major league gridiron football teams in Japan. Granted, since 1992, J-League football teams [soccer teams] have at times shared stadiums with NPB teams, and one current baseball/soccer stadium share exists, at the Sapporo Dome, with J-League team Consodole Sapporo and NPB team Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. But otherwise, why exactly is there so much space between the fans and the field of play in the typical Japanese major league ballpark?
Here are 4 examples of Nippon Professional Baseball stadiums with far too much foul territory -
Photo credits above – at hfordsa at hibino at DX Broadrer at en.wikipedia.oooeg/Tokyo Dome 2007.

As to unfavorable stadium deals for Japanese baseball teams, here is an example of how onerous NPB stadium lease agreements can be – the most popular and successful Japanese baseball team, the Tokyo-based Yomiuri Giants, pay a quarter of a million dollars rent per home game (72 home games per season) at the mausoleum-like Tokyo Dome.
The following article explores these themes…from Time magazine/World, ‘Baseball in Japan: Not All Cheers
By Robert Whiting/Tokyo (Mar.27,2008).

Ideas for NPB Stadium Improvements -
In Japan, Nippon Professional Baseball may losing the ratings war to Major League Baseball, but the league can do a lot better attracting baseball fans to their stadiums by making them more fan-friendly. Almost half the teams in NPB (5 teams) don’t draw over 20,000 for most games. Here are those 5 teams…
Drawing ~19K per game are Orix Buffaloes, with a fixed-dome stadium, the Nagoya Dome. How about Orix return to the forme home of Orix BlueWave and play some of their games at former NPB ballpark the Kobe Sports Park? Face it, playing in Osaka, in the Osaka Dome, Orix are stuck with a lemon (see below, upper right – notice the dead atmosphere). In 2005, the two teams (Orix and Kintestsu) merged, and, it seems, their two fan bases downsized. I suggest the reason might be that playing their games in a dome stadium on plastic turf has driven away a sizable chunk of both former Kintetsu Buffaloes fans and former Orix BlueWave fans. And I bet a significant amount of those 2 former teams’ fans go instead to the nearby Koshien Stadium, home of the Hanshin Tigers (who, as mentioned before, draw best in NPB at above 40K per game). Sure the Osaka Dome looks impressive from the outside, but since when has the fan experience at a ballpark had anything to do with the exterior of the stadium?
Here is the former stadium Orix BlueWave (at left) in Kobe, and the current stadium of Orix Buffaloes (at right) in Osaka (note: the 2 venues are 18 miles apart) -
Photo credits above –

Below, the 4 lowest-drawing teams in NPB
Drawing ~18K are Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Drawing ~18K are Chiba Lotte Marines.
Drawing ~16K are Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles.
Drawing ~15K are Yokohoma DeNa BayStars.
For all 4 of the above teams…How about getting rid of the plastic turf? – at Yakult, at Yokohoma, at Lotte, at Tohoku (and also at Fukuoka). And also, move the fields 20 to 50 feet in, in all those stadiums with such vast, useless, and detrimental areas of foul territory.

Japanese-born players in Major League Baseball
Up to the 2011 season, a total of 43 Japanese-born players have played at least 1 game in Major League Baseball. The biggest restriction is the 9-year rule, disallowing any NPB player without 9 years’ tenure with a NPB team’s organization, and along with that another impediment is the “Posting’ system (see below, 8 paragraphs down). Before the mid-1990s, there had only been one Japanese-born player in MLB.

The first Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball was San Francisco Giants Pitcher Masanori Murakami in 1964 and 1965. In early 1964, the NPB team the Nankai Hawks sent 3 of its prospects to the USA, to the San Francisco Giants’ organization for experience (in an exchange-prospect capacity), and one of the three, Murakami, had a stellar season in 1964, winning the California League (Class A minor league) player of the year award with the San Jose Giants. The San Francisco Giants brought Murakami up to play in the Major Leagues in September, 1964, and he did so well that, in the off-season, the Giants tried to sign him – and Nippon Professional Baseball refused. Here is an excerpt from the Wikipedia page entitled ‘List of Major League Baseball players from Japan‘,
{excerpt}…”After Murakami put up good pitching statistics as a reliever, Giants executives sought to exercise a clause in their contract with the Hawks that, they claimed, allowed them to buy up an exchange prospect’s contract. NPB officials objected, stating that they had no intention of selling Murakami’s contract to the Giants and telling them that Murakami was merely on loan for the 1964 season. After a two-month stalemate the Giants eventually agreed to send Murakami back to the Hawks after the 1965 season. This affair led to the 1967 United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement, also known as the “Working Agreement”, between MLB and NPB, which was basically a hands-off policy.”…{end of excerpt}.

Photo credits above –
Otto Greule/Allsport via’Japanese Team Welcomes Back Nomo’ [May 1 2010].

For over 30 years this state of affairs existed, until February 1995, when pitcher Hideo Nomo broke that blockade utilizing a loophole in the Working Agreement. Advised by his agent Don Nomura, Nomo declared retirement before he reached the free agency phase of his contract with the NPB team the Kintetsu Buffaloes, thus circumventing the NPB/MLB agreement that barred Japanese players from playing in North America. Nomo then came out of “retirement” and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers – and promptly put up All-Star caliber numbers…13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and a league-leading 236 Strikeouts (78 Walks), winning the 1995 National League Rookie of the Year award (as a 27-year-old). After stints with 5 other MLB teams (Mets, Cubs, Brewers, Tigers, Red Sox), Nomo returned to the Dodgers and won 16 games in both 2002 and 2003. Then, after stints with the Devil Rays and the Royals, Nomo retired in 2008. Nomo’s MLB statistics: 123-109, 4.24 ERA, 1,918 Strikeouts in 1,076.3 Innings.

The 3rd Japanese-born player in MLB was right-handed Pitcher Mac Suzuki. He initially by-passed Japanese pro baseball because, as a 16-year-old, after being kicked out of high school in Kobe, Japan, his parents sent him to straighten out in the United States. He got a position as a bat-boy for the Salinas Peppers of the California League, a Single-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners (owned by a Japanese consortium). In 1992, while still the bat-boy for the Salinas Peppers, the 17-year-old Suzuki made a final-game-of-the-season debut, pitching 1 inning and retiring the side. From 1993 to ’96, Suzuki moved through the Mariners’ farm system and made his Major League debut for Seattle in July, 1996. Suzuki played in Major League Baseball from 1996 to 2002, with the Mariners, the Royals, the Rockies, and the Brewers, with stats of 16-31, 5.72 ERA, 327 Strikeouts (265 Walks) in 465.6 Innings. Mac Suzuki did eventually play pro ball in Japan, for the Kintetsu Buffaloes. He also played in Taiwn in the CPBL and in Mexico in the LMB with the now-defunct Dorados de Chihuahua. Last year [2011], as a 37-year old, Suzuki played for the Independent league team the Kobe Stars.

The fourth Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball was right-handed Pitcher Shigetoshi Hasegawa. A 6-year veteran with the Orix BlueWave from 1991 to ’96, Hasegawa won the 1991 Pacific League Rookie of the Year award, and he was part of the 1996 Japan Series title-winning team there. At Orix, he was a teammate of Ichiro Suzuki (see below). The Anaheim Angels bought his contact from Orix in 1997, and the submarine-style reliever made his MLB debut in April 1997. Hasegawa played with the Angels from 1997-2001, and with the Seattle Mariners from 2002-05. Hasegawa finished his MLB career with these numbers: 45-43, 3.70 ERA, 33 Saves, 447 Strikeouts (265 Walks) in 720.3 Innings. “Shiggy” was a 2003 All-Star selection for Seattle. His Wikipedia page says that he was rumored to be the only MLB player to ever read the Wall Street Journal in the locker room. Fluent in English, he published a book in Japan on improving one’s English-language-skills. Hasegawa these days is based in Irvine, California and dabbles in real estate. He is also a baseball commentator for NHK (which is Japan’s national public broadcasting organization).

The fifth Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball was left-handed relief Pitcher Takashi Kashiwada. As part of the Yomiuri Giants’ organization, Kashiwada pitched 26 innings between 1994-96. His contract was bought by the New York Mets in 1996, and Kashiwada made his MLB debut with the Mets in May 1997. He only played one season in Major League Baseball, going 3-1 with a 4.31 ERA and 14 Strikeouts (13 Walks) in 31.3 Innings. Kashiwada returned to Japan and the Yomiuri Giants the following season, shuttling between the minors and the majors for 7 seasons, and retiring as a player in 2003. Kashiwada was then re-hired by the Yomiuri Giants as an international scout.

The sixth Japanese-born player in Major League Baseball was Pitcher Hideki Irabu, who made his MLB debut with the New York Yankees in July, 1997. This was after Irabu, a 9-year NPB veteran, refused to sign with San Diego Padres after the Padres had purchased his contract from the NPB team the Lotte Orions in early 1997 { see this, ‘Hideki Irabu‘ (en, }. Irabu was a hard throwing right-handed Pitcher who was the child of an American serviceman and an Okinawan woman, born in Okinawa, Japan in 1969. [The Padres/Yankees/Irabu affair was the catalyst for to the current "Posting" systerm that NPB and MLB have devised (see below).] Irabu had a volatile relationship with Yankees’ owner George Steinbrenner, and although he won 2 World Series titles as a NY Yankee (in 1998 and 1999), his legacy was tarnished by the very public put-down Steinbrenner made, calling Irabu a “fat pussy toad” for not covering first base on an infield ground-out play in a 1999 spring training game { see this, ‘The List: Steinbrenner’s worst‘ (by Jeff Merron at }. Irabu went on to play in 6 MLB seasons with the Yankees, Expos, and Rangers, finishing in 2002 with MLB stats of 34-35, 5.15 ERA, 16 Saves, 405 strikeouts (175 walks) in 514.0 Innings. He returned to Japan and NPB with the Hanshin Tigers in 2003 and ’04, helping Hanshin win the 2003 Pacific League pennant. Irabu’s NPB stats (from 1988-96; and 2003-04) were 273-159, 4.93 ERA, 1,282 Strikeouts (405 Walks), in 1,286.3 Innings. Irabu later played Independent pro ball back in the USA (with the Long Beach Armada in 2009), then back again in Japan (later in 2009, with the Kochi Fighting Dogs). Irabu was found dead in his apartment in Los Angeles, CA in 2011, a suicide victim.

Below, some of the Japanese-born NPB veterans who have found success across the ocean in Major League Baseball -

The first Japanese-born everyday position player in the major leagues, was Ichiro Suzuki, with the Seattle Mariners in 2001.
Below: Ichiro Suzuki, OF. [aka 'Ichiro'].
Ichiro was a 7-time NPB All-Star with the Orix BlueWave. He was a 7-time NPB Batting champion, and led in RBI and Stolen Bases in 1995. In 1996, he was part of the 1996 Japan Series title-winning Orix BlueWave team. In a 9-year NPB career with Orix, he hit an astounding .353. He signed with MLB’s Seattle Mariners in Nov. 2000. His best season in Seattle was in 2004, at .372 / 8 HR / 60 RBI / 36 SB. Also in 2004, he set the All-time MLB recored for Hits in a season, with 262. He was voted 2001 AL MVP and 2001 AL Rookie of the Year. A 10-time AL All-Star selection. A 2-time AL Batting champion, Ichiro has also led the AL in Hits 7 seasons (last in 2010). AL record for the most consecutive Stolen Bases without being caught – 42 consecutive Stolen Bases without a Caught Stealing (from Apr. 2006-May 2007).
MLB stats, 2001-11: 11 years, 95 HR / 605 RBI / .326 BAvg. / .370 OBPct. / 423 SB.
Current age [2012], 38 years old.
Photo credit above – (Ichiro Suzuki), OlympianX Andrew Klein at

Below, center (in red cap): Hideki Matsui, OF/DH. [ aka 'Godzilla' ]. Matsui was a 9-time NPB All-Star slugger with the Yomiuri Giants. He hit 332 HR and batted .304 in 10 years in NPB. He signed with MLB’s New York Yankees in Dec. 2002. His best season in NY was in 2005, at .305 / 23 HR / 115 RBI. He was voted 2009 World Series MVP. After that, he signed with the Los Angeles Angels as a free agent. Below, in April 2010, Matsui is seen being warmly greeted by his former Yankee teammates, when he was given his 2009 New York Yankees’ World Series ring. Matsui played for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010, then signed with the Oakland Athletics, and played for the A’s in 2010.
As of 2 April, 2012, Matsui is a free agent (at the age of 37). ‘Hideki Matsui still wants to play‘ ( C. Trent Rosecrans [March 29,2012]).
NPB stats, 1993-2002 (10 years): 332 HR / 809 RBI / .304 BAvg.
MLB stats, 2003-11: 9 years, 173 HR / 753 RBI / .285 BAvg. / .363 OBPct.
Photo credis above – (Hideki Matsui w/ former Yankee teammates), photo by Chris Ptacek at

Below: Daisuke Matsuzaka, P (RHP/Starter). [aka 'Dice-K'].
Matsuzaka was the 1999 NPB Pacific League Rookie of the Year, and 6-time NPB All-Star. A 2-time NPB ERA champion, a 3-time NPB Win champion, and a 4-time NPB Strikeout champion, Matsuzaka led the Seibu Lions to the 2004 Japan Series title. He signed with MLB’s Boston Red Sox in Dec. 2006. He was part of the Red Sox’ 2007 World Series title-winning team, getting the win in the 3rd game of the Sox’ 4-game World Series sweep of the Colorado Rockies (going 5 scoreless innings). Matsuzaka’s best year so far for Boston was the following season, 2008, when he went 16-3 / 2.90 ERA / 154 K (94 BB) in 167.6 Innings.
NPB stats, 1999-2006: 8 years, 108-60 / 2.95 ERA.
MLB stats, 2007-11: 9 years, 49-30 / 4.25 ERA. Current age [2012], 31 years old.
Photo credit above –

Current [2012] Japanese-born players in Major League Baseball -
List of Major League Baseball players from Japan/Active players‘ (
The biggest restriction is the 9-year rule, disallowing any NPB player without 9 years’ tenure with a NPB team’s organization. 2007 brought the Posting rule, when blind bids are made by MLB teams for eligible NPB players. This was implemented to give NPB teams compensation for losing star players to MLB. It is severely criticized because it forces the player to negotiate a contract with just one MLB team. The posting rule is onerous – all that work (9 years) to get to the position where a Japanese-born player is finally able to qualify for playing in Major League Baseball – only to have his bargaining rights stripped, and his options limited to negotiating a contract with just one MLB team. In other words, the Posting system gives a 9-year pro baseball veteran the labor rights equivalent to a just-drafted high school player.
Currently [April 2012], there are 9 Japanese-born players with MLB experience on rosters, and 1 free agent (Hideki Matsui)…
2001, from Orix Blue Wave – Ichiro Suzuki, OF (Seattle Mariners, 2001-present).
2003, from Yomiuri Giants – Hideki Matsui , OF/DH (NY Yankees/Los Angeles Angels/Oakland A’s/unsigned free agent).
2006, from Yokohoma BayStars – Takashi Saito, P (LA Dodgers/Boston Red Sox/Atlanta Braves/Milw. Brewers/Arizona D-backs).
2007, from Seibu Lions – Daisuke Matsuzaka., P (Boston Red Sox, 2007-present).
2008, from Hiroshima Toyo Carp – Hiroki Kuroda, P (LA Dodgers/NY Yankees).
2009, from Yomiuri Giants – Koji Uehara, P (Baltimore Orioles/Texas Rangers).
2009, as an amateur, previously of Nippon Oil (amateur company team un-affiliated w/ NPB) – Junichi Tazawa, P (Boston Red Sox).
2010, from Yomiuri Giants – Hisanori Takahashi, P (NY Mets/Los Angeles Angels).
2011, from Chiba Lotte Marines – Tsuyoshi Nishioka, INF (Minnesota Twins).
2011, from Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters – Yoshinori Tateyama, P (Texas Rangers).
Below, the biggest off-season tranfer via the Posting rule…
2012, from Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters – Yu Darvish, P (Texas Rangers).

Brief descriptions of the 12 NPB teams, including – year of establishment, franchise history, ownership profile, stadium (with capacity and location listed) and titles:

Overview of NPB teams…this site, Bob Bavasi’s, does it much better than I could… ‘Teams/Leagues [Nippon Professional Baseball]‘.

Yomiuri Giants
Est. 1934 / Charter member of NPB, 1950.
The Great Japan Baseball Club (1934-35, as an independent touring team) / Tokyo Kyojin (1936-46) / Yomiuri Giants (1947-present).
Owner: Yomiuri Group (which owns Japan’s [and the world's] largest newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun, which has a circulation of 14 million daily).
Tokyo Dome, capacity 55,000. Bunkyo ward, Tokyo, Tokyo Prefacture.
33 Central League Pennants (2009).
23 Japan Series titles (2009).

Saitama Seibu Lions
Est. 1950 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Nishetetsu Clippers).
Nishetetsu Clippers (1950) / Nishetetsu Lions (1951-1972) / Taiheiyo Club Lions (1973–76) / Crown Lighter Lions (1977–78) / Seibu Lions (1979–2007) / Saitama Seibu Lions (2008–present).
Owner: Seibu Railway (a conglomerate centered in NW Tokyo and Saitama Prefecture, involved in railways, tourism, and real estate).
Seibu Dome, capacity 35,655. Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefacture [in Greater Tokyo].
21 Pacific League Pennants (2008).
13 Japan Series titles (2008).

Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks
Est. 1938 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Nankai Hawks).
Nankai Hawks (1938–44) / Kinki Nippon (1944–45) / Kinki Great Ring (1946–47) / Nankai Hawks (1947–1988) / Fukuoka Daiei Hawks (1989–2004) / Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (2005–present).
>In 1989 moved from Osaka, south, to Fukuoka, Kyushu Island.
Owner: SoftBank Corp. (a telecommunications conglomerate).
Fukuoka Dome, capacity 35,695. Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefacture, Kyushu Island.
5 Pacific League Pennants (2011).
5 Japan series titles (2011).

Tokyo Yakult Swallows
Est. 1950 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Koketetsu Swallows).
Kokutetsu Swallows (1950–1965) / Sankei Swallows (1965) / Sankei Atoms (1966–68) / Atoms (1969) / Yakult Atoms (1970–73) / Yakult Swallows (1974–2005) / Tokyo Yakult Swallows 2006-present).
Owner: Yakult Honshu Co. Ltd. (the manufacturer of the yogurt-like drink called yakult; also involved in medicine & health-care).
Meiji Jingu Stadium, capacity 37,933. Shijuku ward, Tokyo, Tokyo Prefacture.
6 Central League Pennants (2001).
5 Japan Series titles (2001).

Chiba Lotte Marines
Est. 1950 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Mainichi Orions).
Mainichi Orions (1950–57) / Mainichi Daimai Orions (1958–63) / Tokyo Orions (1964–68) / Lotte Orions (1969–91) / Chiba Lotte Marines (1992–present).
Owner: Lotte Co. Ltd. [of South Korea] (a conglomerate involved in food production and retail sales, construction, chemicals, finance, theme parks, and IT).
Chiba Marine Stadium, capacity 30,000. Chiba City, Chiba Prefacture [Tokyo Bay area].
5 Pacific League Pennants (2005).
4 Japan Series titles (2010).

Orix Buffaloes
[Club formed in 2005 as a merger between Orix Blue Wave and Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes]. Est. 1936 (as Hankyu Braces [Orix Blue Wave, from 1991-2004]) & est. 1950 (Kintetsu Pearls [Kintestsu Buffaloes, from 1959-2004]) / Charter members of NPB, 1950 / in 2005, re-formed as merger between Orix Blue Wave and Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes.
Owner: Orix Corp. (involved in financial services, real estate, and venture capital).
Dual venues…Kyocera Dome, c. 36,477 / Kobe Sports Park, c. 35,000. Osaka, Osaka Prefecture / Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture.
[Hankyu/Orix Blue Wave: 12 Pacific League Pennants (last in 1996).]
[Kintestsu Buffaloes: 1950-2004, 4 Pacific League Pennants (2001).]
[Orix Blue Wave: 4 Japan Series titles (1996)].

Hiroshima Toyo Carp
Est. 1950 / Charter member of NPB, 1950.
Hiroshima Carp (1950–1967) / Hiroshima Toyo Carp (1968–present).
Owner: The Matsuda family of Hiroshima owns around 60%, and Mazda Motor Corp owns around 34% (the Matsuda family were the founders of Mazda).
Mazda Zoom-Zoom Stadium, capacity 32,000.
Hiroshima, Hiroshima Prefacture.
6 Central League Pennants (1991).
3 Japan Series titles (1984).

Chunichi Dragons
Est. 1936 / Charter member of NPB, 1950.
Nagoya (1936–43) / Sangyo (1944) / Chubu Nippon (1946) / Chubu Nippon Dragons (1947) / Chunichi Dragons (1947–50) / Nagoya Dragons (1951–1953) / Chunichi Dragons (1954–present)
Owner: Chunichi Shimbun, (an Aichi Prefecture newspaper [in central Japan], with a circulation of 2.6 millon daily).
Nagoya Dome, capacity 40,500. Nagoya, Aichi Prefacture.
8 Central League Pennants (2011).
2 Japan Series titles (1988).

Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters
Est. 1946 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Tokyu Flyers).
Senators (1946) / Tokyu Flyers (1947) / Kyuei Flyers (1948) / Tokyu Flyers (1949–53) / Toei Flyers (1954–1972) / Nittaku Home Flyers (1973) / Nippon-Ham Fighters (1974–2003) / Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters (2004–present).
>In 1974, moved from Tokyo, north, to Sapporo, Hokkaido Island.
Owner: Nippon Meat Packers, Inc. (a conglomerate involved in meat packing and food processing; they also own Cerezo Osaka [a J-League soccer team]).
Dual venues: Sapporo Dome, capacity 40,476. Sapporo, Hokkaido Prefecture [Hokkaido Island]; [for a few games each season...] Tokyo Dome, capacity 55,000. Bunkyo ward, Tokyo, Tokyo Prefacture.
5 Pacific League Pennants (2009).
2 Japan Series titles (2007).

Yokohoma DeNA BayStars
Est. 1936 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Taiyō Whales, on the southern tip of Honshu [main] Island in Shimonosheki, Yamaguchi Pref.)
Taiyo Whales (1950–52) / Taiyō-Shochiku Robins (1953) / Yō-Shō Robins (1954) / Taiyō Whales (1955–1977) / Yokohama Taiyō Whales / (1978–1992) / Yokohama BayStars (1993–2011) / Yokohama DeNA BayStars (2012–present).
>In 1978, moved north to Yokohoma, as Yokohoma Taiyo Whales.
Owner: DeNA Co. Ltd. (a firm involved in mobile portals and gaming platforms; and e-commerce).
Yokohoma Stadium, capacity 30,000. Yokohoma, Kanagawa Prefacture [Tokyo Bay area].
2 Central League Pennants (1998).
2 Japan Series titles (1998).

Hanshin Tigers
Est. 1936 / Charter member of NPB, 1950 (as Osaka Tigers).
Osaka Tigers (1935–40) / Hanshin (1940–44) / Osaka Tigers (1946–1960) / Hanshin Tigers (1961–present).
Owner: Hanshin Electric Railway Co.. (a private railway, whose lines link Kobe and Osaka).
Koshien Stadium, capacity 47,808. Nishinomiya, Hyogo Prefacture [Greater Osaka area].
5 Central League Pennants (2005).
1 Japan Series title (1985).

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles
Est. 2005 / expansion team.
Owner: Rakuten, Inc. (an e-commerce firm).
Temporary stadium [for 2012 season]: Kobe Sports Park, Kobe, Greater Osaka.
Regular stadium: Miyagi Baseball Stadium [damaged in the 2011 earthquake], capacity 23,000.Sendai, Miyagi Prefacture.
0 Pacific League Pennants.
0 Japan Series titles.

Thanks to the contibutors to the pages at, ‘Nippon Professional Baseball‘.

Thanks to Captain Walrus for the circular NPB logos, ‘CAPTAIN WALRUS’S CIRCULAR LOGOS (at’.
Thanks to this thread at, ‘(Kokutetsu Swallows/Sankei Atoms/Yakult Atoms/Yakult Swallows)‘, for the Yakult Swallows’ mascot logo.
Thanks to Yokohoma DeNa BayStars site for new logo and photo of new home cap logo,

Thanks to, for for directing me to the above link (BayStars new logo/cap).
Thanks to, for 2011 final standings table.

Thanks to Biz of Baseball for 2008 MLB league attendance average,
Thanks to Patrick Newman at, for 2008 NPB league attendance average,
Thanks to, for attendance data, NPB Central League 2011 attendance data; Pacific League 2011 attendance data.
Thanks to, for directing me to the above link (NPB attendance).
Thanks to, for stats.

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