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Japanese Baseball Dynasties

by Jim Albright

What teams established dynasties in Japanese baseball? Who were their star players? We will try to answer those questions in this article.


The first order of business is to identify the dynasties. For those of you familiar with my methods, you will find my method exceptionally simple by my standards. Thatís because it is simple. A team gets points based on its ability to get to the playoffs, winning its league, or winning the Japan series. If they get points in the next season, the total from the first season is added to the second. If they get no points in the next season, the dynasty is over, and the total is reset to zero.

The point system is as follows: 1 point for winning a split season or playing for the league championship but not getting to the Japan Series (this includes the 37 and 38 spring and fall campaigns), 2 points for winning the league but not the Japan Series (this includes the 39-49 seasons, when the Japan Series didnít exist), and 3 points for winning the Japan Series. I intentionally am excluding any team which does not earn the right to play for the league championship under any playoff system similar to that used by the Pacific League in 2004.

A team which manages nine or more points (the equivalent of winning three consecutive Japan Series) is considered a dynasty. Under this definition of a dynasty, I identified eight in Japanese baseball history. They are:

Year/Team Nickname     Points    Notes
1965-73 Giants 27
1971-79 Braves 18 Later the franchise nickname was the Blue Wave
1990-94 Lions 13
1938 fall-1943 Kyojin 11 Later the franchise nickname was the Giants
1955-59 Giants 11
1985-88 Lions 11
1951-53 Giants   9
1956-58 Lions   9

Weíll identify the managers of these teams, as well as those players who were:
a)Hall of Famers in key years of their careers; OR
b) Meet one or more of the following criteria in two or more years
      1) won a Best Nine award OR
      2) won a Sawamura Award OR
      3) scored at least 5 points in the triple crown categories (HR, avg, RBI for hitters, Wins, Strikeouts, and ERA for pitchers) on the following basis:
      four for leading the league, three for being second in the league, two for being third one for being fourth and nothing for everyone else.
      4) had 20 or more Estimated Win Shares (see here).

Giants 1965-1973

This is the fabled "V-9" team, which won nine consecutive Japan Series. As such, it is a no-brainer for the number one spot among Japanese baseball dynasties. Their manager for the entire nine years was Tetsuharu Kawakami, and he had two of Japanís very best players of all-time for the entire nine years in Sadaharu Oh and Shigeo Nagashima (first and third base respectively). They were supported with a lot of other talent, as one might expect. Their fellow star players include Masaaki Mori at catcher, Shozo Doi at second, Shigeru Takada and Isao Shibata in the outfield, and pitchers Tsuneo Horiuchi,   Kunio Jonouchi and Kazumi Takahashi.

Braves 1971-1979

This team needed to win a few split seasons to get to 18 points, but when the regular season was over, they still had a chance to win it all in all nine years. They had three managers during this run. I find this extraordinary in that 1) despite their success, they changed managers twice, and 2) they kept winning even with the change in leadership. The managers were Yukio Nishimoto, 1971-73; Toshiharu Ueda. 1974-78; and Takao Kajimoto, 1979. The stars of those teams included pitcher Hisashi Yamada, first baseman Hideji Kato, second baseman Bobby Marcano, third baseman Kinji Shimatani shortstop Yutaka Ohashi, outfielder Yutaka Fukumoto, and outfielder-dh Tokuji Nagaike.

Lions 1990-1994

This team would rate even higher among the dynasties had the Lions turned a single loss in 1989 into a win and made the playoffs. They finished third that year, but only one-half game out of first. Iíd love to have the full story on that pennant race, which sounds a lot like one of the fabled 1908 races in the majors. If the Lions had pulled that off, they would have made the playoffs every year from 1985 to 1994 and would deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as the V-9 Giants. As it stands, this is still quite an impressive run. Their manager was Masaaki Mori, and his star players included DH Orestes Destrade, catcher Tsutomu Ito, first baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara, second baseman Hatsuhiko Tsuji, third baseman Hiromichi Ishige, outfielder Koji Akiyama, and pitcher Kimiyasu Kudo.

Kyojin fall 1938-1943

This squad received the maximum it could achieve of 11 points because of the way the point system is structured. I think that breaks the tie and makes them the fourth greatest dynasty in Japanese baseball history. The fact there was only one Best Nine award during this stretch was a key reason for having quite so many criteria for determining the stars (the other was thereís only one Best Nine for pitchers, but everybody has more starting pitchers than that). The managers of this dynasty were Sadayoshi Fujimoto (1938-42) and Haruyasu Nakajima (1943). Their stars were pitchers Victor Starffin and Teruzo Nakao, catcher Masaki Yoshihara, first baseman Tetsuharu Kawakami, second baseman Shigeru Chiba, shortstop Toshio Shiraishi, and outfielders Haruyasu Nakajima and Shosei Go.

Giants 1955-1959

This group was managed by Shigeru Mizuhara and its stars were pitchers Motoshi Fujita and Akira Bessho, catcher Shigeru Fujio, first baseman Tetsuharu Kawakami, third baseman Shigeo Nagashima, and outfielders Wally Yonamine and Toshio Miyamoto.

Lions 1985-1988

This team had two managers during these years, Tatsuro Hirooka in 1985 and Masaaki Mori in the rest of the period. The stars of the team were Tsutomu Ito, first baseman Kazuhiro Kiyohara, shortstop-third baseman Hiromichi Ishige, outfielder Koji Akiyama, and pitchers Kimiyasu Kudo and Hisanobu Watanabe.

Giants 1951-1953

This team finished second in 1954 to miss out on a nine year run of its own. However, they were 5 Ĺ games behind the champion Dragons. They won three consecutive Japan series championships for manager Shigeru Mizuhara. The stars of this era were pitchers Akira Bessho and Hideo Fujimoto, first baseman Tetsuharu Kawakami, second baseman Shigeru Chiba, shortstop Masaaki Hirai, and outfielder Noburu Aota.

Lions 1956-1958

This is another three time Japan series champion. They were managed by Osamu Mihara. Their stars were pitcher Kazuhisa Inao and the left side of their infield, third baseman Futoshi Nakanishi and shortstop Yasumitsu Toyoda.




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