Continuing our exploration of the best looking baseball teams not in Major League Baseball, we focus on Japan’s NPB. Joining the NC Dinos in our Asian/Pacific Division are the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
Team: Tokyo Yakult Swallows (東京ヤクルトスワローズ) Hometown: Shinjuku, Tokyo, Japan League: Nippon Professional Baseball / Central League Years: 1950 – present Stadium: Meiji Jingu Stadium Central League Championships: 7 (most recent: 2015) Japan Series Champions: 5 (most recent: 2001)
The Swallows, who are among the founding members of the Nippon Professional Baseball league, and are the south side rivals of Japan’s flagship franchise the Yomiuri Giants. Tokyo has been dominated by the Giants, who have won 38 pennants and 22 Japan Series championships since 1950.
The first decade of the NPB was brutal on the Swallows. They didn’t finish above .500 until a 3rd place finish in 1961. It would be17 more years until the team won their first CL flag & Japan Series title. This win, along with their next 4 titles in 1993, ’95, ’97 & 2001 would all come under the Yakult Swallows brand. In ’06 they would update to officially claim the city as the Tokyo Yakult Swallows.
The majority of American baseball fans’ knowledge of the NPB is limited to Sadaharu Oh and the Giants, the Chunichi Dragons (from Mister Baseball), and maybe the Orix Buffaloes or Nippon-Ham Fighters (the teams that posted Ichiro & Yu Darvish. But the Swallows brought Curacao’s Wladimir Balentien to Japan after he was released by the Cincinnati Reds. With the Swallows, Balentien set the league’s single season home run record with 60 tanks in a 143 game season. Philly’s favorite hitting coach Charlie Manuel played for the Swallows for six seasons, including the team’s first championship year of 1978.
The Swallows are unique in that their home and road uniforms are dramatically different. The home whites with red pinstripes. A very traditional baseball look. But the roads are pair the blue with the brightest green possible.
The Swallows play in Meiji Jingu Stadium, which opened in 1926, which makes it the second oldest park in Japan, and is younger than only Fenway Park & Wrigley Field in Major League Baseball.
Our Not the MLB league now has two members in it’s Asia/Pacific Division. If you want to see who else is in our league full of the coolest uniforms, you can follow the Not the MLB category here. Wes & Christian have a great blogspot that follows Japanese baseball called Graveyard Baseball.