“Architecture beautiful. Society on cutting edge of progress.” — Mr. Baseball
Today we take a look at Japanese baseball uniforms. I’ve always had a fleeting fascination with them, ranging from my first memories of Sadaharu Oh in the 1970′s, to movies like “Mr. Baseball,” and to a good buddy who spent four years in Japan and who reported back to me on the
crazy shit things he’d seen there. The 2006 and 2009 WBC, and of course the Olympics, also provided a glimpse into the Japanese (team) uniforms. But I’ve always known some of the uniforms to be classic, staid, beautiful, while others are … well, let’s just say not as “traditional” as American uniforms tend to be.
The professional baseball association in Japan is called Nippon Professional Baseball. Like the United States, Japan has two leagues, divided into the “Central” and “Pacific”. Each league consists of six teams. The Pacific League uses the designated hitter style of play. Similar to MLB, the Japanese baseball season is eight months long with games beginning in April (today, in fact), and a Championship held in October. However, teams play only 144 games, as compared to the 162 games of MLB. The biggest difference, to my mind, other than the style of play (which will be covered a little below), is the corporations with interests outside baseball own the teams, and teams are identified with their owners, not where the team is based (with the exception of the Yokohama BayStars).
While baseball is pretty much a universal sport, even halfway across the globe, there are some slight differences between the MLB and the Japanese league. In Japan, tie games are allowed, and a smaller baseball, strike zone, and playing field are used. In addition, the Japanese baseball is wound more tightly and is harder than an American baseball, while the strike zone is narrower “inside” than away from the batter. Almost half of the Nippon league teams have “undersized” home fields. Finally, teams are limited to no more than 4 foreign-born players.
And to whom else would I turn for assistance with this article — of course, our expert on all uniforms Japanese, Jeremy Brahm. I had originally planned to make this column a one-day affair, but Jeremy has really efforted quite the plethora of information, so I’ll spread it out over two days, plus the usual “This and That” and some bonus material on the Final Four. Here’s Jeremy:
As more and more Japanese players have been coming to the States to play in the majors, Japanese baseball or Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) has been getting more publicity and Uni Watch over the years has shown which teams have been changing their uniforms over the years. Plus with the repeat of the Japanese team at the World Baseball Classic, I was asked by Phil to do a write-up on Japanese baseball. With the start of the Japanese season today, we will have a two part series on the NPB this weekend. Today we will look at the current uniforms for each of the teams in the Central League, also I will give you some interesting tidbits as well. We will look at the Pacific League on Sunday.
The Central League has six teams and listed in alphabetical order:
Chunichi Dragons: The Dragons are based in Nagoya. Chunichi is an acronym for central (chu) and Japan (nichi). The Dragons are part of the Chunichi media conglomerate, which dominates the Nagoya area in central Japan. The Dragons home script is based on Brooklyn Dodgers script, which they started using around the 1952 season. The script also caused an oddity with the movie, “Mr. Baseball”. The D on the Dragons hat at the time was this and was used on the Japanese poster for the movie. But on the poster for the movie in the United States, the D was different. Supposedly someone in MLB complained about the D being similar to the Dodgers and that it may confuse people with the Dodgers. Of course we know that the Dodgers do not have a D on their hat.
Getting back to today, Chunichi’s home uniform is a white base with dark blue lettering and numbers. They also have an expanding line from the collar to the end of the sleeve. Plus, they have dark blue side panels on each side. They use a slight radial arch for the player names. There is a Chunichi Newspaper patch on left sleeve on the home uniform.
Their road uniform is basically a reverse of the home uniform except for the white pants and the interlocking CD and Dragons logo on the left sleeve. The Dragons use a blue cap with a white button on the top for both home and road games.
Jeremy thinks that this is a simple and solid look for the Dragons.
I’m not such a fan. Let’s start with the good. I do like the cap and the interlocking “CD“. The side piping, not so much. And I don’t know what this is, but it scares me. And I hate that there is apparently no gray away jersey. Unfortunately, this is not atypical Japanese baseball attire, and we’ll be seeing more of this type of uniform below.
Hanshin Tigers: Based in Nishinomiya, are considered the Chicago Cubs of Japanese baseball. The Tigers have won few championships over the years, but their fans are some of the most hardcore fans you will ever see. The Hanshin pictograph stands for Osaka (Saka) and the Shin stand for Kobe (Ko) because this train company’s trains run between Kobe and Osaka with Nishinomiya in between the two. The Tigers are known for their pinstriped home whites that have changed infrequently over the years. But in 2007 the Tigers changed their home uniforms slightly to add yellow highlighting around their script and numbers and added black pit stains. The pants are also pinstriped with yellow and black side striping. Their home cap changed from an all black hat with white lettering, to a yellow brim with a white T and a yellow H, which they had had in 1979-1983 for their road hat. Both uniforms have the Tigers’ logo patch on the left sleeve.
The Tigers’ road uniform is grey and has no pinstripes but black pit stains with a white outline. The pants have a black stripe highlighted with white. The Tigers road cap is silver brimmed with a silver H and a white T.
Jeremy thinks that the Tigers look better without the yellow highlights, but still it is a solid look.
This is a great uni. This is not. It’s still a lot better than many Japanese uniforms, tho, although I cannot in good conscience overlook the pitstains. Aside from that, though, this is a pretty solid uni set. I love the logo, and especially these dutifully attired fans of the ballclub. Overall, good stuff.
Hiroshima Toyo Carp: The Carp have always been confused for the Cincinnati Reds because of their caps, which have almost always had a similar design to the Reds. As the Carp move into the Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium (yes that is the official name), the Carp have gone a little retro with their design. This is the 2008 home uniform and this is the 2008 road uniform. For 2009, their home whites will get rid of the red pinstripes and add black highlights to the red script, lettering and numbers. The Hiroshima script on the home uniform is a patch on the left sleeve. Also it appears that the Carp will continue to have a Mazda patch on their right sleeve.
Jeremy still thinks the Carp are the Reds, and the Reds are the Carp.
I like this one, perhaps best of all, but there are of course pros and cons to the
Crap Carp. The old unis definitely look like the Reds, although not with the white cleats. The old roadies are even more “Red-like,” but still acceptable as a uni. I like that they removed the pins from the new unis, but WTF is up with that “belt/sansabelt” thing? Jeebus — looks like a bomb got dropped on it. The new caps don’t need the black, but it’s not bad. Overall, a nice uniform set.
Tokyo Yakult Swallows: As the “second team” in the Tokyo area the Swallows have always had a tough time overcoming the Giants popularity. Plus their red pinstripes with blue lettering was hard on the eyes. But in 2006, the Swallows ditched the pinstripes for a much better look. With this season being the 40th anniversary of the Yakult Honsha buying the team, a dairy products company, the Swallows have come out with a new uniform set.
The home uniform has a white base and has a lot of things going on. First the Swallows script, which is probably one of the worst in all of sports, has been greatly highlighted with dark blue and creating a 3D look for the logo. Zett the uniform manufacturer has its logo over the players heart. The 40th anniversary logo is on the right side of the chest. The sleeve have a winglet like an airplane in dark blue and red line goes out from the collar to the shoulder and merges with the silver line going downward to the pants. The side panels have a red patch about half way up from the bottom of the uniform, and also the single red button at the neck and the swallow’s head patch on the left sleeve. There is the Yakult logo on the left sleeve and Tokyo on the right and their pants have a little winglet near the belt line, a lightweight blue stripe down the pants and a red flare at the bottom of the pants. At the back you can see the two tone font for the names and numbers. No other team in Japanese baseball has this font.
The road uniform is similar to the home uniform except that it is a grey base uniform with blue lines going downward. The Yakult and Swallows wordmarks have been swapped. The pants have red pinstripes. The Swallows hat is the same as it was before, blue hat with a red Y and blue S and red top button and holes.
Jeremy thinks their uniforms look great.
I disagree. I actually don’t mind the two-tone modern font, but there is just way too much shit going on here. It also looks like they’ll have about 19 different uniform choices. I know, I know — they’re celebrating an anniversary and a couple of those are probably throwbacks, but still. Plus, this reminds me of this and this (which isn’t such a bad thing), but I definitely liked their clean, crisp, plain white unis better. Not quite “FAIL” for the new unis, but close.
Yokohama BayStars: Located just south of Tokyo, the BayStars also are introducing a new uniform set this year. Last year’s home uniform to Jeremy was a classic, with blue pin striping. The new uniform set, however, looks like this. The home uniform has a white base with a silver/grey Y neck stripe, which goes down to the sternum on the front. The sleeves each have blue and silver lines with a reflective star and a notch in each sleeve, which Jeremy calls a “Hama-notch”. Also, the BayStars script has been replaced with a singular B over the heart and YOKOHAMA underneath it. The number has been moved from the bottom left to the right chest.
The uniform is a pullover which has not been seen in a while. The BayStars pants have a half stripe of blue and silver on the right side, but have BAYSTARS spelled out on the left in addition to a small stripe of blue and silver. The fonts for the BayStars players’ names have changed as well from this to this, which have dark blue lettering and dark blue numbers. The home cap is deep blue with a light blue B. This is going on their batting helmets, which is for the 150th anniversary of the opening of the Port of Yokohama.
For the road uniform, the BayStars have gone to a darker grey with white pin striping and a dark blue Y neck. Yokohama is written in cursive across the chest and BayStars is also in cursive as a patch on the left sleeve. The back of the uniform has black lettering with dark blue numbers. The road cap features a light blue brim and dark blue hat with a dark blue B.
Jeremy likes the home uniform, but to him the road uniform may become like the Mavs silver uniform that looked horrible on television.
What was wrong with this? That’s right, nothing. Instead, they have crap like this. Looks like a night shirt or something my dad wore in the 50′s. Seriously, this is the worst of the Central League teams. And what’s up with the name on the pants leg? I don’t mind the away cap, probably because it reminds me of this (which I HATE), but has become so ingrained in my psyche that on some subliminal level, it no longer repulses me. I guess if a team has BFBS long enough, the full brain-washing will become complete. Why do the BayStars have black in their uniform anyway?
Yomiuri Giants: The Giants could also be known as the “Japanese Yankees.” This year is the 75 anniversary of the Giants and there are two logos: this and this. The cap logo is an intertwined Y and G which also forms their mascot “Jabbit” or Giant rabbit.
In 2006, adidas signed a contract to supply the Giants with uniforms and well, they changed a little. First of all the script completely changed on the front and they added three semi stripes to the pants for adidas. If you look at the Giants homepage, they are still using the old script but the uniform has the new one, just weird. The fonts on the back can make it almost impossible to read at times. On their batting helmets the team has “Giants Pride.” One good thing that the Giants have added is a Captain’s C to the right sleeve, while leaving the Yomiuri on the left.
The road uniform for the Giants this season is new, but is very similar to the home uniform. Except for the following differences: black pit stains and the base color for the uniform is a very light grey. You can see the difference between the two here. These were the uniforms for the Giants on the road in 2008.
Jeremy thinks he prefers a bit of a darker grey than what the Giants have, but they still look like the Giants have over the years.
Another one I’m not completely hating … especially when viewed straight on. However, the 3 stripes on the pants ruin whatever good feelings might have been engendered. It’s certainly not the worst uniform of the league, by any means, but a far cry from what God-zilla wore. The old script “Giants” isn’t too bad, but the pitstains detract from the look. Well, at least the cap remains true to the old unis.
That’s all for day one. We’ll be back tomorrow to look at the Pacific League unis.
NCAA Thoughts: This seems like a good seat to watch the Final Four … As you must know by now, the Final Four is set. Two semi-finals today pit Michigan State versus Connecticut in the early game, followed by Villanova vs. North Carolina in the night cap. Who will win? Will it be the teams with the best unis? Let’s see if that holds true. We’ll pick the team with the best unis and see how we do.
Game 1: Michigan State against U Conn — Gotta go with State here. As much as I think the Big East is the strongest conference in the tourney, and as bad as these unis are (although the color is beautiful), they’re still better than this mess. State wins in a close one.
Game 2: Villanova versus North Carolina. No contest. I can’t go with the two-tone collar (even though they did destroy Dook). The argyle still rocks, and even the NC2A patch looks good on those beauties (even if Tyler Hansbrough is a douchebag, and I don’t like these warmup unis). Carolina by 10. Sorry, ‘Nova … Big East goes 0-2 in the Final Four
This and That: Beautiful new Citi Field played host to the inaugural preseason game between the Mets and Boston Red Sox last evening, a rainy affair between the two teams. Of course, perhaps fittingly, the Mets wore their snow whites with black and blue caps, (*sigh*) while the BoSox wore their BP jerseys. I could go for this about 63 times this season — Gary approves … Meanwhile, across town, the New Yankee Stadium (NYS for short) opened its gilded doors to spectacular vistas made possible by the retro frieze. Everywhere you looked, there were
gaudy, senseless monuments to avarice and excess historical touches and bazillion dollar electronics (and ads…lots and lots of ads). Having bankrupted their parents with the cost of tickets, kids of all ages were forced to wear replica jerseys while their heroes paraded around in patchless jerseys and caps (save these pictures, kiddies, because the Yankee unis won’t look this clean and perfect for long). Their opponents, the Cubs, looked resplendent in their blue BP jerseys … The Chicago Machine have unveiled a new logo — who are they? Why, they’re Chicago’s pro lacrosse team, of course … Your World Champions are heading home, and one has to wonder, “Is Charlie Manuel with child?” … More on the Christmas tree Nugget unis in this article … Speaking of the “green” initiative (or whatever the NBA is calling it), the Bobcats obliged, the T-Wolves got T-shirts, and wore their green accented blue unis, and so did the Hawks, and the Celtics, who also wore their regular unis … is this a rose colored lens, or did Andy Murray wear pink? (phew) … Paul already showed the Herb Score patch, but there’s another look at it in this story about Fausto Carmona’s suspension … Did you know that New firefighter uniforms, which include the option of a full-length skirt, hijab headscarf and a turban, have been launched? If that isn’t exciting enough, there’s a whole thread devoted to it — jeebus, who knew anyone could get so wound up about uniforms? … Apologies is this was already posted, but the Fathers are celebrating 40 years in SD … “$500 for a freakin’ pink monkey? Who do they think they are?
Have a great Saturday…enjoy the hoops and the final spring training (or are these now “exhibition”) games.