|Ballpark||Nagoya Dome (1997–present)|
|Nickname(s)||Ryu (竜?, dragon)|
|Central League pennants||8 (1954, 1974, 1982, 1988, 1999, 2004, 2006, 2010, 2011)|
|Japan Series championships||2 (1954, 2007)|
|Former league(s)||Japanese Baseball League (1936–1949)|
|Retired numbers||10, 15|
|Ownership||Chunichi Shimbun Co.|
The Chunichi Dragons (中日ドラゴンズ Chūnichi Doragonzu?) are a professional baseball team based in Nagoya, the chief city in the Chūbu region region of Japan. The team is in the Central League, and although they have had little success in the playoffs, they are still known as one of the most respected teams in Nippon Professional Baseball. They have won Central League pennant 8 times (most recently in 2011) and the Japan Series twice in 1954 and 2007. They were also champions in the 2007 Asia Series.
The Dragons uniforms were based on the Brooklyn (now Los Angeles) Dodgers. The team's colors (blue and white) are the same colors worn by the National League's Dodgers (both in Brooklyn and Los Angeles). From the late 1980s to the mid-1990s, the stylized lettering on the Dragons' jerseys and caps was virtually identical to the Dodgers' uniforms during that same period.
The Chunichi Dragons were formed in 1936 as the Nagoya Club. The franchise was acquired by Chunichi Shimbun in 1946. They became the "Dragons" in 1947, but experimented with a number of variations on their team name before settling on Chunichi Dragons in 1954.
The Dragons' most famous player toiled for the team from 1936–1958. Michio Nishizawa entered the league as a 15-year-old pitcher. He, developed into a 20-game winner by 1939. Nishizawa's most memorable pitching feats occurred in 1942. On May 24 of that year, Nishizawa pitched a remarkable twenty-eight complete innings, totalling 311 pitches in a 4-4 tie against the Taiyō Whales at Korakuen Stadium. Later that year, he tossed his first and only no-hitter, accomplishing the feat against the Hankyu team. Despite a career ERA of 2.22, the heavy workload combined with injuries sustained during two years of service in World War II forced him to switch positions to first base, and later the outfield. After early struggles with the bat, Nishizawa developed into a feared hitter. He swatted a then-league record 46 home runs in 1950. His best season came in 1952, when he led the league in both batting average and runs batted in. Altogether, Nishizawa appeared in five All Star Games and won the Best Nine Award three times.
Forkball-specialist Shigeru Sugishita dominated the Central League for the Dragons from 1950–1955, winning more than 30 games twice (winning at least 23 games each season), and garnering three Eiji Sawamura Awards.
Nishizawa went on to manage the team from 1964–1967; he was elected to the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977 and his number 15 jersey is one of only two retired by the team.
In 1974, the team won the Central League title for the first time in 20 years, and this victory stopped the Yomiuri Giants from winning the league for their tenth consecutive year. Another league title came in 1999, and in that year, Dragons set a record by winning 11 consecutive games at the opening of the season.
In the 2004 season they reached the Japan Series, but lost to the Seibu Lions, the Pacific League Champions, and in 2006 they lost the Japan Series to the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. At that point the team had won the Central League pennant seven times since 1950, but their last Japan Series victory was in 1954, the longest such drought in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB).
2007 Japan Series Title
In early 2007, the NPB playoff rules were changed: The top team in the league would advance automatically, while the second and third teams in the league would play a best-of-three series. The winner would face the first-place team in a best-of-five series to see who would advance to the Japan Series finals.
The Dragons took advantage of the new playoff system, and after finishing second in the season standings, swept the Hanshin Tigers in a best-of-three series, then, in a huge upset, swept the heavily favoured Yomiuri Giants in a best-of-five series to advance to the Japan Series against the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters. In an exact reversal of the 2006 Japan Series, Hokkaido won game 1 of the series, but the Dragons won the next four straight games, including a combined perfect game from Daisuke Yamai to star closer Hitoki Iwase in the deciding Game 5, to become the 2007 Japan Series Champions.
Baseball Hall of Famers (incomplete list)
The following Hall of Famers played and/or managed for the Dragons, and are listed with the years they were with the club.
- Shunichi Amachi (天知 俊一) (1949–1958)
- Larry Doby (1962)
- Hideo Fujimoto (藤本 英雄) (1947)
- Kazuhisa Inao (稲尾 和久) (1978–1980)
- Takao Kajimoto (梶本 隆夫) (1998–1999)
- Hideo Nakagami (藤本 英雄) (1947)
- Michio Nishizawa (西澤 道夫) (1947–1950, 1954–1958, 1963–1968)
- Shigeru Sugishita (天知 俊一) (1949–1958)
- Morimichi Takagi (髙木 守道) (1960–1986, 1992–1995, 2012–2013)
- Hisashi Yamada (山田 久志) (1999–2003)
- Kazuhiro Yamauchi (山内 一弘) (1984–1986)
- Wally Kaname Yonamine (与那嶺 要) (1961–1962, 1963–1966, 1970–1977)
- Ken Macha (1982–1985)
- Matt Stairs (1993)
- Lee Sang-Hoon (2000)
- Akinori Otsuka (2003–2007)
- Kenshin Kawakami (2009–2010)
- Leo Gomez (1997-2002)
In popular culture
- The Dragons became known to audiences in the U.S. through the 1992 movie Mr. Baseball, starring Tom Selleck and Ken Takakura. The film is based around a difficult season in the career of aging Yankees first baseman Jack Elliot (Selleck), who is traded to the Chunichi Dragons during spring training, and is forced to deal with high expectations and cultural differences during the Dragons' pennant run.
- In 2009 a Nintendo Wii game aimed at children,"Doala de Wii," was released. The game is based on the popular team mascot "Doala."
- In Haruki Murakami's 2002 novel Kafka on the Shore, one of the characters is a devoted fan of the Chunichi Dragons, wearing the team's cap everywhere he goes.
- Baseel, Casey. "Why are the Los Angeles Dodgers wearing the caps from Nagoya’s professional baseball team?" Rocket News 24 (Jan 31, 2016).
- "Chubu Nihon," Baseball-Reference.com. Accessed March 8, 2015.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chunichi Dragons.|
- (Japanese) Chunichi Dragons official web site