Surely one of the best names in pro sports belongs to the Nippon Ham Fighters, a Tokyo-based Hokkaido-based pro baseball team. Before visions of battling pork products enter your head, I should mention that the nickname of the team is not the 'Ham Fighters.' In Japan, baseball teams are generally named after their corporate owners, rather than their home city. The team is owned by Nippon Ham, and is named simply the Fighters (previously known as the Senators and then the Flyers).

The Fighters have not historically been one of Japan's top teams, in terms of success or fan support. In over fifty years they have won two Pacific League pennants and one victory in the Japan Series. Not a particularly impressive haul, although the Fighters have at times had fairly strong and competitive teams. As a side note, I was initially inspired to write this node after reading that the Fighters lost 17-2 to the last place Orix Blue Wave. Not the team to support if you crave constant championship runs.

To put their lack of on-field success into perspective it has to be said that the Fighters don't exactly have it easy. To begin with, they play in the Pacific League, the less popular of Japan's two major leagues. They also play in Tokyo, in the Tokyo Dome stadium. This stadium is also the home of the Yomiuri Giants, who are an all-conquering powerhouse often described as the Yankees of Japan. The Giants are rarely out of contention for the pennant and are unquestionably Japan's most popular baseball team. There are also a half dozen pro ball clubs in the greater Tokyo area, making competition for fans a major concern.

As of this writing it seems that a deal has been done to move the Nippon Ham Fighters out of the crowded Tokyo market and into the northern city of Sapporo. There they will have their own stadium in the brand-new Sapporo Dome, and a shot at becoming the city's hometown team, rather than playing second (or third) fiddle in Tokyo. It remains to be seen whether this will turn the Fighters into a major force in Japanese baseball, but it certainly seems like a bold move.

If you can read Japanese, you can find the Nippon Ham Fighters official page at:

I'm no expert on Japan or Japanese baseball, just a fan that casually follows along on the internet. If I've made any glaring errors let me know and I'll try my best to fix them.

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