Namba Parks was built on the site of Osaka Stadium, home of the Nankai Hawks from 1950 to 1988. To get there, I had to cut through a building with a familiar name - Nankai Nanba Station.
Actually I saw a couple familiar names on the way to Namba Parks:
Nanba Parks has markers on the pavement for where home plate and the pitchers mound had been (although these markers are probably a good 20 to 30 feet above where the playing field actually had been:
If you're wondering about the dates on the plaques, the ballpark didn't get torn down until 1998, 10 years after the Hawks departed for Fukuoka.
The markers aren't the only Hawks related thing at Nanba Parks - up on the ninth floor there's a small "museum" for the Hawks. It's a small room adjacent to some vending machine and an elevator with a couple display cases:
One other thing I noticed in the mall were these small plaques that were scattered around the gardens in the top couple levels. Each plaque showed a handprint and a signature. I found about 16 of them in all - I don't know for sure because I haven't tried to identify every plaque but I think they are all for Nankai Hawks players. Here's the plaque for Hiromitsu Kadota:
After having my fill of Nankai Hawks history, I went to play tourist. I headed north a couple blocks to Dotonbori, one of the biggest tourist areas in Osaka. I went over to Ebisu bridge to get the obligatory shot of the Glico Running Man billboard:
This was of course another baseball connection - Ebisu Bridge is where the celebration that resulted in the "Curse Of The Colonel" occurred. I saw a sign there that I think is just for Hanshin Tiger fans:
I walked around the area for a little bit, stopping to get some takoyaki (octopus balls) and kushikatsu (basically fried meat on a stick) for lunch. Here's some pictures from the area:
At this point I briefly considered heading over the the Fujiidera Stadium site but I decided that the time it would take me to get there wasn't really worth the effort, especially since all that's there is a statue. It's a shame the ballpark is gone because it had a very interesting exterior behind home plate that almost looked like a castle with two turrets:
|1992 BBM #109|
From 1937 to 1990 the Hankyu/Orix Braves had played at Nishinomiya Stadium, just a few miles to the north of Koshien Stadium. The ballpark was torn down in the mid 00's and a mall called Nishinomiya Gardens was build on the site:
I had seen from the mall's Japanese Wikipedia page that there apparently was some sort of display for the Hankyu Braves at the mall but I wasn't sure where it was. I wandered around a little and eventually found it in the Hankyu Nishinomiya Gallery on the fifth floor next to the movie theatre:
The display was roughly the same size as the Hawks "museum" at Namba Parks but it had a large model of the ballpark as a centerpiece:
In one corner they had duplicates of the Hall Of Fame plaques for all the players and executives associated with Hankyu that had been inducted:
There was a display case with a bunch of Braves memorabilia:
Hmm, I think I've seen that 1975 Nippon Champions pennant somewhere before although from the other side:
|1975/76 Calbee #285|
After finishing up at the mall, I headed south to Koshien. I wanted to get there a little early so I'd have time to walk around and see some of the plaques and monuments outside the ballpark. I saw plaques for the three players who have their numbers retired by the Tigers (#23 for Yoshio Yoshida, #11 for Minoru Murayama and #10 for Fumio Fujimura - I guess you need to have an alliterative name to get your number retired by Hanshin which explains why Masayuki Kakefu's number is not retired); a plaque for Babe Ruth's appearance at the Stadium during the 1934 All Star tour on November 24th and 25th; a monument for the Tigers 50th Anniversary in 1985; and a plaque celebrating Tomoaki Kanemoto's consecutive game and consecutive innings played streaks:
After walking around a little bit I headed into the ballpark. My seat was just barely not obstructed view. The nice thing about this is that I didn't have anyone sitting to my left. There was a middle aged couple with the elderly father of one of them (I think the woman) sitting in the seats to my right with the father sitting right next to me. He and I spoke a little during the game and he offered me a jet ballon for "Lucky 7".
On to the game itself - the Tigers took an early lead on a three run home run in the bottom of the first from Yusuke Ohyama. The Giants tried to make it interesting by scoring a pair of runs on a two run home run from Takumi Ohshiro but Tigers starter Haruto Takahashi pretty much shut them down, going seven innings and only giving up four hits and two walks while striking out nine. Meanwhile the Tigers padded their lead with single runs in the fifth and seventh innings. Pierce Johnson pitched a perfect eight and Rafael Dolis came on to notch his 12th save in the ninth despite giving up a hit. The final score was 5-2 in favor of the Tigers. Apparently this was Takahashi's first win in over a year so the event was immortalized on an Epoch One card.