Friday, September 15, 2006

September 15th, 2003

Hanshin Tigers Clinch Division

As there is a very good chance tonight will see the New York Mets clinch the NL East--the first team to secure a playoff spot this year--it seemed appropriate to do a clinching themed blog. Should the Mets clinch tonight, it will be their first division title since 1988, a period of eighteen years. Coincidentally enough, the Tigers clinching on this date also represented their first Central League title in eighteen years.

Before we get to that, some background is required. A local tradition for Tigers' fans--who are famed in Japan for their loyalty and fanaticism, closer to European football fans than any Americans--is to jump from the Ebisubashi Bridge into the Dotonbori Canal. When the Tigers won the Japan League title in 1985, fans called out player names and had fans resembling that player jump into the Canal. Failing to find a fan resembling Series MVP (and American) Randy Bass, they instead threw in a nearby statue of Colonel Sanders. The Colonel's physical similarity to Bass seemed to basically be a beard and not being Japanese, but given the circumstances it was the best that could be found. However, the Tigers soon found themselves losing season-after-season, and the Curse of the Colonel was born, claiming the team would never again be victorious until the statue was recovered from the river.

The statue has still not been recovered, but when the Tigers finally won the Central League title in 2003, fans nonetheless resumed the tradition and an estimated fifty three hundred people jumped into the Canal. Sadly, in the bedlam one fan died, and officials in Osaka (where the Canal is located) have since put up a fence to discourage further jumps. However, being that it has been eighteen years since the Mets last had a division triumph, perhaps tonight will we will be treated to masses of people taking the leap into Flushing Bay.

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