The last time Hanshin were Japan Series champions was back in 1985, the blame for this has been placed squarely on the shoulders of one man. Colonel blinking Sanders. Purveyor of fine chicken goods(and Christmas dinner if you live in Japan).
Thirty years ago, after that fateful win where the Tigers sent the Seibu Lions packing, Hanshin fans were enjoying a traditional bit of celebrating around Dotonbori river, throwing themselves into the murky depths en masse, when a certain statue grabbed their attention. Being foreign and beardy, the connection to famed Hanshin batter Randy Bass was immediately made, and it only seemed right he should have a dip too!
Here’s a great video of Bass, Kakefu & Okada hitting back-to-back home runs during that same champion year. I don’t really see the resemblance, but to be honest if you have anything slightly resembling facial hair when you come to Osaka, you’ll most likely be called Randy Bass by someone! I certainly do, and wish I was!
And here’s the moment of league victory from 1985!
Anyway, since that day, the Tigers have been constantly unsuccessful, coming close a few times but never managing to clinch the title. Rescue attempts were mounted, apologies made to the KFC store manager, but to no avail, the losing streak continued for a solid 18 years.
It’s not all bad news though, the statue was recovered from Dotonbori river back in 2009(although it took them a bit longer to find his left hand), he now resides at a KFC near Koshien Stadium having retired from swimming for the time being.
Last year the Tigers fared very well, advancing to the Japan Series for the first time in a while, so who knows… perhaps the curse is finally lifted! One thing’s for sure, nobody in Osaka is mad enough to throw the Colonel in Dotonbori again!