Kawasaki Stadium stirs fond recollection of legendary games
by Kaz Nagatsuka, The Japan Times Jan 29, 2017

Former Lotte Orions players Hideaki Takazawa (front, center) and Koichi Hori (front, right) pose for a photo with fans at Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki, which was formerly known as Kawasaki Stadium, on Saturday.

KAWASAKI – Former Lotte Orions outfielder Hideaki Takazawa recalled that he and his teammates would joke that there were more officials than fans at the stadium for their games back in the dayThe Pacific League was far behind the Central League in terms of media exposure and attendance in general in the 1980s. And Lotte, in particular, would always finish in the bottom half of the standings. It was one of the least-popular teams in all Japanese pro baseball, and poor attendance figures at home provided clear-cut evidence of thatBut its small, not-so-state-of-the-art home stadium, Kawasaki Stadium, has remained stuck in the minds of baseball fans of a certain age, even a quarter century after the club left to become the Chiba Lotte MarinesA legendary game played there Oct. 19, 1988, between Lotte and the Kintetsu Buffaloes — which is popularly dubbed “10.19” — is undoubtedly one of the biggest reasons why. On that particular day, the usually deserted Kawasaki Stadium was all of a sudden the center of Japanese baseballTakazawa confessed that the Buffs, who dramatically won the first game by scoring the go-ahead run in the top of the ninth inning, inadvertently provoked the playing-for-nothing Orions into taking the second game more seriously“They were celebrating, laying on the ground (after pinch hitter Masataka Nashida drove in the go-ahead run),” he said. “And we were like, ‘Hey, we’re playing, too.’ We wouldn’t get like that normally, but the whole stadium contributed to the mood.At any rate, the result of the second game meant the Buffaloes came up short and their first pennant since 1980 slipped from their graspAfter playing 130 games apiece, the gap between the pennant-winning Lions and runnerup Buffaloes was miniscule. Seibu finished the season with a .589 winning percentage to .587 for KintetsuKenichi Yokoyama, who was first a member of the Orions ouendan cheering group and later served as a club official for the Marines over two decades, is a walking encyclopedia of the team and Kawasaki Stadium, which opened in 1951Kawasaki Stadium, which had been the franchise home for the Takahashi Unions and Taiyo Whales (predecessor of the Yokohama BayStars) before Lotte came in 1978, has now been renamed Fujitsu Stadium Kawasaki and has been renovated. It’s used more as an American football venue these days. Yet some things, such as the fences behind home plate, part of the outfield fences and light towers, remain from the old daysYokoyama added that it is special that the unpopular stadium has not been torn down“Among the Pacific League stadiums that were used when I was a boy, it’s only Kawasaki Stadium that’s still in existence,” he said. “It’s incredible that the stadium is sill here, remaining as a sporting mecca.Ikuro Tanaka, a club official for the J. League’s Kawasaki Frontale, the current designated administrator for the stadium (Tanaka is the stadium manager), said many of the football players and young Frontale players who practice at the stadium don’t know much about what happened in the past, including 10.19. But he wants them to understand that they were given the place today based on its history“We need to inherit the legacy,” Tanaka said. “When you ask people what reminds them of Kawasaki, many would still say here. We almost feel like we want to make this a world heritage site.The Saturday event was the second held to recollect the legacy of the stadium and 10.19. Tanaka said that the organizers would like to hold it once a year or so going forward(Read the full story on The Japan Times)