Year Founded: 2005
Home Stadiums: Kyocera Dome, Osaka & Hotto Motto Field, Kobe
Previously Known As: Hankyu-gun, Hankyu Bears, Hankyu Braves, ORIX Braves, ORIX BlueWave, Kintetsu Pearls, Kintetsu Buffalo, Kintetsu Buffaloes, Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes
Pacific League Pennants: 1967-69, 1971-72, 1975-78, 1984, 1995-96 (Hankyu/ORIX), 1979-80, 1989, 2001 (Kintetsu)
Japan Series Titles: 1975-1977, 1996
All-Time Record vs. Hanshin (through 2017): 26-26-1
Playoffs vs. Hanshin: None
Notable Players in Common With Hanshin: Gene Bacque (Tigers 1962-68, Buffaloes 1969); Akinobu Okada (Tigers 1980-93, BlueWave 1994-95); George Arias (Buffaloes 2000-01, Tigers 2002-04); Ryan Vogelsong (Tigers 2007-08, Buffaloes 2009); Kentaro Kuwahara (Buffaloes 2011-14; Tigers 2015-present); Yoshio Itoi (Buffaloes 2013-16, Tigers 2017-present)
Top 5 Players in Team History:
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, 1992-2000 (ORIX BlueWave)
Yutaka Fukumoto, OF, 1969-1988 (Hankyu Braves)
Tuffy Rhodes, OF/DH, 1996-2003 (Kintetsu Buffaloes), 2007-2009 (ORIX Buffaloes)
Hideo Nomo, SP, 1990-1994 (Kintetsu Buffaloes)
Hisashi Yamada, SP, 1969-1988 (Hankyu Braves)
Most Famous Manager:
Akira Ohgi, 1987-1992 (Kintetsu Buffaloes), 1993-2001 (ORIX BlueWave), 2005 (ORIX Buffaloes)
1 Japan Series title with BlueWave, 3 Pennants (1 with Kintetsu Buffaloes and 2 with ORIX BlueWave]
Current Top Fielders:
T-Okada, 1B/LF, .266/.374/.488, 31 HR, 68 RBI in 2017
Masataka Yoshida, LF/RF, .311/.410/.518, 12 HR, 38 RBI in just 268 PA in 2017
Current Top Pitchers:
Chihiro Kaneko, SP, 12-8, 184.1 IP, 141 K, 56 BB, 3.47 ERA in 2017, won the Sawamura Award in 2014
Hirotoshi Masui, RP, 6-1, 27 SV, 52.2 IP, 11 BB, 82 K, 2.39 ERA in 2017 for Nippon Ham Fighters
The baseball team currently known as ORIX Buffaloes are a product of the merger between 2 Pacific League teams, the ORIX BlueWave and the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes, which happened in 2004.
As shown in the [Previously Known As] section, the Buffaloes have gone through quite a few changes to their team name and ownership in the past, though that’s not uncommon for NPB teams, especially in the Pacific League.
The BlueWave were first established as Hankyu-gun in 1936, and they changed their name to Hankyu Bears in 1945 but quickly changed it again the next year to Hankyu Braves. Hankyu sold the ball club to Orient Leasing (now ORIX Corporation) in 1988 and the team became known as ORIX Braves. In 1991, upon moving their home field to Green Stadium Kobe from Nishinomiya, became the ORIX BlueWave.
In the 1995 season, after the Great Hanshin earthquake occurred on January 17, the BlueWave won the pennant for the first time since 1984, and for the first time since the team was sold to ORIX. Their slogan for the year was “Ganbaro Kobe,” or “Hang in there Kobe,” a message to those who were affected by the earthquake. Although they lost in the Japan Series to the Yakult Swallows, 1-4, winning the pennant inspired and gave hope to the people of Kobe. The next year, the BlueWave won the pennant again, and went on to win the Japan Series against the Yomiuri Giants, 4-1.
The Buffaloes started as the Kintetsu Pearls in 1949. They re-named the team to Kintetsu Buffalo (not a typo) in 1959, when they appointed Shigeru Chiba as their new manager, whose nickname during his days as a player was “Mogyu,” meaning “Buffalo.” In 1962, they became the Kintetsu Buffaloes, and in 1999 became the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes.
In 2001, after finishing in the last place the previous year, the Buffaloes won the pennant behind strong offensive performances headlined by Norihiro Nakamura, who hit 46 homers and led the league with 132 RBIs, and Tuffy Rhodes, who hit then-record tying 55 homeruns in a single season. On September 26, with the magic number down to 1, they faced the ORIX BlueWave and were down 2-5 in the bottom of the 9th. They then loaded the bases with no outs, and Hirotoshi Kitagawa came into the game to hit the first-ever “pinch-hit, come-from-behind, walk-off, pennant-clinching grand slam” in NPB history, but lost in the Japan Series, 1-4, to the Yakult Swallows.
In 2004, it was announced that ORIX would absorb the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes (Whole bunch of stuff happened around this time, including the players going on strike. You can read all about it here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Nippon_Professional_Baseball_realignment), resulting in ORIX Buffaloes (and the de facto expansion team Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles).
Since 1996, the last time the team won the pennant as ORIX, the BlueWave/Buffaloes have not won the pennant, the longest such streak in NPB. During the 20-year span, they have finished in 2nd place twice, 3rd place twice, and 4th or lower 16 times, and had a losing record 13 times.
Despite their relative obscurity, the teams have produced several Major Leaguers in the past, such as Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Takahito Nomura, Masato Yoshii, Masao Kida, Hideo Nomo, So Taguchi and, of course, Ichiro.
This year, with home-grown talents including Chihiro Kaneko, Yuuki Nishi, Yohihisa Hirano, T-Okada and Masataka Yoshida, combined with the addition of foreigners Phil Coke and Stefen Romero, rookies Taisuke Yamaoka and Yuta Kuroki, Buffaloes look to improve over last year when they finished last place with a record of 57-83-3, and hopefully somehow end up in the playoffs.
About the Author:
My name is Josh, and I have been a BlueWave/Buffaloes fan since early childhood growing up in Kobe. Trying to get more foreigner fans by tweeting about Buffaloes stuff in English @BuffaloesEN