Saitama Seibu Lions

Saitama Seibu Lions
Team logo Cap insignia

Nippon Professional Baseball (1950–present)

Ballpark Seibu Prince Dome (1979–present)
Year established 1950
Nickname(s) Shishi (獅子?, lion)
Pacific League pennants 21 (1954, 1956, 1957, 1958, 1963, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2004, 2008)
Japan Series championships 13 (1956, 1957, 1958, 1982, 1983, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, 1992, 2004, 2008)
Former name(s)
  • Nishitetsu Clippers (1950)
  • Nishitetsu Lions (1951–1972)
  • Taiheiyo Club Lions (1973–1976)
  • Crown Lighter Lions (1977–1978)
  • Seibu Lions (1979–2007)
  • Saitama Seibu Lions (2008–present)
Former ballparks Heiwadai Stadium (1950–1978)
Colors Blue, White, Red
Ownership Seibu Railway
Manager Hatsuhiko Tsuji

The Saitama Seibu Lions (埼玉西武ライオンズ Saitama Seibu Raionzu) are a professional baseball team in Japan's Pacific League based north of Tokyo in Tokorozawa, Saitama. Before 1979, they were based in Fukuoka in Kyushu. The team is owned by a subsidiary of Prince Hotels, which in turn is owned by the Seibu Group. The team experienced a recent period of financial difficulty, but the situation brightened when the team received a record ¥6 billion (about $51.11 million) posting fee from the Boston Red Sox for the right to negotiate a contract with Daisuke Matsuzaka. Between 1978 and 2008, the team logo and mascot were based on the adult version of Kimba the White Lion, a classic Japanese anime series by Osamu Tezuka.[lower-alpha 1][lower-alpha 2] In 2004, former Seibu Lions player Kazuo Matsui became the first Japanese infielder to play in Major League Baseball.[1]

Franchise history

Nishitetsu Clippers (1950)

In 1950, the team became a founding member of the Pacific League. It was then owned by Nishi-Nippon Railroad, which was based in Fukuoka. The team finished sixth that year, and at the end of the season was merged with the Nishi-Nippon Pirates to form the Nishitetsu Lions.

Nishitetsu Lions (1951–1972)

The Nishitetsu Lions called Heiwadai Stadium home for their entire existence. They were one of a dominant team in the Pacific League during the 1950s, winning four pennants, including three straight Japan Series against the Yomiuri Giants behind famed manager Osamu Mihara.

The team struggled through the following decade and did not witness much success on the field. In 1969–1970 the team was caught up in the infamous Black Mist game-fixing scandal, which resulted in four Lions pitchers being banned from NPB for life, as well as other players receiving lesser punishments. These losses decimated the team, which finished the 1970 season in last place.

After a third straight last-place finish, in November 1972 the franchise was sold to the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation, also a part of Nishi-Nippon Railroad. Following the sale, the team was renamed the Taiheiyo Club Lions.

Taiheiyo Club Lions (1973–1976)

Nishi-Nippon Railroad, founded by Nagayoshi Nakamura, owner of Lotte and the Orions, sold the team's sponsorship rights to Taiheiyo Club, a golf course and resort developer. Through the 1970s, the Lions finished no higher than third.

Crown Lighter Lions (1977–1978)

At the end of the 1976 season, the Fukuoka Baseball Corporation announced that the team's new sponsor was Crown Gas Lighter. With this, the team's name for the upcoming season was changed to the Crown Lighter Lions. At the end of the 1978 season, the team was sold to Kokudo Keikaku (later Kokudo), and then merged into Prince Hotels.

Seibu Lions (1979–2007)

Following the sale of the Crown Lighter Lions and their merging into Price Hotels, the team was renamed the Seibu Lions and relocated to a new ballpark in Tokorozawa, Saitama.

Golden Age (1982–1994)

The Lions finished in last place following the 1979 season (as of 2016, this is the last time this has happened to them). However, the following seasons would mark the beginning of a period of sustained success for the team under new manager Tatsuro Hirooka and with star players such as Osamu Higashio and Kōichi Tabuchi. Tatsuro Hirooka told the players that meat and other animal foods increase athletes' susceptibility to injury, and decrease their ability to perform. He required all players to take up a strictly vegetarian diet.[2] The club won two-year straight Japan Series in 1982 and 1983, and went the championship again in 1985, but lost to the Hanshin Tigers

Following the 1986 season, the club replaced Hirooka with Masaaki Mori, who was able to sustain the team's prolonged success. Mori won 8 league championship, between 1986 and 1988 and 1990–1994, and six Japan Series championships in his nine-year managing career, winning the Japan Series in 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991, and 1992.

The team gained the moniker "Invincible Seibu" during the 1980s and 1990s due to their sustained domination of the league. The Lions had a powerful lineup in this period, loaded with sluggers such as Kouji Akiyama, Kazuhiro Kiyohara and Orestes Destrade. Their defense also benefited from the services of skilled players such as Rhome Calhoun, Hiromichi Ishige, Hatsuhiko Tsuji and catcher Tsutomu Ito. Among the pitchers employed by the Lions in this period was "The Oriental Express" Taigen Kaku, Kimiyasu Kudoh, Hisanobu Watanabe, and relievers Yoshitaka Katori and Tetsuya Shiozaki.

Prominent Golden Age Players
NamepositionTitle and accomplishmentNote
Kouji AkiyamaCFHome Run title 1987, Stolen Base title 1990, Golden Glove 1987–1996, 1999
437 HR and 303 SB in career
Belonged to Fukuoka Daiei Hawks from 1994 to 2002. Current Hawks manager.
Kazuhiro Kiyohara1BRookie of the year 1986, Golden Glove (1988,1990, 1992–1994),
525 HR and 1527 RBIs in career
Belonged to Yomiuri Giants from 1997 to 2005, Orix Buffaloes from 2006 to 2008. Retired in 2008.
Orestes DestradeDHHome Run title 1990–1992, RBI Title 1990–1991Played 1993–1994 seasons with Florida Marlins of MLB.
Hiromichi IshigeSSRookie of the year, Golden Glove 1981–1983, 1985–1988, 1991–1993, MVP 1986Manager of Orix BlueWave for a short time in 2003.
Hatsuhiko Tsuji2BBatting title 1993, Golden Glove 1986, 1988–1994Played for Yakult Swallows in 1996, retired after '96 season.
Tsutomu ItoCGolden Glove 1985–1988, 1990–1992, 1994–1995, 1997–1998Retired in 2003, Lions manager from 2004 to 2007.
Hisanobu WatanabePWinning Percentage title 1986, 1988, 1990, ERA Title 1986, Strikeout title 1986, Golden Glove 1990, No-hitter 1996Played for Yakult Swallows in 1998, retired from NPB after '98 season. Lions manager from 2008–2013.
Osamu HigashioPWins Champion 1975,1983, ERA Title 1983, Strikeout title 1975, MVP 1983, 1987, Golden Glove 1983–1987Member of Lions through four different team owners (Nishitetsu, Taiheyo Club, Crown Lighter, Seibu). Lions manager from 1995–2001.
Terry WhitfieldOFBest Nine Award 1981, 1983
Steve Ontiveros3BOBP 1983, 1984 Best Nine Award 1982, 1983
Taigen KakuPMVP1991, Golden Glove 1991–1992, No-hitter 1985Retired in 1996. Taiwan national team manager 2007.
Kimiyasu KudohPERA title 1985,1987,1993,1999, Winning Percentage Title1987,1991,1993,2000, Strikeout title 1996,1999, Golden Glove 1994–1995,2000, MVP 1999, longest NPB career as player (28 years)Belonged to Fukuoka Daiei Hawks from 1994, Yomiuri Giants from 2000, Yokohama BayStars from 2007 to 2009, returned to Lions in 2010. Only active player in "Golden Age" in 2010 season.

Saitama Seibu Lions (2008–)

In order to reinforce the affiliation between the team and their home region, the Lions added the prefecture name "Saitama" to their team name in 2008. They were Pacific League Champions that year and went on to win the Japan Series. The team logo and uniforms were further modified for the 2009 season, with the team trading in their traditional light-blue colour scheme for a dark blue design similar to that employed during the Nishitetsu Lions' era in the 1950s and 1960s.

Season-by-season records

Year Team Name Place
1950 Nishitetsu Clippers 5th
1951 Nishitetsu Lions 2nd
1952 Nishitetsu Lions 3rd
1953 Nishitetsu Lions 4th
1954 Nishitetsu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1955 Nishitetsu Lions 2nd
1956 Nishitetsu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1957 Nishitetsu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1958 Nishitetsu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1959 Nishitetsu Lions 4th
1960 Nishitetsu Lions 3rd
1961 Nishitetsu Lions 3rd
1962 Nishitetsu Lions 3rd
1963 Nishitetsu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1964 Nishitetsu Lions 5th
1965 Nishitetsu Lions 3rd
1966 Nishitetsu Lions 2nd
1967 Nishitetsu Lions 2nd
1968 Nishitetsu Lions 5th
1969 Nishitetsu Lions 5th
1970 Nishitetsu Lions 6th
1971 Nishitetsu Lions 6th
1972 Nishitetsu Lions 6th
1973 Taiheiyo Club Lions 4th
1974 Taiheiyo Club Lions 4th
1975 Taiheiyo Club Lions 3rd
1976 Taiheiyo Club Lions 6th
1977 Crown Lighter Lions 6th
1978 Crown Lighter Lions 5th
1979 Seibu Lions 6th
1980 Seibu Lions 4th
1981 Seibu Lions 4th
1982 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1983 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1984 Seibu Lions 3rd
1985 Seibu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1986 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1987 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1988 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1989 Seibu Lions 3rd
1990 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1991 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1992 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
1993 Seibu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1994 Seibu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1995 Seibu Lions 3rd
1996 Seibu Lions 3rd
1997 Seibu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1998 Seibu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
1999 Seibu Lions 2nd
2000 Seibu Lions 2nd
2001 Seibu Lions 3rd
2002 Seibu Lions 1st (lost Japan Series)
2003 Seibu Lions 2nd
2004 Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
2005 Seibu Lions 3rd
2006 Seibu Lions 2nd
2007 Seibu Lions 5th
2008 Saitama Seibu Lions 1st (Japan Series Winner)
2009 Saitama Seibu Lions 4th
2010 Saitama Seibu Lions 2nd
2011 Saitama Seibu Lions 3rd
2012 Saitama Seibu Lions 2nd
2013 Saitama Seibu Lions 2nd
2014 Saitama Seibu Lions 5th
2015 Saitama Seibu Lions 4th

Current roster

First squad Second squad








  • 64 Shota Nakata
  • 78 Komei Fujisawa



Updated 2016
All NPB rosters





Former players of note

Retired numbers

MLB players



  1. Although many fans, team officials, and members of the press consider the mascot to be a variation of Kimba, Tezuka has stated that it is based on Caesar, the father of Kimba.
  2. The Lions adopted a new mascot for the 2009 season.


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