Western League (Japanese baseball)
|Founded||April 15, 1952|
|No. of teams||5|
The Western League (ウエスタン・リーグ) is one of the two minor leagues ("ni-gun") of Japanese professional baseball. The league is owned and managed by the Pacific League of Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). Teams in the Western League generally play an 80-game schedule every year.
Kansai Farm League
The league was created in 1952 as the Kansai Farm League, and was initially completely separate from the workings of the Nippon Professional Baseball. It featured the minor league teams of the six professional teams that had their homefields in the western region of Japan, as well one independent team not affiliated with an NPB franchise.
- Hankyu Braves
- Hanshin Jaguars
- Nagoya Dragons
- Nankai Hawks
- Nishitetsu Lions
- Sanyo Crowns — independent
- Shochiku Robins
The Sanyo Crowns were dissolved after the 1952 season. The Shochiku Robins merged with the Taiyo Whales in 1953, but the Kintetsu Pearls' farm team joined the league that year, keeping the number of teams at six.
In 1954 the six teams of Nippon Professional Baseball's Central League decided to form their own minor league, called the New Japan League. With the Chunichi Dragons and Hanshin Tigers affiliates dropping out to join the new minor league, only four teams remained in the Kansai Farm League.
Formation of the Western League
Both minor league decided to join forces with NPB in 1955, and the 14 farm teams of the Central League and Pacific League were split up to create the Western League and Eastern League, each with seven teams.
1955 Western League lineup (minor league homefield shown in parentheses):
The Lions moved their franchise to Saitama in 1979 to join the Eastern League, leaving six teams, and in 2005 the Orix BlueWave and Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes merged to become the Orix Buffaloes, leaving five teams in the Western League.
Most of the Japanese minor league teams carry the same name, and use the same uniforms, as their parent team. The Western League contains the minor league affiliates of five Japanese professional teams (minor league homefield shown in parentheses):
- Chunichi Dragons (Nagoya, Aichi)
- Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks (Fukuoka, Fukuoka)
- Hanshin Tigers (Nishinomiya, Hyōgo) — called the Hanshin Jaguars until 1957
- Hiroshima Toyo Carp (Iwakuni, Yamaguchi) — called the Hiroshima Greens, or Hiroshima Carp Greeners, before returning to their parent team's name in 1958
- Orix Buffaloes (Kobe, Hyōgo) — as the minor league affiliate of the Orix BlueWave called Surpass Kobe in 2000, and then the Surpass in 2005; returned to the parent team's name in 2009
- "Minor League History," JapaneseBaseball.com. Accessed April 20, 2015.
- Western League standings from 1955–2011 (Japanese)