TOKYO — The Yomiuri Giants have had so much success as a baseball team the past 52 years that they now have a cheerleading squad--to root against them.
More than 150 anti-Giants baseball fans have formed a club to rail against the team at games, urging players to be less diligent, maybe miss a few fly balls here and there, so the team doesn't dominate the sport.
"I was a Giants fan when I was a young boy," said Mineyoshi Eto, 49, who organized the Association for Anti-Giants People. But he said his interest waned as the Giants captured pennant after pennant, ruining the chances for other teams.
The Yomiuri Giants, founded in 1936, were the first professional baseball club in Japan. They have won 33 pennants, including 16 national championships. They captured the Central League pennant and won the Japan Series nine years in a row starting in 1965.
When the Giants play, they invariably draw a full house, and tickets are so valuable they are nicknamed "platinum paper."
More than 100 of the scheduled 130 games a season are nationally televised. Giants players are so popular that they make more commercials than other players.
Regardless of whether they win or lose, the outcome of a Giants game is usually the front-page story in daily sports newspapers.
This year, the team has been hovering near second place, which hasn't pleased the AAGP one iota.
More than 150 fans have paid about $8 each to join the club since it was formed April 1, and are willing to pay $24 a year in annual dues for the privilege of urging their team to lose, Eto said.
Members have received an eight-page "Report Anti-G" produced by Eto containing letters and congratulations from Anti-G members, and reprints of newspaper articles about the Giants' losing games.
Eto said the club's goal now is to select a president, and choose a winner of the Anti-Giants Award for the anti-Giants man who did the best job opposing the team--someone who may have a file of old newspaper stories reporting a Giants' losing streak, for instance. Or, even better, a story about the Giants being beaten in a "sayonara" game--a tie game ended by a run in the bottom of the ninth inning.
Eto has his work cut out for him. He's going up against one of the biggest fan clubs in the country, the powerful Giants Fan Club which has 30,000 members and is marking its 10th anniversary.
The Giants Fan Club is so popular that it had to limit its members to 30,000 because so many people wanted to join, said club spokeswoman Yukiko Sato.
The pro-Giants club members, who pay $22 a year, can receive six free tickets for outfield seats.
The anti-group members have to buy their own tickets. "It's very difficult to get tickets for Giants games and we have had to pay five times more than the regular price," Eto said.
Normal ticket prices range from $8 to $36 for a game at the newly built Tokyo Dome, the Giants' home stadium.
The Association for Anti-Giants People rules say its purpose is to promote professional baseball and the club does not intend to make trouble for other fan clubs. The AAGP will have a hard time making an impact, because the team already has so many eager followers.
"By forming the anti-Giants fan club, we hope to usher in a new phase in Japan's professional baseball," an undaunted Eto said.
However, Eto still has a long way to go.
Sato of the regular Giants fan club said she hadn't even heard of Eto's group.