Japanese pro baseball, the Nippon Professional Baseball Organization (NPB) had a business model that reached its mature form along with postwar Japan’s political economy in the 1950s and 1960s. By the time Japan’s Bubble Economy collapsed, however, this model was no longer sustainable. Yet, like the overseers of Japan’s political economy, NPB owners felt they could ride out the storm making the minimum change necessary.
The crisis of 2004, which saw the merger of two teams, meant that change could no longer be avoided. But what sort of change? Owners looked to radically shrink the industry in order to maintain their control over it. Players and fans were willing to embrace transformative change in order to preserve the basic structure of pro ball.
The way the crisis worked out says a lot about the nature of change in Japan during these years.
Dr. Paul Dunscomb, Professor of History, University of Alaska, Anchorage (Ph.D. University of Kansas).