If what makes a great sports club is a massive and fanatical fan base, a glorious history and years of miserable sporting failure then the Hanshin Tigers must be challenging my own team Newcastle United and the Chicago Cubs for the global honours.
They definitely have the most bonkers set of supporters in Japanese baseball. They do nice things like singing adieu to the other team's pitcher when he gets switched. They riot when they win, dig graves when they don't and are convinced that Colonel Sanders has a thing against them.
Hanshin fans also seem to like to toast their paltry successes with malt whisky. I have seen a number of whisky bottlings to mark their 2003 Central League pennant win (eg. 1,2) but I never knew there was a pure malt complete with moving manager and music box produced for the obviously delirious Hanshiners:
This one was found by "Katotomo", whose excellent Japanese language blog about the good stuff has become regular reading for me. He bought it at auction and reports it came with a note saying it was a 22-year-old "pure malt" made at the Mars distillery at Shinshu. Bit of a problem there because Shinshu was opened in 1985 and this is a 2003 commemorative bottling, so it could only be a maximum 18 years.
Katotomo contacted Mars and found out that it actually contained malt from when Mars were making whisky at their winery in Isawa, Yamanashi Prefecture (not sure whether it was mixed with stuff from the Kagoshima distillery or somewhere else, which would explain the "pure malt" rather than "single malt" designation). They now have only a few drops left of this Yamanashi liquor.
I am green with envy!
Photograph from Moaksey.