TOKYO -- Nippon Professional Baseball's Yakult Swallows clinched the Central League pennant on Sept. 25 with a 1-0 win over the Yokohama BayStars. And with its second league championship in as many years, the team brought back a Japanese baseball tradition: the "Beer Kake," or dousing all and sundry with suds.
The Central League in the bag, a huge vinyl sheet was laid out near the middle of the field at the Swallows' home Jingu Baseball Stadium, and players and staff flooded onto it in matching T-shirts commemorating their victory. Starter Yasuhiro Ogawa, who gave up just two hits and no runs over six innings, called out to the still crowded stands, "The Swallows will keep flying high with your love!"
The team marked last year's league championship with non-alcoholic beer. And when the team won the Japan Series, the main celebration was behind closed doors, with just a few Swallows coming out to pour beer on the field.
The toned-down Beer Kake of 2021 was in-line with the subdued versions of the custom seen over the past few years of the coronavirus pandemic, including among other teams. So for the first time in a long time, Swallows fans could revel in a moment of pure, intoxicating joy with their baseball heroes.
(Japanese original by Naoya Tsunoda, Tokyo Sports News Department)