• Kyodo

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In an effort to protect its property from frenzied Hanshin Tigers fans, Kentucky Fried Chicken Japan Ltd. is allowing franchise shops to bring their Colonel Sanders statues indoors, it was learned Tuesday.

The move reflects concerns among some stores over the safety of the statues, one of which was thrown into the Dotonbori River in downtown Osaka by elated fans when the Tigers last won the Japan Series in 1985, company officials said.

Some outlets have asked the franchise headquarters in Tokyo for advice on dealing with the expected revelry this year, they said. The Tigers currently lead the Central League by a comfortable margin.

The headquarters has begun contemplating precautionary measures, such as keeping “The Colonel” inside when the store is closed, they explained.

“We would like to see the Tigers win, as this ‘bond’ of sorts has developed between us,” said one KFC official in reference to the Dotonbori incident. “But it would be a problem if any of our customers got hurt.”

At the fast-food chain’s Hanshin Koshien branch, near the Tigers’ home stadium, fans put plastic Tigers’ megaphones in the Colonel statue’s arms after home games.

The store manager is considering dressing the Colonel in a “happi” coat designed with the Tigers’ trademark pinstripes, but the icon might still be brought indoors at night.

In 1985, the Colonel Sanders statue from the Dotonbori outlet, which has since closed, was thrown into the river during victory celebrations and was never recovered. The Tigers’ record had been dismal since that championship season, causing some fans to blame the “curse of the Sanders statue.”

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