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Never on Sunday do the Orix BlueWave win.

Manager Leon Lee’s team has lost its last 22 encounters on the Sabbath — dating back to last season it should be pointed out — long before the American was appointed to lead the team from Kobe.

“Maybe we should petition the Commissioner’s Office to cancel the remainder of our games on Sunday,” said the frustrated manager after the ‘Wave lost its 21st straight Nichiyobi start, 6-0 to the Nippon Ham Fighters in Tokyo on June 15. No. 22 came on June 22; a 2-0 loss to the Seibu Lions at Tokorozawa.

The next chance to end the embarrassing slump will come on June 29 when Orix visits the Chiba Lotte Marines at Chiba. If it drops that one for No. 23., Orix will look to July 6 and a home-away-from-home contest when the BlueWave will play the Fighters at Nagoya Dome. My suggestion, made to Lee 10 days ago, is for the team to adopt a reverse-color cap for good luck; something different to seek a different outcome.

Instead of the usual blue hats with yellow lettering, the players could don specially made “Sunday boshi.” Yellow caps with blue lettering. Or a red logo. It could be a great P.R. stunt which, given pre-publicity, would attract interest, maybe help sell a few tickets and perhaps even lead to a Sunday victory for the first time in almost a year, and it looks like it might happen.

The Nikkan Sports, in its June 23 edition, quoted the BlueWave skipper as saying if they lost on the 22nd, “Boshi no iro wo kaeru yo.” (We’ll change the color of our caps.)

I am reminded of a story infielder Mariano Duncan told in 1998 when he was with the Yomiuri Giants. It involved a “Sunday cap” worn by the Philadelphia Phillies when Duncan played for that club in 1993. It is well known that the Phillies have always worn red-and-white (red-and-gray on the road) uniforms with red caps. But that year, the Phils took to wearing a blue cap on Sundays.

“We played terribly wearing them,” said Duncan. “We were something like 2-9 and one Sunday we were in the dugout, about to take the field for a game, wearing those blue caps. Lenny Dykstra suddenly realized they were bad luck and said, ‘I’m not wearing this (expletive deleted) hat.’ He ran into the clubhouse and came out wearing the usual red cap, and the rest of us quickly ran in to get our red ones too.”

You guessed it. Philadelphia won that Sunday, and the blue caps were gone forever. Burned in a bonfire after that victory. Maybe the BlueWave need the same thing, only in reverse. Abandon the regular headgear for something unusual.

Hey, give it try. You’ve got nothing to lose but a 23rd consecutive Sunday game.

Curious are the dates announced by the Central and Pacific Leagues for the opening of the 2004 Japan pro baseball season.

The Pacific League will start on Saturday, March 27, while the Central circuit will stage its lidlifters on Friday, April 2.

So, where does that leave the rumored major league opening series in Tokyo between the New York Yankees (and Hideki Matsui) and another American League team?

Would the MLB openers take place prior to the PL official start, like the week of March 22-26? (Too early!) Or would the Yankees play after the Pacific Leaguers get under way with a two-game series March 27-28? (Good timing.)

I can see New York’s games (including an exhibition or two) being scheduled between Monday, March 29, and Thursday, April 1. Then the Pacific League season can resume on April 2, the same Friday night the Central League begins play on April 2.

Could it be someone read my column of April 2 of this year, begging the authorities of both Japanese baseball and MLB to not start the 2004 season so early?

Most papers that carried the recent obituary for Larry Doby did not mention the first black player in the American League actually finished his active career here in Japan, three years after retiring from the majors following the 1959 season.

He and former Brooklyn Dodgers great Don Newcombe played in 1962 with the Chunichi Dragons.

Doby was 37 years old when he hit 10 home runs, had 35 RBIs and batted .225 for Nagoya. He died at age 78 on June 18 in Montclair, N.J.

Those of you who enjoyed the Arizona Diamondbacks Day promotion at Tokyo Dome on June 15 and who would like to send a note of thanks for the free tickets should not send it to me.

Rather, please send a brief note or post card to: Mr. Takeshi Kojima, President and General Manager, Nippon Ham Fighters, Roppongi Denki Building 6th Floor, 6-1-20 Roppongi, Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0032.

Many who attended expressed disappointment because this may have been the last “Gaijin Day” in Tokyo, as the Fighters will move to Sapporo after this season.

However, we will try to keep this going, at least in 2004, as Nippon Ham will still play 15 games at Tokyo Dome, one three-game series against each of the other five Pacific League teams.

The promotion has been a lucky one for the ball club, as the Fighters have a record of 20-2-1 in the 23 years we have held Diamondbacks Day and its forerunner, Yankees Day.

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