Japanese baseball commissioner Yasuchika Negoro said Thursday he prioritizes maintaining the two-league system in the debate over whether to realign Japanese professional baseball.

News photoHanshin Tigers’ Takashi Toritani steals second base during the fifth inning of
Friday’s game against the Hiroshima Carp at Koshien Stadium.

“We have had two leagues for 55 years of the 70-year history of Japanese baseball. We have to consider first if we could keep them and if we find it hard to do it, there may be an opinion in favor of a switch to one league,” Negoro said.

Negoro was speaking after a meeting with Democratic Party of Japan policy chief Yoshito Sengoku and other lawmakers who recently formed a study group to discuss issues on pro baseball.

According to officials familiar with Thursday’s meeting, Sengoku told the lawmakers that he would like to put forward a personal proposal to keep the two-league system.

DPJ’s Sengoku has led a campaign among lawmakers opposed to the move toward one-league baseball as a key Sept. 8 meeting of the owners of the 12 professional clubs approaches.

The meeting is designed to give formal approval to the planned merger of the Orix BlueWave and Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and decide on the setup of pro baseball for the 2005 season.

The focus of attention is whether a second merger that would follow the Orix-Kintetsu merger in the Pacific League would take shape prior to the owners meeting.

In July, Seibu Lions owner Yoshiaki Tsutsumi said another merger plan is in the pipeline in the PL, without giving any details.

Deal formally signed

OSAKA (Kyodo) The Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes and Orix BlueWave signed a formal contract on their merger Friday, railway operator Kintetsu Corp. said.

Kintetsu Corp. did not disclose any details of the deal but flatly denied a press report that the Osaka-based company plans to withdraw from the baseball business in three years.

However, Buffaloes President Tetsuya Kobayashi did not rule out the possibility that Kintetsu will fully abandon baseball operations in the future after running the ballclub for more than half a century.

“If you ask us if we are definitely going to keep the club for a long time, it’s hard for us to say so at the moment,” Kobayashi said.

Under the basic merger agreement signed on Aug. 10, the merged club will be run by a new company jointly owned by Orix Corp. and Kintetsu Corp. It will be owned 80 percent by Orix and the rest by Kintetsu.

Hawks thrash Lions

Associated Press Julio Zuleta connected for a pair of homers to power the Pacific League-leading Daiei Hawks to a 20-4 thrashing of the Seibu Lions at Seibu Dome on Friday..

Zuleta hit a three-run homer in a five-run first and added a two-run blast in the fourth, when the Hawks scored four runs to open up a 12-4 lead.

Daiei infielder Nobuhiko Matsunaka added a three-run homer in the fourth as the Hawks grabbed a 2 1/2-game lead over Seibu in the standings.

Marines 7, Buffaloes 1

At Osaka Dome, Koichi Hori hit a three-run homer in the third inning to lead Lotte to a win over Kintetsu.

Lotte starter Hiroyuki Kobayashi held the Buffaloes to one run on seven hits over seven innings to pick up the win.


Swallows 6, Giants 4

At Jingu Stadium, Atsunori Inaba hit a pair of homers to lead Yakult over Yomiuri.

The Giants, who are running out of time in the Central League pennant race, dropped 4 1/2 games behind the Chunichi Dragons in the standings.

Dragons 4, BayStars 0

At Nagoya Dome, starter Domingo Guzman gave up five hits over six scoreless innings as league-leading Chunichi blanked Yokohama.

Tigers 3, Carp 2 (12)At Koshien Stadium, Shinjiro Hiyama drove in a run in the bottom of the 12th inning to lift Hanshin to a victory over Hiroshima.

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