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Most Japanese fans of Major League Baseball are pulling for a Chicago-St. Louis World Series, hoping to see a match-up of the “Guchi Brothers,” former Japan Pacific League rivals Tadahito Iguchi of the White Sox and So Taguchi of the Cardinals.

I have to say I am in line with that, especially on the American League side where I still have a problem with the name Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

You may recall I mentioned in a column last fall how much I disliked that designation after the then-Anaheim Angels decided to include names of the two cities in their designation.

I even got a supportive followup e-mail from an Anaheim city official expressing his understandable displeasure with the change.

Most of the time now, Anaheim is not even mentioned when someone talks about the team. It’s simply the Los Angeles Angels, and that’s a lot better than the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

I still don’t like that. Go, Sox!

Meanwhile, the focus in Japan has been on the exciting Pacific League Stage 2 Playoffs between Bobby Valentine’s Chiba Lotte Marines of Makuhari and Sadaharu Oh’s Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks of Momochi (see how silly that sounds?), and let us take a moment here for a few words about the Marines and how far the team has come since 1994, when that franchise was deader than the proverbial doornail.

No one went to watch them play in Chiba or anywhere else, no one wanted to manage them (until Bobby Valentine came along), and the team had deservedly acquired the label of a perennial loser after 13 consecutive finishes in the Pa League second division.

They wore those sissy-looking white uniforms with pink lettering, and I still remember Mel Hall, one of the foreign players on the 1994 Lotte club, telling me, “We just don’t look fearsome out there in pink and white.”

Hall was right; they were anything but fearsome.

Look at the Marines now. You just can’t say enough about what Valentine and his staff have accomplished, mostly in the past two seasons, but the program is one Bobby really started 10 years ago when he breathed some life into the organization and set it on the right course.

Today’s CLM roster is packed deep with quality players, featuring a batting lineup of power, speed and clutch hitting.

The defense has been superb, especially in the Oct. 8-9 PL Playoff Stage 1 series against the Seibu Lions, and having four starters win in double figures, excellent set-up men and the league-leading closer, makes the Lotte mound staff one of the best in the world.

It is a pleasure now going to games at Marine Stadium, despite the long, long transfer from the JR Chuo Line to the Keiyo Line I need to make at Tokyo Station and the long, long walk from Kaihin Makuhari Station to the ballpark.

That second trek can be eliminated, though, by taking one of the convenient shuttle buses decorated with the Marines logo and pinstripes and the catch phrase, “MARINES IS MY LIFE.” But I can use the exercise.

On the way into the stadium, you can pick up a program and scorecard, just like at a major league game in North America, for only 100, yen and let me tell you about the “White Stadium” posters promoting the Seibu series.

There were three, depicting a brilliant idea of mixing the past and present, yesterday and today, throw-back and right-now.

One features Valentine matching “guts poses” with Masaichi Kaneda, manager of the last Lotte Japan Series champion team in 1974.

Kaneda is wearing the uniform of the old Lotte Orions. A second poster has four current Marines hitters in batting poses, along with Michiyo (“Mr. Lotte”) Arito, the third baseman and star of the 1974 Orions.

The third one shows four 2005 Lotte pitchers throwing in front of Choji Murata, ace hurler on that Orions club that defeated the Chunichi Dragons four games to two in the Japan Series 31 — yep, 31 — years ago, when Lotte was a homeless “gypsy” team playing “home” games all over Japan.

Hey, are those posters for sale?

Collector’s items they are, for sure.

Perhaps most impressive, though, is No. 26, the Marines cheering section that backs the 25 players on the bench, unfurls a huge banner at the start of each game and makes lots and lots of noise to keep the heroes motivated.

Former Brooklyn Dodgers (1944-1953) pitcher Ralph Branca watched at Chiba as Lotte eliminated Seibu and said the Marines fans are even more excited than the Flatbush faithful he remembers 52 –yep, 52 — years ago.

“I thought the Brooklyn fans were the greatest,” said Branca. “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”

Branca, 79, was here to support the Marines whose manager is his son-in-law, Bobby Valentine. Branca said he has to leave prior to the start of the Japan Series, and that’s too bad.

Can you imagine a bleacher battle between the Chiba rooters and Hanshin Tigers supporters?

Remind me to look for my ear plugs.

And to think a little more than a year ago, when Japanese baseball club owners were looking for two teams to form a second merger after Kintetsu-Orix, and one of the combinations being suggested was an amalgamation of the Marines and the Hawks.

Aren’t we all happy that did not occur?

The future looks bright for Lotte, too.

The Marines’ Eastern League farmhands defeated the Hanshin Tigers’ Western League boys in Japan’s minor league championship game on Oct. 8, and Valentine praised the job done by the Marines second-team skipper, former California League manager Hide Koga.

Make no mistake about it. The Lotte franchise, once dead, is alive and well.

Contact Wayne Graczyk at: wsgraczyk@yahoo.com

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