Korean-American Japanese professional baseball “129 years of .”
This season (2023), professional baseball in three countries (Korea, the United States, and Japan) with a strong love for baseball has come to a close. The three countries have one thing in common, and it can be summarized in one word: “unleashed”. Surprisingly, the three countries have a combined 129 years of championship thirst.
The Major League Baseball (ML) Texas Rangers won their first World Series in 1961. It’s been 62 years since the last one. The Hanshin Tigers of the National-Pacific Bi-League (NPB) have been at the top for 38 years, since 1985. The Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) LG Twins also won the Korean Series for the first time in 29 years, turning Jamsil Baseball Stadium into a sea of tears for LG fans.굿모닝토토 도메인
The MLB Texas Rangers are back as World Series champions after 62 years. Yonhap News
Winning teams from three countries vow to build ‘new dynasties’
Three countries have traditional baseball dynasties. But the three teams that won this year’s championships have broken through the jungle to spearhead new dynasties, and they’ve made it clear that they won’t be one-offs.
Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said after their Game 5 victory, “I’m lucky, I’m blessed, to lead a team like this. We’re in a good place right now,” hinting at a repeat as defending champions next year.
Japan Hanshin is even more dramatic. Head coach Akinobu Okada won the title as both captain and head coach of the team. “I was 27 years old when I won my first championship, so a long time has passed since then,” he said, vowing to “repay the Hanshin fans for their enthusiastic support next year.”
LG coach Yeom Kyung-yup, nicknamed ‘Yeom Gal-ryang’, said, “We are a team with a good balance of old and new. We can be a prestigious club, and we always aim to win,” he said, adding, “LG’s championship is just beginning.” He declared the construction of a new dynasty.
The Korean Series had many coincidental similarities to the American World Series. Both series ended in Game 5. After taking a 1-0 lead, the series tilted further in Game 3 and ended with a 4-1 victory. Both teams were hungry for a championship, and their fans rewarded them with a championship ceremony.
Both teams’ shortstops were named series MVPs. Texas’ Corey Seager, 29, and LG’s Oh Ji-hwan. Both were named Most Valuable Person (MVP) for their dramatic home runs in the clutch, setting the tone for the series. They both hit three home runs in the five-game series.
The most dramatic of the three home runs was also similar. Corey Seager tied the game at 5-5 in Game 1 with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning to spark a comeback, and Oh hit a game-winning three-run shot with one out in the top of the ninth in Game 3.
Texas was crowned champions for the first time since its inception. Surprisingly, there’s a team in the MLB that hasn’t even tasted a championship. The Cleveland Cavaliers (formerly the Indians), founded in 1901. They won championships in 1920 and 1948, then went 75 years without a title.
In 2016, the Chicago Cubs broke the “Curse of the Goat” after 108 years. Five teams – the Milwaukee Brewers (founded in 1970), San Diego Padres (1969), Seattle Mariners (1977), Colorado Rockies (1998), and Tampa Bay Rays (1998) – have never won a World Series since their inception.
In the KBO, the Lotte Giants, one of the original teams to start the program, hasn’t been to the top since 1992 and is in a 31-year championship drought, longer than LG. On the other hand, newcomers KT Wiz and SSG Landers (formerly SK Wyverns) won the Korean Series in 2021 and 2022, respectively. NC Dinos also tasted the thrill of winning the title in 2020.
The Samsung Lions, a traditional baseball team that finished eighth this season, are half hopeful and half worried that they can break the “Rafa Curse” next season. Courtesy of the Samsung Lions
If 2023 was the year of the championship, next season will be the year of the traditional baseball dynasties and whether the three defending champions will start a new dynasty. Or maybe a team like the Cleveland Cavaliers or Lotte Giants will break an even longer drought.
In ML, no team has won back-to-back World Series titles in the last decade. Starting with the San Francisco Giants in 2014, the Kansas City Royals (2015), Chicago Cubs (2016), Houston Astros (2017), Boston Red Sox (2018), Washington Nationals (2019), LA Dodgers (2020), Atlanta Braves (2021), and Houston Astros (2022) have won rings.
The KBO has had a different champion for the past eight years after the Doosan Bears won back-to-back titles in 2015 and 2016. Starting with the Kia Tigers’ 2017 championship, the SK Wyverns (2018), Doosan Bears (2019), NC Dinos (2020), KT Wiz (2021), and SSG Landers (2022) have been different teams at the top each year.
Meanwhile, the Samsung Lions, a baseball team with ties to Daegu, have not won a title in a decade and have been hovering in the mid-to-low tier since 2011-14, when they won four consecutive combined titles (pennant race + Korean Series title). Some fans are hoping for a revival of the Samsung baseball franchise, even referring to it as the “Rafa curse” (Glossary).