[SPORTS VIEW]Samsung slugger proved he was a starThe Samsung Lions broke their curse this week, and in grand fashion. Actually, I would not have minded if the curse had continued for another 10 years. It added spice and fun to pro baseball, especially because it afflicted the sport's richest team. That makes the schadenfreude even better.
Over the 21-year history of Korean pro baseball, Samsung had never won a crown, and had lost the Korean Series seven times. Over the past few years the team has been spending boatloads of cash in search of the elusive crown. Other teams had criticized Samsung for "showing the money" to top players. They laughed as long as the spending frenzy didn't buy the ultimate prize. Well, not anymore. Someday, the curse had to be lifted.
During this year's Korean Series we saw why some players are stars: They thrive when the pressure is on and the game -- or the series -- is on the line. Samsung's slugger Lee Seung-yeob proved that he was a star when he hit a three-run home run that tied the final game. He had struggled to that point, with just two hits in 20 at-bats in the series. But with his team down by three in the bottom of the ninth and LG on the verge of forcing a seventh and deciding game, Lee came through.
Giving the home-run king of the league a good pitch to hit was bad enough, but LG made its biggest mistake just before that. With one out and a runner on second, LG walked Tilsen Brito intentionally to set up the double play.
Granted, Brito was hot and Lee wasn't. Maybe LG thought that Lee, though he whacked 46 home runs during the regular season, would choke under the pressure.
LG will have a long time to think about that decision. What do you do after a loss like that? Swallow it and live another day to fight. I think the Twins will be back next year and in full force. The team was the underdog of the postseason but outdid expectations all the way through.
But back to the curse. If it truly has been lifted from Samsung's neck, where is it now? The only team left in the league that has not won a Korean Series is the SK Wyverns. Founded in 2000, the team is saying that next year will be its year, but I have my doubts. I think we might have another curse on our hands that will provide us with some more fun.
And now that Lee Seung-yeob has finally grabbed a crown for Samsung, it is time for him to think about playing abroad. Last year Lee was a free agent and eligible to play abroad, but chose to stay home at Samsung's request. But the road is now clear. He stayed this year for the team, so now it is only fair that the team let him go.
From one pitch to another, the national soccer team will play an exhibition with Brazil on Wednesday. Fans will have a chance to catch a glimpse of world-class soccer, but it will also be the last time to see the country's soccer hero Hong Myung-bo, 33, wear Korea's uniform and play as captain. Hong, who will join the Los Angeles Galaxy in the Major League Soccer next season, is ending his 12-year stint with the national team. Over that span he played in 101 class-A matches. He deserves applause for the service he has done for Korea. A true iron man.
by Brian Lee
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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