Football legend retires

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Football legend retires

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker Lee Dong-gook, 41, the oldest player in K League 1 football, says he will retire. [JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS FC]

Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors striker Lee Dong-gook, 41, the oldest player in K League 1 football, says he will retire. [JEONBUK HYUNDAI MOTORS FC]

LEE DONG-HYUN
The author is a deputy head of industry 1 teamof the JoongAng Ilbo.


How many times had Hank Aaron, 86, got the Major League Baseball annual home run lead? Babe Ruth (1895-1948) had been a 12-time American League home run leader. Mark McGuire, 57, had five MLB home run leads.

Actually, Hank Aaron was an MLB annual home run leader only four times. Playing in the league for 23 years, Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 in 1974. Through his retirement in 1976, Aaron hit a total of 755 home runs, a record broken by Barry Bonds 31 years later. However, many people believe Aaron is the true career home run leader despite Bonds, who was suspected of steroid use.

The four-time league home run leader never hit more than 50 home runs in one season. The most he hit was 47, in 1971. While Aaron never hit 50 to 60 home runs in a season, he has never spent a year without hitting double-digit home runs. In his last season, he played just 85 games and yet hit 10 home runs.

Though his career home run record was officially broken, Aaron still holds many records — most career RBIs (2,297), most career total bases (6,856), and most career extra base hits (1,477) — which are far ahead of the runners-up. He is third in career hits and fourth in career runs scored. Aside from Aaron, the only player who achieved the feat of 3,000 career hits, 2,000 career RBIs and 2,000 career runs scored is Alex Rodriguez, whose career was marred by steroid use.

I brought up the career of Hank Aaron because of Korea’s football player Lee Dong-gook, who announced his retirement last week. The 41-year-old footballer’s 23-year career is engraved in the memories of fans in their 30s and 40s — from Lee as a young player who made a clean mid-range kick at the France World Cup in 1998 to a father of five children on a television show.

Some say Lee is an unfortunate player, but he remains as a K-League legend for never giving up. His records of career goals of 228 and most field participation of 547 matches are not likely to be broken soon. It may sound like too much to compare Lee to Hank Aaron. But when it comes to his tirelessness over 23 years, there are few sports stars worthy of the comparison.

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