Veteran pitcher and fan favorite Yoo Hee-kwan retires
Doosan Bears pitcher Yoo Hee-kwan, famed as much for his exuberant personality off the field as his achievements on it, announced his retirement on Tuesday.
Yoo retires with 101 wins and 69 losses and a career 4.58 ERA over 11 seasons with Doosan. Although his personal brand of slow-ball baseball could sometimes frustrate fans as much as it did opposing batters, Yoo remains the only left-handed pitcher in the history of the Bears to record over 100 wins.
Yoo pitched in six Korean Series with the Bears and was part of the Championship squad three times. In 2015 he earned the win and was the MVP in the deciding Game 5 of the Korean Series against the Samsung Lions. That year he also went on to win the Choi Dong-won Award, the KBO's top pitching honor.
Yoo's pitching dropped off last season, with just four wins and seven losses and a 7.71 ERA. It was the first season since 2013 that he failed to record double-digit wins and appeared in less than 20 games.
But despite an average, if consistent, career on the mound, Yoo carved out his own spot in fans' hearts with his behavior off the field. With a parade of fantastic hairstyles and colors, Yoo quickly proved that he had the wit and character to keep up with the stars of Korean reality television, where he would often make appearances in the off-season.
His starring role — and questionable dance moves — in an infamous Cass Point ad in 2017 further cemented his legacy as the KBO's fun-loving comic relief.
"After thinking long and hard about my future, I have decided to retire," Yoo was quoted as saying on Yonhap. "As I watched young pitchers develop last year, I decided it was time for me to get out of the way and let those players take over.
"I hope young pitchers will lead the Bears to a great future. I will always cheer for this team."
The Bears will hold a retirement press conference for Yoo at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in southern Seoul on Thursday.
BY JIM BULLEY [email@example.com]