KBO history: MBC beat Samsung in the KBO's opening game
Forty years ago, on March 27, 1982, MBC Chungryong beat the Samsung Lions 11-7 at Dongdaemun Stadium in central Seoul in the first professional baseball game in Korea.
The Lions got things started quickly on that historic night in the now-demolished central Seoul stadium, picking up two runs in the first inning after Lee Man-soo bagged the first hit in Korean professional baseball history.
Samsung continued to pile on in the second, adding three more runs to take a comfortable 5-0 lead and knock MBC starter Lee Kil-hwan out of the game.
The Seoul club slowly started to chip away at that lead with runs at the bottom of the second and fourth to take the score to 5-2.
Samsung pulled further ahead at the top of the fifth, when Lee Man-soo once again made history, this time with the KBO’s first home run.
MBC added another at the bottom of the fifth, with both teams adding a run in the sixth to put the score at 7-4 going into the back third of the game.
Stepping up to the plate with two runners on base at the bottom of the seventh, MBC’s Yu Sung-an hit the very first multi-hit home run in the KBO, giving the Seoul club three runs to tie the score at 7-7.
That tie continued through the eighth and ninth, pushing the league’s opening game into extra innings.
With Samsung unable to get anything across at the top of the tenth, MBC needed just a single run to end the game and pick up the KBO’s first win.
Instead, the Seoul club went out in style, loading the bases with two outs before Lee Chong-do stepped up to the plate and hammered a grand slam over the wall to give MBC the win in spectacular fashion.
That dramatic start kicked off the inaugural KBO season, with six teams competing for the championship trophy. MBC in Seoul and the Lions in Daegu were joined by the Lotte Giants in Busan, the OB Bears in Daejeon, the Sammi Superstars in Incheon and the Haitai Tigers in Gwangju.
A total of 80 games were played that season, split over two halves, with the winners of each half of the season progressing to the Korean Series.
The Bears won the first half and the Lions the second to earn their spots in the inaugural Korean Series. After a tense 3-3 tie over 15 innings in the opening game, the Bears went on to beat the Lions 4-1 to take the title.
Of those six founding KBO teams, only two remain unchanged today: The Lions and the Giants.
Broadcaster MBC eventually sold the Chungryong to LG in 1989, accepting that owning a sports team wasn’t the best way to ensure its journalistic integrity. The team was renamed the LG Twins and has stayed the same ever since.
Aside from moving from Dongdaemun in central Seoul to Jamsil in southern Seoul during that first 1982 season, the Twins have seen no other changes throughout the club’s history.
The Haitai Tigers went through a similar process in 1998, when the Asian financial crisis hit confectionary company Haitai hard, forcing it to sell the club to Kia, and the Kia Tigers were born.
For the OB Bears, the situation was slightly different. The Bears moved to Seoul in 1985 and became the Doosan Bears in 1999. In the case of the Bears, it wasn’t Oriental Brewery that sold the club, but Doosan Group that sold Oriental Brewery.
After selling OB to Inbev in 1998, Doosan chose to keep the team, rebranding it as the Doosan Bears. The Bears and the Twins have shared Jamsil Baseball Stadium since 1985, producing a subway series so acutely localized that neither team actually has to ride the subway.
The sixth founding team, the Sammi Superstars, has a far more storied history.
The Sammi Superstars, founded by Sammi Steel, started life in the old Incheon Sungui Baseball Stadium in Incheon.
The Superstars, with their distinctive logo of a half-naked superhero playing baseball, didn’t last very long. After a historic season in 1983, the Superstars started to struggle and were eventually sold off halfway through the 1985 season — although at that point the KBO played two half seasons, so the sale was actually during the summer break.
The Incheon club was very briefly reborn as the Chungbo Pintos, adopting one of the KBO’s most iconic emblems: A baseball-playing donkey.
The Pintos fared even worse than the Superstars, lasting just two and a half years before being sold off again, this time to Taepyungyang, a cosmetics company that has now grown into the Amorepacific Corporation.
The Taepyungyang Dolphins lasted a lot longer. Known as the Pacific Dolphins in English, the new Incheon side managed to hold on from 1988 to 1995. But like both the Superstars and the Pintos, the Dolphins never actually managed to win anything.
In 1995, the team’s luck changed. Taepyungyang sold the club to Hyundai, creating the Hyundai Unicorns. The team was actually owned by Hynix, which is now SK hynix, but back then was part of Hyundai Group.
Hyundai turned the team around, quickly transforming it into a serious contender that went on to win the Korean Series four times, in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2004.
But despite their early success, the Unicorns had serious financial difficulties. In 2000 the club moved from Incheon to Suwon, Gyeonggi, and in 2008 it was disbanded.
Six more teams would go on to join the KBO over the following decades.
The Binggrae Eagles, now the Hanwha Eagles, were first through the door in 1986, filling the gap in Daejeon left by the Bears’ move to Seoul.
The now-disbanded Ssangbangwool Raiders were founded in 1990 in Jeonju, North Jeolla, and joined the KBO in 1991. Nine seasons later, the team was dissolved after Ssangbangwool Group went bankrupt.
In 2000, the SK Wyverns, now the SSG Landers, were founded in Incheon, filling the gap left by the departure of the Unicorns. Eight years later, the disbandment of the Unicorns would also create a chance for the Woori Heroes, now the Kiwoom Heroes, to be created in western Seoul.
In 2013 the NC Dinos entered the KBO representing the city of Changwon in South Gyeongsang. Two years later, the KT Wiz, the KBO’s 12th franchise and the 10th team in the league right now, joined up.
KT established the Wiz in Suwon, filling the void left by the Unicorns seven years earlier. With the Bears, Twins and Heroes in Seoul and the Wyverns in Incheon, the Wiz, the current reigning champions, became the fifth team in the greater Seoul area.
Despite their success in that opening game back in 1982, it would be another eight years before MBC Chungryong, by then the LG Twins, won their first season title and championship. The Twins have won the Korean Series just twice — in 1990 and 1994 — and have failed to reach the championship for the last 20 years.
Having finished the 2021 season in third place, the Twins could be looking to reignite some of that 1982 magic this year.
The 2022 KBO season starts on April 2.
BY JIM BULLEY [firstname.lastname@example.org]