DAEJEON, April 17 (Yonhap) -- After the Hanwha Eagles finally snapped their losing streak at 13 games in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), fans at Hanbat Baseball Stadium in Daejeon partied like it was 1999 again.
Prince would have happily obliged to perform his single "1999" before some 6,500 Hanwha faithful, who celebrated their team's 6-4 win over the NC Dinos on Tuesday as if the Eagles had won their first championship since 1999.
At 1-13 this season, this year's Hanwha team is a far cry from the 1999 squad that won 72 out of 132 regular season games and claimed the Korean Series over the Lotte Giants in five games.
For the Eagles' manager Kim Euong-yong, though, the first win of 2013 might as well have been a title clincher.
"Going through so many losses, I realized this really is what baseball is all about," Kim told reporters on Tuesday. "I will never forget this win from today."
The come-from-behind victory over the expansion Dinos brought a merciful end to the Eagles' slide. It was the KBO's longest losing skid to start a season, and the record for the longest losing streak, period, of 18 games was also within sight.
Kim has had his share of memorable victories in his storied career. Kim is the KBO's all-time leader with 1,476 regular season wins and 10 Korean Series championships. The league was founded in 1982, and Kim by himself has won nearly one-third of all KBO titles.
Long known for his charisma and sometimes over-the-top antics in the dugout, Kim, now 71 and managing for the first time since 2004, showed he might have mellowed a bit with age. During his post-game television interview, Kim had teary eyes.
Kim didn't deny he had shed tears, sheepishly saying, "I had plenty to cry about."
Early in the game, the Eagles appeared to be in for another long day and Kim would have shed tears of frustration. The Dinos put up three runs in the top of the first, aided in part by a careless play by the left fielder Jeong Hyun-seok, who caught a routine fly and dropped the ball as he took it out of his glove.
The Dinos added another run in the second to lead 4-0, before the Eagles clawed their way back with three runs in the third, two in the fifth and one more run in the sixth.
Kim Tae-kyun hit a two-run double in the third to start the rally for Hanwha and blasted a go-ahead, two-run homer in the fifth to put the Eagles up for good. This was Kim's first long ball of the season and only the second homer by the entire Hanwha team.
Kim, the cleanup hitter and the team captain, was also reduced to tears after the game. "I tend to get stressed out when I am going through slumps, and when the team was doing poorly, it just got worse," Kim said. "I felt like my teammates had picked the wrong captain."
The 2012 KBO batting champion who has been one of the league's most feared sluggers, Kim was one of the first Hanwha players to take a buzz cut after the team lost nine games in a row. Most of his teammates followed suit in a show of solidarity.
They lost four more games before the new looks worked their magic. Kim said finally snapping the losing streak will lift pressure off players' shoulders.
"This is a young ball club and we had been playing under the burden of trying to get that first win," said Kim, one of the team's oldest position players at 30. "After this, I hope we can all start enjoying baseball."
Kim Euong-yong, the manager, said the players haven't been to blame for the team's early season woes.
"The players did their best to try to end the slide," he said. "It's always been the manager's fault."
The manager said things hadn't gone the Eagles' way much during the skid and added it will all change for the better.
"If our pitchers can hold their ground, we'll be better from here and on," Kim said. "This victory will hopefully turn things around for our team."
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