By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- The oldest active player in South Korean baseball abruptly announced his retirement on Monday, hours after getting caught driving under the influence of alcohol.
Park Han-yi of the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said he wanted to hold himself accountable for a DUI accident that occurred in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul, around 9 a.m. Monday.
Park was on his way home after dropping off his daughter at school when he got into a fender bender. Police arrived at the scene and gave Park a breathalyzer test. His blood alcohol level was 0.065 percent, well over the legal limit of 0.03 percent and high enough to have his driver's license suspended.
In a statement through the Lions, Park said that following a Sunday afternoon game in Daegu, he attended his daughter's ice hockey game and shared a late dinner and a few drinks with friends afterward.
"I've decided to retire because DUI cases can never be condoned under any circumstances. I have no excuse," Park said. "I will humbly accept whatever punishments I receive. I apologize to all the fans and to the ball club."
The unexpected decision brought an unceremonious end to the career of one of the KBO's most consistent players ever.
At 40, Park opened the 2019 season as the oldest player in the KBO. He has spent his entire 19-year career with the Lions and won seven championships with them. He was the Korean Series MVP in 2013, when he batted .292 with six RBIs, six runs scored and two steals in a seven-game victory over the Doosan Bears. He delivered some clutch hits as the Lions became the first KBO team ever to win the Korean Series after trailing three games to one.
In what ended up being the final game of his career Sunday, Park delivered a pinch-hit, game-winning hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, lifting the Lions to a 4-3 victory over the Kiwoom Heroes.
This year, Park was batting .257 in 30 games with a pair of home runs and 13 RBIs.
Park is third on the career hits list with 2,174 and fourth all time with 1,211 runs scored. Only three players in the KBO's 38-year history have appeared in more games than Park's 2,127.
Park enjoyed a string of 16 consecutive seasons with at least 100 hits, tied for the longest such streak in league history.
Park endeared himself to Samsung fans for his show of loyalty, re-signing with the club as a free agent twice over his career. He was eligible for free agency again last winter but declined to exercise that right and re-signed for one more year with the only team he's known.
But Park never got to finish what could have been his last hurrah.
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