By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, July 16 (Yonhap) -- An MVP-winning star pitcher and the career home run leader were among the first four players for the South Korean baseball league's 40th anniversary team unveiled Saturday.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year. As part of the celebration, the KBO will release its "40 Legends" team, featuring the top 40 former players voted on by an expert panel and fans.
The top-four vote getters were announced before the All-Star Game at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Saturday. The quartet featured former pitcher Sun Dong-yol, another ex-pitcher Choi Dong-won, former shortstop Lee Jong-beom and former infielder Lee Seung-yuop.
Sun led all players with 91.05 points, converted from the vote totals, and Choi finished with 89.99 points. Lee Jong-beom ended in third with 87.31 points, followed by Lee Seung-yuop at 86.55 points.
Sun, synonymous with pitching in the KBO in his heyday, retired with a career ERA of 1.20 and 29 complete game shutouts, best marks among all pitchers with at least 1,000 innings pitched. He enjoyed four full seasons in which he had a sub-1.00 ERA and helped his Haitai (currently Kia) Tigers reel off five championships in a six-year span from 1986 to 1991. Sun was the regular season MVP in 1986, 1989 and 1990, and led the league in ERA eight times in his 11-year career.
After dominating as a starter early in his career, Sun became a shutdown closer in late years. He retired with a 146-40 record and 132 saves in 367 appearances.
Choi won the 1984 regular season MVP for the Lotte Giants by going 27-13 with six saves and 14 complete games in 51 appearances. But Choi did something even more memorable in the Korean Series that same year, leading his team to the championship by winning all four games against the Samsung Lions.
Choi is second on the career ERA rankings with 2.46. He held the single-season strikeout record with 223 until 2021, when Ariel Miranda of the Doosan Bears finished with 225.
He is second overall with 81 complete games and tied for first with five consecutive seasons of at least 200 innings pitched. Choi died in September 2011 from cancer.
Lee Jong-beom, briefly teammates with Sun on the Tigers, is regarded as perhaps the most complete player in KBO history, a shortstop who could hit for power and average, and steal bases.
In his lone MVP season in 1994, Lee batted .393 with 19 home runs and 84 steals, still the single-season record. He is second all-time with 510 career steals. Lee spent his entire 16-year KBO career with the Tigers and also spent three years in Japan.
Lee Seung-yuop is the career KBO home run king with 467, a total that certainly would have been much higher had Lee not spent eight seasons in Japan from 2004 to 2011. The former Samsung Lions first baseman still holds the all-time single season record with 56 home runs in 2003.
Lee is also the career leader with 1,498 RBIs, 1,355 runs and 4,077 total bases. No player has won more regular season MVP awards than Lee's five.
With the top four legends now unveiled, the KBO will release the names of four legends each week over the next 10 weeks.
Living members of the anniversary team will participate in a series of events for their previous clubs, including throwing out ceremonial first pitches, throughout the second half of the season.
After the annual All-Star break, the season will resume next Friday.
According to the KBO, all winners of Golden Gloves and Korean Series MVPs were automatically nominated. Players who met the following milestones were also shortlisted: 800 appearances, 100 wins, 150 saves and at least one 20-win season for pitchers; 2,000 games, 200 home runs, 2,000 hits and at least one 40-home run season for position players.
The KBO did not include active players, including ones plying their trade in foreign leagues, in the voting.
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