By Yoo Jee-ho
SEOUL, Sept. 19 (Yonhap) -- Four pitchers who defied convention were added to the South Korean baseball league's 40th anniversary team on Monday.
The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has been unveiling four new members of its "KBO 40 Legends" team since July, as part of its commemoration of the 40th anniversary. The final four members of the team are: former Hanwha Eagles left-hander Song Jin-woo; Song's former Eagles teammate Koo Dae-sung; LG Twins hurler Kim Yong-soo; and sidearmer Lim Chang-yong, who pitched for two franchises.
Song, who finished fifth in the voting by experts and fans, is the KBO's career leader in wins (210), strikeouts (2,048) and innings pitched (3,003). He also recorded 103 saves during his 21-year career, spent entirely with the Eagles.
Song had three seasons in which he reached double figures in wins and saves, highlighted by his 19-win, 17-save season in 1992. He is one of just four KBO pitchers ever with over 100 wins and 100 saves.
Song is the oldest pitcher to throw a no-hitter in KBO history, having done so at 34 years, three months and two days during the 2000 season. He is also the oldest to have won a game as a starter and as a reliever, the oldest to throw a complete game shutout, and the oldest to pitch in a game.
Koo, eighth in the voting for the anniversary team, teamed up with Song for what remains the Eagles' lone Korean Series title in 1999. Koo appeared in all five games of that series against the Lotte Giants, going 1-1 with three saves en route to earning the MVP award.
From his early days, Koo built a reputation as an all-purpose lefty who could eat up innings as a starter or a high-leverage reliever.
In his second full season in 1995, Koo pitched 155 innings despite making only a dozen starts, and ranked second in the league with 161 strikeouts.
Koo was voted the regular season MVP in 1996 thanks to his all-around excellence. As a reliever, he went 18-3 with 24 saves and a 1.88 ERA, while striking out 183 in 139 innings. He led the league in wins and ERA, and ranked second in saves and third in strikeouts that year. Koo retired with 214 saves, fifth all time.
Koo also left his mark internationally, throwing 155 pitches in a complete game over Japan for the bronze medal at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Kim, 16th in the voting, was another hybrid pitcher who split his career in the rotation and in the bullpen. He spent his 16-year career with the MBC Blue Dragons/LG Twins franchise and became the first KBO pitcher to hit the 100-win and 200-save mark.
The iconic right-hander forever etched his name into KBO lore by winning two Korean Series MVP awards in different roles. In 1990, he won two games as a starter, pitching to a 1.29 ERA across 14 innings. Four years later, Kim picked up a win and two saves as the Twins' closer, giving up just one hit in 8 1/3 shutout innings.
In 1998, Kim became the oldest pitcher to lead the KBO in wins at age 38, as he went 18-6. The following year, still a season away from retirement, the Twins retired his number. He is still the only KBO player to have a number retired while still active. Kim had 126 wins and 227 saves, fourth most in KBO history.
Lim, 21st in the voting, is the third member of this group with at least 100 wins and 200 saves. His 258 saves, collected over 18 seasons with the Haitai Tigers, Samsung Lions and then Kia Tigers, put him in third place.
Lim led the league in saves three times and in ERA once. He appeared in 71 out of the Lions' 132 games in 1999, going 13-4 with a league-best 38 saves and a league-low 2.14 ERA.
Lim thrived as a full-time starter from 2001 to 2003 with the Lions, going 44-15 with a 3.49 ERA in that span.
Lim is a controversial selection to the anniversary team, as he was convicted of habitual gambling at the end of July. He received a six-month sentence, suspended for two years, along with a fine of 3 million won (US$2,160). The KBO explained that the voting had been completed prior to Lim's conviction and it decided to keep Lim on the team because a player's off-field issues are also part of the league's history.
The KBO also plans to unveil players who narrowly missed out on the team, those who finished 41st to 50th in the voting, at a later date.
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