Korea, and in particular, South Korea, is a land of many wonders. Besides being the birthplace of industry giants like Samsung, Hyundai, etc. just to name a few, to being divided at the 38th parallel from North Korea during the Korean War, the country packs a rich history, sumptuous food, an electrifying K-Pop scene led by bands like BTS and Momo-land, picturesque landscapes, and a sporting scenario that’s unrivaled in several aspects. Today, we will be taking a closer look at baseball in the Republic of Korea, and how fans from far and wide can follow the sport via Korean baseball teams’ scores and statistics updates.
Scoring a home run in South Korea
To understand the relevance of baseball in South Korea, we have to turn back time pretty far, back to 1905, when American missionaries who set foot on the peninsula brought the game over from the US mainland during the rule of the Korean empire. Gradually, the sport garnered a huge fan following, and the conclusion of the Korean war and subsequent break-up of the peninsula into North Korea and South Korea bestowed upon the sport a sense of national pride and identity for the Korean people.
In 1982, something happened that sent tremors through the Korean baseball culture as the KBO League was flagged off. Starting off with just 6 franchises, the league has grown to amass a massive following, with a staggering 62% of Koreans following the matches on a daily basis, be it via live matches, TV telecasts, or Korean baseball teams’ score.
Since 2015, the bat-flipping KBO league witnessed a rise in regular fixtures from 128 to 144. The introduction of the newest team on the scene, KT Wiz, ensured the change. It is generally noted that each KBO team plays an average of six games a week, with Mondays off.
Each year, as the month of July rolls around the corner, the best payers of the league are drafted in for an all-star match spectacle. As a rule of thumb, these franchises are subdivided into two sets, namely the Dream all-stars, and Nanum all-stars. This celebration of sporting supremacy is one of the most widely viewed events on the Korean baseball calendar.
The KBO league has a reputation for doing things differently when it comes to conventions and rules. As an example, the following instances shall drive home the point beyond any doubt.
- The KBO league has assigned the designated hitter rule as a universal.
- In case of a tie, the league tries to pick out a winner by virtue of extra innings, or tie breakers. This rule was temporarily withdrawn in 2008, only to make a comeback in 2009.
Now, let us take a look at the league through the decades that were
- The 1980s- The decade that made it all happen, the still nascent league faced a constant sense of uncertainty, shocks, and overall chaos. This decade was dominated by Haitai tigers who went on to win the championships an impressive five times. The league was later divided up into two separate events, with one becoming the spring season, and the other ending up as the fall season. The convention of the day dictated that each separate season would be having a separate champion who would be playing against the other season’s champion to be crowned as the overall championship winner for that year. These tumultuous years witnessed several club bankruptcies, mergers, splits, and changes in ownership were weekly affairs.
Despite all these, the league slowly stabilized itself and attained a sense of discipline and system about it.
- The 1990s- Once the league had managed to stabilize itself, the only place left for it to head was up, and that is exactly what happened. The 90s were dominated by the tigers once again, who managed to eke out 4 championships out of a possible 10. But barring that, the league witnessed the addition of several new franchises like Ssangbangwool raiders, LG twins, Doosan bears, etc.
This decade really endeared the league to its fans and people regularly attended the games in mammoth numbers. Several legends of the Korean game found their openings during this decade, namely Lee Jong-Beom, Park Kyung-oan, etc.
- The 2000s- While talking about the Korean KBO league, expecting calm and peace would be foolish since spice and drama always manage to find a way, and this decade’s no different either. While the previous decades featured teams changing names, owners, players, etc. this decade saw the relocation of several franchisees from one base to the other, thereby altering the entire dynamic of the league. But for the first time in history, a certain degree of parity was restored as the unicorns and lions each won three titles, and the Wyverns brought up a couple for themselves.
Post this era of consolidation, the league found its footing in the competitive Korean market and successfully established itself as one of the largest. With the advent of the internet, fans found it possible to witness and follow Korean baseball teams’ scores and women’s basketball live scores from the convenience of their smartphones. All that they would ever need for that is an undying passion for the game and a stable internet connection.