Monday, March 29, 2010

The NYT on Japan and Korea's baseball rivalry, one year after the World Classic

On the first anniversary of Korea's nail-biter of a loss to Japan in final game of the 2009 World Baseball Classic (which I wrote about here and here), the New York Times has a write-up that talks up the rivalry between the two countries, even as many South Korean players enjoy profitable careers in Japanese baseball (not unlike Canadian hockey players on American teams in the NHL):
The South Korean pitcher who gave up the extra-inning single that gave Japan its second straight W.B.C. championship continues to pursue his craft — with the Tokyo Yakult Swallows. The player who had the winning hit — Ichiro Suzuki — is hoping that his markedly improved Seattle Mariners will find their way back to the postseason. And the intrigue over what really happened on March 23, 2009, continues to percolate, at least in these two countries, which are intense rivals.

The 2009 game was played in Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles before 54,846 boisterous fans. A year later, it is still being replayed in this part of the world, most recently in a prime-time Japanese television program, “The Man Who Betrayed His Country.”

The “Man” of the show’s title was the pitcher who lost the game, Lim Chang-yong. It was Lim who challenged Suzuki with the game on the line that night, even though he simply could have walked him. The score was tied, 3-3, in the top of the 10th with two outs and runners on first and third when Suzuki came to the plate. On a 1-0 pitch, the runner on first took second on defensive indifference.

All Lim had to do at that point was intentionally put Suzuki on first base and go after the next hitter. Instead, he challenged Suzuki. And after Suzuki fouled off four straight pitches — methodically eliminating the pitcher’s possible escape routes — he drove Lim’s eighth pitch of the at-bat to center field for a two-run single. Japan claimed the championship after South Korea went down meekly in the bottom of the inning.
It makes for a good movie, methinks. But don't expect it to be made in South Korea — unless South Korea wins the next WBC.

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1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link to this article. Interesting! So, now we know...it wasn't Kim In Sik (the manager) nor Lim Chang Yong (the pitcher)...it was the pitching coach who purposely did not relay the signal to walk Ichiro. But it was respectable that Lim took it on himself and said ultimately that he was the one who let Ichiro get a hit off of him. Either way, why do people still talk about it? Even if Ichiro was walked, that doesn't mean the next better couldn't have gotten a hit. Plus, Korea still had another chance at the bottom of the 10th and choked.

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