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Scrappy outfielders, infielders join KBO's 40th anniversary team

Aug. 29, 2022 - 11:34 By Yonhap
This image provided by the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) on Monday, shows the latest members of the KBO's 40th anniversary team. Clockwise from top left: former Hyundai Unicorns outfielder Jeon Jun-ho; former Haitai Tigers outfielder Lee Soon-chul, ex-Samsung Lions shortstop Park Jin-man; and ex-SK Wyverns second baseman Jeong Keun-woo. (KBO)

Speedy outfielders and slick-fielding infielders became the latest members of the commemorative team marking the 40th anniversary of professional baseball in South Korea on Monday.

Since July, the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) has been revealing four new members for its 40 Legends team. The new quartet comprises: former outfielder Jeon Jun-ho, another ex-outfielder Lee Soon-chul, former second baseman Jeong Keun-woo and former shortstop Park Jin-man.

Jeon, 34th in the voting by a panel of experts and fans, is the career leader with 549 stolen bases. Jeon was a highly touted pitcher in high school but a shoulder injury forced him to the outfield in college. The one-time track athlete thrived on the base paths, and he still owns the KBO record with 18 consecutive seasons (1991-2008) of at least 10 steals.

In 1993, with the Lotte Giants, Jeon swiped 75 bags, the second-highest single season total in league history. In 2004, Jeon stole 53 bags to lead the KBO at age 35, becoming the oldest steals king ever in the league.

On the all-time list, Jeon is seventh in games played (2,091) and seventh in runs scored (1,171).

Lee, who finished 37th in the voting, won the 1985 Rookie of the Year and the Golden Glove as third baseman for the Haitai Tigers. But the team moved him to the outfield to make room for Han Dae-hwa -- also a member of the 40 Legends Team -- at the hot corner, and Lee did not miss a beat.

He went on to win four more Golden Gloves -- awarded to the best overall player at each position -- as an outfielder. Lee enjoyed his best season in 1992, when he joined the 20-20 club with 21 homers and a league-high 44 steals, while finishing first in hits, second in runs and ninth in batting average.

The three-time steals leader is tied for seventh on the career steals list with 371. He finished in the top 10 in home runs six times, too.

Jeong, No. 38, is the league's career leader in hits (1,877), RBIs (722) and runs (1,072) as second baseman. Jeong is tied with Lee on the career steals rankings, and holds the KBO record with 11 consecutive seasons of at least 20 stolen bases. Jeong led the KBO in runs in 2009 and 2016 and finished inside the top 10 in batting average in three straight seasons, starting in 2007.

Jeong used his speed to great effect on the field, where the three-time Golden Glover evolved into one of the KBO's best defensive second basemen during the heydays of the SK Wyverns in the mid to late 2000s.

When it comes to fielding, though, few could match Park's brilliance. The smooth shortstop was that rare defender who passed the eye test and also had great fielding numbers to back up his reputation.

Park, 39th on the rankings, never hit the way most others on the anniversary team did. The five-time Golden Glove winner batted. 261 for his career and hit just .185 over 112 games in 1997 with the Hyundai Unicorns.

But Park was a winner. He won four Korean Series titles with the Unicorns and two more with the Samsung Lions. At Beijing 2008, Park started the gold medal-clinching double play for South Korea. His glove easily compensated for his bat. (Yonhap)