How the Korean Baseball Organization is fulfilling a National Pastime Void

If you follow me on twitter then you know I’ve been covering the Korean Baseball Organization since the start of the season. 

If you haven’t been following me then there’s only one thing I could possibly say.

With the return of American sports in limbo, I sought out any signs that pointed to a return to normalcy. After postponing their season to May 5, the KBO was one of the first sports leagues to make its way back. Much like Major League Baseball, the KBO plays nine inning games, but in the regular season only a maximum of 3 innings can be added if the score remains tied at the end of regulation. If the score is still tied after 12 innings then both teams will be awarded with a draw. 

South Korea is Just as Passionate as America

The benefit of the KBO is that it’s a sport we know very well. A sport that has roots in Korea all the way back to 1905 when it was first introduced by American missionaries during their visit. I’ve always been fond of Korea and the country’s passion for sport. Each year, Korea fields one of the best teams in the Little League World Series. Who can forget when Korea co-hosted the FIFA World Cup with Japan in 2002 and achieved their best result with a fourth place finish after nearly getting by Germany and their mountain of a goalkeeper in Oliver Kahn? 

It’s a shame Americans can’t watch the KBO league in all its glamour with its raucous crowds, dancing cheerleaders, and peculiar mascots. With sports networks starving for content, ESPN opted to televise six games a week live early in the morning, with replays later in the afternoon. It makes things a little challenging sweating these games with a cup of coffee and burnt toast in the morning, but we have to play the hand that we’re dealt. Next week we’ll begin our deep dive into the teams but first let’s start with a full introduction of the KBO league.

courtesy of billsportsmaps.com

The KBO league was originally founded in 1982 with six teams. Today, the league has expanded to 10 teams with five of them in the densely populated Greater Seoul area and the remaining five scattered around the southern part of Korea. The teams in the Greater Seoul area are the SK Wyverns, LG Twins, Doosan Bears, KT Wiz, and Kiwoom Heroes while the remaining teams in the southern part of Korea are the Lotto Giants, Kia Tigers, NC Dinos, Samsung Lions, and Hanwha Eagles. 

Games in the league are played from Tuesday through Sunday with Monday designated as a travel day. Due to the proximity of some of the clubs, the teams are not identified by the cities where they’re located, but rather the names of their primary sponsors. Each club plays a balanced 144-game schedule with 16 head-to-head matchups against each team. After the season, the top-5 teams by record advance to the playoffs. 

By virtue of their regular season record, the top performing team is rewarded with a place in the best-of-seven championship series final. After two teams finished with the best record in 2019, a new rule was introduced In 2020 whereby if there is a tie, then a one-game playoff will be used to determine which team will receive the top seed. The team that finished second best in the regular season is awarded a place in the best-of-five semifinal series. The fourth and fifth seeded teams face off in a best-of-three first round series but the catch is that the fifth seeded team begins the series trailing by one-game. This essentially means that the fifth seed must win the first game to have any chance to advance in the playoffs. Once that first round is completed, the winner then takes on the third seed in a best-of-five series while the 2nd seeded team awaits the winner.

Championship Pedigree

TeamCity1st Year in KBOChampionships
Doosan BearsSeoul19826
Hanwha EaglesDaejeon19861
Kia TigersGwangju198211
KT WizSuwon20150
LG TwinsSeoul19822
Lotte GiantsBusan19822
NC DinosChangwon20130
Nexen HeroesSeoul20080
Samsung LionsDaegu19828
SK WyvernsIncheon20004

The Kia Tigers hold the record for the most titles won in the KBO. The Tigers reached the series final 11 times and won the competition each time. Their last title run was in 2017. The Samsung Lions trail the Tigers with eight titles of their own in 18 appearances. The Doosan Bears have six titles of their own with three of those won in the last decade: 2015, 2016, and 2019. 

The only teams yet to win a title are the Kiwoom Heroes and NC Dinos. The Heroes lost in the series final to the Bears. Hopefully this does more than peak your interest into the KBO. If not, then to make it up to you I’ll leave you with some images of the KBO’s world famous cheerleaders. So long until next time.

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