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Kang Byung-cheol Returns as Giants’ Manager

Posted October. 22, 2005 10:29,   


Kang Byung-cheol (59), the Lotte Giants’ new manager, said, “There is something mysterious about baseball. I miss baseball when I stay away from it, and when I’m in it, I want to take time away.”

When he became manager of the Giants in 1984 at the age of 38, Kang Byung-cheol led his team to the top. In 1992, he drove his team to the championship once more. Now he has rejoined the Giants for a third time. And it is obvious that the team expects him to achieve another championship. Kang Byung-cheol has had a 15-year career as a manager with a record of 808 wins, 27 draws, 874 losses, and a winning percentage of .480.

Certain fans are angry over the fact that former Giants manager Yang Sang-moon, who trained rookies well and brought the team out of the cellar where it had languished the previous three years, is being replaced before seeing the fruit of his efforts. There is even the rumor that Kang Byung-cheol became the new manager because President Roh is an alumnus of his alma mater, Busan Commercial High School. We met Kang Byung-cheol, who happened to be in Seoul.

“I am so baffled. What does politics have to do with baseball? Isn’t there a problem with people who think so? The president and I went to Busan Commercial High School together, with me being older by a year, but I haven’t met him and don’t even know him well. I don’t even attend reunions that much, because I have been concentrating on baseball all my life.”

Kang Byung-cheol is known to be a wise leader, but he is also criticized for his tendency to overuse his team’s ace pitchers, shortening their careers. One example is the case where he made Choi Dong-won start five games in the 1984 Korean Series (Choi won four of them). Choi Dong-won had already pitched 284 and two thirds innings during the regular season that year (ranking second in innings pitched after Sammi’s Jang Myung-bu in 1983). Yeom Jong-seok was also overworked, pitching for 204 and two thirds innings when Lotte won the Korean Series in 1992.

“I have many regrets for Choi Dong-won’s case. In fact Choi had an option with the team. We did not have that many suitable pitchers then, so I could not help it when the ace volunteered to pitch. Of course, as a manager, I should have stopped him from going too far. Yeom Jong-seok was a slightly different case. Jong-seok had already suffered an arm injury in high school, and that injury relapsed later in his career. He took the mound regularly, nevertheless.”

There are many different types of players. Those who “burst when pricked” should be constantly praised and encouraged. Those who need gentle pushes should be constantly disciplined. Nobody, however, should break the rules of the team, according to Kang.

“In the second game of this year’s Korean Series, Samsung’s Park Jin-man was tagged out because he tried to run home after disregarding the third base coach’s call to stop. In that case, both the coach and the player should be penalized. In baseball, a sport that requires team play, such an act is unforgivable.”

Hwa-Sung Kim mars@donga.com