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2 Ethnic Korean Batters Chasing History

Posted April. 21, 2009 08:18,   


Yang Joon-hyuk, 40, of the Samsung Lions, is a Hall of Fame candidate in Korean pro baseball.

He hit his 340th career homerun Tuesday to tie the all-time record held by Jang Jong-hoon. Yang is also the leader in career hits, doubles, hits, runs batted in, walks, at-bats and scoring.

Over in Japan, Tomoaki Kanemoto is having the time of his life. The 41-year-old player for the Hanshin Tigers was hitting .523 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs as of Thursday, leading the league in all three categories.

The third-generation Korean Japanese hit three consecutive homers in two games April 8 and 10. He is the first in Japanese baseball history to hit three consecutive homeruns twice in a month.

While Yang is breaking career records across the board, Kanemoto holds one record in Japan: the streak of consecutive games played. In more than 70 years of Japanese pro baseball history, experts cited Isao Harimoto’s 3,085 career hits and Sadaharu Oh’s 868 career home runs as extremely tough to break.

Kanemoto joined the pros after graduating from university just as Yang did, so they have four years less experience than those who went pro right after high school.

Kanemoto`s streak began in July 1999. On April 9, 2006, he broke the world record for consecutive games playing all innings of 903 held by Cal Ripken, Jr. of the United States. Kanemoto`s streak is now at 1,442 games.

Kanemoto suffered broken cartilage on his left hand after being hit by a pitch in July 2004 and underwent surgery on his left knee after the 2007 season. He has never missed an inning since 1999, however.

Yang and Kanemoto share a few things in common. They both turned pro around the same time, with Kanemoto doing so in 1992 and Yang a year later. While Yang has a higher batting average and more base hits, Kanemoto has outdone him in other areas like homeruns.

Both, however, are ironmen of the game in their respective countries. Yang today will become just the fourth player in Korean league history to play his 2,000th game.