Hyundai Unicorns

The Hyundai Unicorns (Korean현대 유니콘스) was a South Korean professional baseball team, a member of the KBO League. The Unicorns won the KBO championship four times (1998, 2000, 2003 and 2004).

Hyundai Unicorns
현대 유니콘스
Hyundai Unicorns.png
Information
LeagueKBO League (1982–2007)
LocationIncheon (1982–1999)
Suwon (2000–2007)
BallparkSuwon Baseball Stadium (1989–2007)
Year established1982; 39 years ago (1982)
Year foldedJanuary 2008; 13 years ago (2008-01)
League championships1998, 2000,[a] 2003, 2004
Korean Series championships1998, 2000, 2003, 2004
Former name(s)Sammi Superstars (1982–1985)
Chungbo Pintos (1985–1987)
Pacific Dolphins (1988–1995)
Former ballparksSungui Baseball Stadium (1982–1999)
OwnershipHyundai

The Unicorns were dissolved after the 2007 season. Hyundai Unicorns' players and staff were signed in a takeover deal and became the Heroes Baseball Club. The Unicorns and the Heroes have no historical links, although the new team consisted mostly of former Unicorns players.

HistoryEdit

Sammi SuperstarsEdit

The franchise was founded in 1982 as one of the original six teams in the Korea Baseball Organization. Owned by Sammi Steel Co., Ltd., the team was called the Sammi Superstars, and was based in Incheon.

The 1983 team featured one of the most remarkable pitching seasons in modern history. Japanese import Hiroaki Fukushi, dubbed "Jang Myeong-bu" in the KBO League, pitched in 60 of the team's 100 games, completing a record 36 of them, with five shutouts. He threw 427-1/3 innings, facing 1,712 batters, allowing 388 hits, walking 106, and striking out 220 (at that point a KBO League record), with a 2.34 ERA. He won a still-league record 30 games,[1] lost 16, and saved an additional six games. He threw 192-2/3 more innings and allowed 155 more hits than the runner-up in those categories.[2] Jang's 30 wins and 6 saves made up more than 69% of the team's 52 wins that year; for his efforts, he was given the 1983 KBO League Golden Glove Award in pitching.

Chungbo PintosEdit

The 1985 Superstars team lost a league-record 18 games in a row[3] between March 31 and April 29. The team was sold to Chungbo on June 29 of that year, and between the two 1985 half-seasons, was renamed the Chungbo Pintos.[4]

Pacific DolphinsEdit

In 1988, the team was sold again, and renamed the Pacific Dolphins. In 1989 the franchise made the playoffs for the first time, eventually losing to Haitai.

The 1993 squad at one point lost 15 games in a row, finishing the season 34-82-10, with a winning percentage of .310. In 1994, the team finished second in the KBO, making it all the way to the franchise's first Korean Series, where they were defeated by the LG Twins four-games-to-none.

Hyundai UnicornsEdit

After the 1995 KBO season, due to financial difficulties, the team was sold again, this time to the Hynix Semiconductor branch[5] of the Hyundai Group, and renamed the Hyundai Unicorns. Hyundai had previously sponsored the Hyundai Phoenix of the Korea Baseball Association amateur league, and due to the business relationship between the Phoenix and the newly named Unicorns, five players on the Phoenix roster moved to the Unicorns.[citation needed]

That year, 1996, the team hired Kim Jae-bak as manager, who would eventually guide them to four championships. The Unicorns made it to the Korean Series their first year under Kim, but lost again, this time to Haitai. 1998 was a banner year for the Unicorns, as they finished first in the KBO and finally won the Korean Series, against the LG Twins, four-games-to-two.

The Unicorns' Chung Min-tae was one of the top pitchers in the KBO in the period 1998 to 2003, as he won the KBO League Golden Glove Award three times during that span. Chung led the league in victories in three separate years — 1999, 2000, and 2003 — topping 20 victories in 1999.

In 2000, the team relocated from Incheon to Suwon.[6][5] That year, the Unicorns finished first in the Dream League division, and again won the Korean Series, defeating Doosan four-games-to-three. In 2000, catcher Park Kyung-oan had arguably the best season of his career, hitting .282 with 40 home runs, and winning the KBO League Most Valuable Player Award.

The Unicorns finished in first place in 2003 and 2004, and won the Korean Series both times, defeating SK and Samsung, respectively. Those teams were led offensively by Shim Jeong-soo and American import Cliff Brumbaugh. In 2003 Shim had a monster season, hitting .335 with 53 home runs (second all-time) and 142 RBI, with a then-record OPS of 1.197 (still second all-time). In 2004 Brumbaugh came close to winning the KBO League Triple Crown with a .343 batting average (tops in the league), 33 home runs (second), and 105 RBI (third).[7]

Despite the team's strong record during these years, from 2001 to 2007 the Unicorns faced financial challenges due to the majority owner, Hynix Semiconductor, being in court protection; as well as the team's low attendance.[5] Through these years the Unicorns had to rely on financial assistance from other Hyundai affiliates.[5] At the end of the 2006 season, the team was almost sold to Korea's National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, but the sale fell through.[5]

The team was dissolved in January 2008. After that, Seattle-based Centennial Investments signed Hyundai Unicorns' players and staff in a takeover deal, and founded the Heroes Baseball Club,[8] moving the team to Seoul.

Season-by-season recordsEdit

Season Team Name Finish Wins Losses Ties Win% Posteason Awards Manager
1982 Sammi Superstars 6th (1st half)
6th (2nd half)
15 65 0 0.188 Did not qualify Park Hyun-sik
1983 2nd (1st half)
2nd (2nd half)
52 47 1 0.525 Did not qualify Kim Jin-young
1984 6th (1st half)
6th (2nd half)
38 59 3 0.392 Did not qualify
1985 6th (1st half) 39 70 1 0.358 Did not qualify
Chungbo Pintos 6th (2nd half)
1986 6th (1st half)
7th (2nd half)
32 74 2 0.302 Did not qualify Heo Koo-yeon[9]
1987 7th (1st half)
6th (2nd half)
41 65 2 0.389 Did not qualify Kang Tae-jung
1988 Pacific Dolphins 6th (1st half)
7th (2nd half)
34 73 1 0.319 Did not qualify
1989 3rd 62 54 4 0.533 Won Semi-Playoffs vs. Samsung (2-1)
Lost Playoffs vs. Haitai (0-3)
Park Jeong-hyeon
(Rookie of the Year)
Kim Sung-keun
1990 5th 58 59 3 0.496 Did not qualify
1991 5th 55 69 2 0.444 Did not qualify Park Young-gil
1992 6th 56 67 3 0.456 Did not qualify Jeong Dong-jin
1993 8th 34 82 10 0.310 Did not qualify
1994 2nd 68 55 3 0.552 Won Playoffs vs. Hanhwa (3-0)
Lost Korean Series vs. LG (0-4)
1995 7th 48 73 5 0.401 Did not qualify
1996 Hyundai Unicorns 2nd 67 54 5 0.552 Won Semi-Playoffs vs. Hanwha (2-0)
Won Playoffs vs. Ssangbangwool (3-2)
Lost Korean Series vs. Haitai (2–4)
Park Jae-hong
(Rookie of the Year)
Kim Jae-bak
1997 6th 51 71 4 0.421 Did not qualify
1998 1st 81 45 0 0.643 Won Korea Series vs. LG (4-2) Kim Soo-kyung (Rookie of the Year)
1999 3rd (Dream League) 68 59 5 0.535 Did not qualify
2000 1st (Dream League) 91 40 2 0.695 Won Playoffs vs. Samsung (4-0)
Won Korea Series vs. Doosan (4-3)
Park Kyung-oan
(MVP)
2001 3rd 72 57 4 0.558 Lost Playoffs vs. Doosan (1–3)
2002 4th 70 58 5 0.547 Lost Semi-Playoffs vs. LG (0-2) Cho Yong-jun (Rookie of the Year)
2003 1st 80 51 2 0.611 Won Korean Series vs. SK (4-3) Lee Dong-hak (Rookie of the Year)
2004 1st 75 53 5 0.586 Won Korean Series vs. Samsung (4-2) Oh Ju-won
(Rookie of the Year)
2005 7th 53 70 3 0.431 Did not qualify
2006 3rd 70 55 1 0.560 Lost Playoffs vs. Hanwha (1–3)
2007 6th 56 69 1 0.448 Did not qualify Kim Si-jin
Overall record 26 seasons 1466 1594 77 .480 4-time Korean Series Champion

ReferencesEdit

Notes
  1. ^ Dream League pennant winner
General
  1. ^ Yonhap. "Korean left-hander closing in on 20th win," The Korea Herald (Sept 27, 2017).
  2. ^ Garland, Gary. "Hiroaki Fukushi," BR Bullpen. Retrieved June 14, 2020.
  3. ^ "KBO's Hanwha Eagles suffer 15th straight loss," Yonhap News Agency (June 09, 2020).
  4. ^ Kim, Jason. "The losses keep piling up for Kia," Korea JoongAng Daily (July 5, 2010).
  5. ^ a b c d e Yoo Jee-ho."Hyundai Unicorns need a sale to survive," Korea JoongAng Daily (January 23, 2007).
  6. ^ "Baseball's Nexen promotes third base coach Yeom Kyung-yup to manager". Yonhap News Agency. 10 October 2012. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  7. ^ "Cliff Brumbaugh," BR Bullpen. Retrieved June 21, 2020.
  8. ^ Kang Seung-woo (30 January 2008). "Investment Company Purchases Unicorns". Korea Times. Retrieved 25 June 2017.
  9. ^ Sung Min Kim. "How One Man Changed Korean Baseball," FanGraphs Baseball (June 14, 2019).