On this day…
in 1986, with one out left in the bottom of the 9th for the win, the Busan Lotte Giants displayed an odd defensive shift that looked something like this:
The Giants were playing the Haitai Tigers at Gwangju’s Mudeung Baseball Stadium, and in its fourth season, regionalism in the Korea Baseball Championship (top professional league) had reached its peak.
The game already experienced a 30-minute delay in the bottom of the 8th as fans threw bottles, rocks, and even fire crackers on the field injuring Giants first baseman, Kim Yong-cheol (김용철), their catcher, Han Mun-yeon (한문연), and even some of the fans who were sitting up front. It turned out the fans were just simply disgusted at the fact that Lotte took a 4-2 in the top of the 8th.
The fans reacted once more in the bottom of the 9th with one out to end the game, and the Giants players formed this unsual shift to avoid getting hit by random objects. The home plate umpire performed a serious bow (one that you kneel and your head touches the ground) to the crowd in order to resume the game.
This was a common scene back then at games played other than Seoul, where the stands were filled predominantly with the local team’s fans. Players had to be escorted in and out of the stadiums by the police. Alcoholic beverages were not sold in stadium (until the late 1990s) which led fans to bring their own to the games. Occasional fights broke out between fans and ushers when they were asked to leave their sojus behind. The issue has caused the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) to discuss about playing the remaining regular season games in each team’s second homes (e.g. Jeonju for Haitai, Masan for Lotte, etc.), or even neutral sites.
Yes, Korean baseball went through a lot to earn the fan experience and playing environment it has today.