The Perfect Game – May 16, 1987

On this day…

in 1987, the entire nation was tuned into a historic duel, dubbed the “Match of the Century”, between two legendary pitchers: Choi Dong-won (최동원) of the Busan Lotte Giants and Sun Dong-yeol (선동열) of the Haitai Tigers (currently the KIA Tigers).

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*Sun Dong-yeol (left) and Choi Dong-won (right). The teams they played for were (and may still be) regional rivals.

The two pitchers faced off four times in their career.  Three of them are left in the minds of the Korean baseball fans.  Somehow the citizens of Busan had the privilege to witness all three in their front yard.  Sun took home the win in the first of the three (April 19, 1986) with a 1-0 shut out.  Choi answered back with a 2-0 shut out win in the second faceoff (August 19, 1986).

The third and the most remembered duel was displayed on this very day in 1987.  An epic duel between two prominent pitchers of that time in the Korea Baseball Championship, and probably the only two Korean players who had their name heard outside of the republic.  Both ended up going the distance in a 15-inning, 4-hour 56-minute marathon that had to end in a 2-2 tie.  Choi threw 209 pitches, and Sun tossed out 232.  The final lines of both pitchers are:

  • Sun Dong-yeol: 15.0 IP (232 pitches), 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 1 HBP, 1 WP, 1 BK, 10 K.
  • Choi Dong-won: 15.0 IP (209 pitches), 11 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 5 BB, 2 HBP, 8 K.

In 2011, a film depicting the 15-inning duel hit the South Korean cinemas, and attracted over 1.5 million viewers.  Now, people know the matchup as the film’s title, Perfect Game.

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*Promotional poster of Perfect Game.  (Courtesy of perfectgame.kr)

Sun is now in his third season as the manager of the KIA Tigers.  Choi passed away on September 14, 2011 after battling colon cancer.

 

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