Posted July. 10, 2017 07:22,
Updated July. 10, 2017 07:52
There was a sad story behind the first major league baseball retired number. Lou Gehrig was a slugger and led the members of the Yankees World Series team, known as “Murderer’s Row” along with Base Ruth in 1920s and 1930s. He set a record of most consecutive games played with 2,130 games for 14 years and was nicknamed as Iron Horse. Likewise, he had the strength and willingness to fight. He suddenly retired as his play was hampered by a rare disease called as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and disappointed many fans. In his retirement in 1939, he became the first MLB player to have his uniform number "4" retired by the team. He died two years later and ALS has become known as Lou Gehrig’s disease since then.
There is a similar story here in Korean baseball league. The first retired number of KBO league was the uniform number (54) of the late catcher Kim Young-shin of the OB Bears (current Doosan Bears). The rising star who was a former member of the national team joined the OB Bears in 1985 but failed to be chosen for the starting lineup. The OB Bears, the first year winning team, had many safe catchers such as Kim Kyung-moon and Cho Beom-hyeon at that time. Kim was found dead the following year and people suspected that he might kill himself. The OB Club decided to retire his uniform number.
The most well-known retired uniform number in the baseball history is Jackie Robinson’s 42. He became the first African American to play in Major League Baseball when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947 and showed his talent for 10 seasons by overcoming racial segregation in and out of professional baseball. In 1997, MLB retired his uniform number, 42, across all major league teams to commemorate his achievement that transforms baseball from a white man’s sport to American pastime and which is the only one such case. MLB also adopted a new annual tradition on April 15, the date that the Brooklyn Dodgers started him at first base, on which every player on every team wears No. 42 that is banned to wear at other times.
The LG Twins held a retirement ceremony of Lee Byung-kyu on Sunday and retired his uniform number" 9." Among the 13 players who have retirement numbers, he is the only player who fails to win the final championship series of the KBO. Hence, having his number retired means that the club recognizes Lee who has been beloved by many fans. I hope that the Korean baseball league has a player who becomes a model to professional baseball and to the world like Robinson one day and his number is retired across all clubs.