Veteran slugger Lee Seung-yeop tied the Korean baseball record by winning his eighth Golden Glove at an annual awards ceremony here Tuesday.
Lee, first baseman for the Samsung Lions in the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO), and one of the league's premier home run hitters, won the statue in the designated hitter (DH) category.
Of the 351 votes cast by members of the local media, Lee earned 295 of them awarding him his eight Golden Glove, and pulling him even with Han Dae-hwa, who won eight Golden Gloves as an All-Star third baseman in the 1980s and 1990s, and Yang Joon-hyuk, the KBO's all-time home run leader with 351 homers, who earned four Golden Gloves as a DH, three as an outfielder and one as a first baseman.
To be eligible for a Golden Glove award, position players must have appeared in at least 88 of the 133 KBO games in 2012.
Catchers, third basemen, shortstops and outfielders also must have put up a batting average of at least .270. The minimum batting average is .250 for first basemen and .260 for second basemen.
Pitchers, with ERA below 2.60 and more than 15 wins or 35 saves, are also awarded Golden Gloves.
For DHs, candidates must have played in at least 88 games either as a position player or a DH.
Lee played 126 games this past season, 76 as a first baseman and 50 as a DH. He wouldn't have qualified for the first baseman category, but the KBO decided to shortlist him in the DH category because it thought Lee was a worthy candidate because of his strong offensive numbers.
Lee batted .307 with 21 home runs and 85 RBI, along with 84 runs scored. He ranked among the top 10 in batting average, runs scored, hits, homers, RBI, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
This was Lee's first season back with the Lions after eight seasons in Japan. Lee has hit 345 homers in 10 KBO seasons to rank second all-time.
"I am grateful enough to have returned home this year, and this award makes it extra special," Lee said. "I'd like to thank the Lions organization for giving me the opportunity to play again."
In the first baseman category, Park Byung-ho of the Nexen Heroes, who was voted the league's most valuable player in October, won his first Golden Glove. He earned 275 votes after leading the KBO with 31 home runs, 105 RBI and a .561 slugging percentage. He also swiped 20 bases.
Park's Nexen teammate, Kang Jung-ho, earned 293 votes to claim the shortstop category. Kang posted the best offensive stats among all shortstops, with career-highs of .314 average, 25 homers, 82 RBI and 21 stolen bases. This was Kang's second Golden Glove.
Second baseman Seo Geon-chang was the third Nexen winner of the day, beating the 2011 winner Ahn Chi-hong of the Kia Tigers, 154-116. Seo, also the KBO Rookie of the Year, was second with 39 stolen bases and eighth with 70 runs scored.
SK Wyverns' third baseman Choi Jeong rounded out the infield with his second straight Golden Glove. Choi led all third basemen with 26 homers and .538 slugging percentage this year, and garnered 191 votes on Tuesday. He has belted at least 20 homers for the past three seasons.
In the closest battle, Samsung Lions' starting pitcher Jang Won-sam beat out the Heroes' starter Brandon Knight to earn his first Golden Glove in the pitching category afterleading the KBO with 17 wins. Jang earned 128 votes, and Knight had 121 votes. Knight was second behind Jang with 16 wins in 2012, and topped the KBO with a 2.20 ERA in his league-leading 208 2/3 innings pitched.
Kang Min-ho of the Lotte Giants collected 216 votes to claim his third Golden Glove as a catcher. His average slipped to .273 from last year's .289, but Kang still had 19 homers and 66 RBI to lead all back stoppers.
The outfield Golden Gloves went to Son A-seop of the Lotte Giants, Park Yong-taek of the LG Twins and Lee Yong-kyu of the Tigers.
Son earned the most votes among all winners Tuesday with 313 out of a possible 351 votes, after leaing the KBO with 158 hits and finishing third with a .314 average. Lee, a speedy leadoff man, ranked first in the league with 86 runs scored and 44 steals, which helped him earn 199 votes.
Park got 194 votes after batting .305, hitting over .300 for the fourth straight season, and drove in a career-high 76 runs.
The KBO first presented Golden Gloves during its 1982 inaugural season and has been handing them out to designated hitters since 1984.
The Golden Glove Awards have come to resemble Silver Slugger Awards in Major League Baseball, given to the best offensive players in each position, rather than Gold Gloves which are awarded to the best defensive players.
In its first two years, 1982 and 1983, the KBO awarded best defensive players with Golden Gloves, and separately named the first-team All-Star, dubbed "Best 10," which included nine players on the field plus DH.
The KBO narrowly averted a possible cancellation of the ceremony Tuesday. The Korea Professional Baseball Players Association (KPBPA), which represents KBO players, had threatened to boycott the event if the KBO didn't move forward with expansion talks on adding a 10th club. The KBO had countered that it was willing to cancel the ceremony if players boycotted it.
Then just before noon Tuesday, the KBO's board of directors, made up of team presidents and senior KBO officials, unanimously approved the expansion plan. The KPBPA immediately withdrew its boycott threat. (Yonhap)