BUSAN, South Korea – Named Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1984, Choi Dong-won was first diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2007 while serving as the second-tier team manager of the Hanwha Eagles. His condition improved and in 2009 he served as the supervisor of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
“While he was unconscious most of the time recently, he showed spirit where he often opened his eyes, saying ‘I’m alright, I’m alright,’” Choi’s brother, a KBO official, said.
Choi’s condition grew worse last year and he was hospitalized at the National Health Insurance Corp. (NHIC) Ilsan Hospital in Goyang, Gyeonggi Province.
Choi Dong-won pitches during the seventh and last game of the 1984 Korean Series on Oct. 9. Choi died Wednesday of cancer at 53. Choi’s won the MVP title in his second year in the league in 1984, in which he also recorded a season-high 24 wins and 223 strikeouts with a 2.40 ERA in 284 2/3 innings.
“He was the one of the best pitchers, probably the best in this half century,” said SK Wyverns interim manager Lee Man-soo. Since first meeting as high school athletes, Choi and Lee built a friendship that spanned for 30 years, including time as Samsung Lions teammates.
Since making his debut in KBO in 1983, Choi spent eight seasons in the league, six with the Lotte Giants, and the rest with the Lions.
A numbers of bests were attached to Choi’s name during his career, including the MVP title in his second year, in which he also recorded a season-high 24 wins and 223 strikeouts with a 2.40 ERA in 284 2/3 innings. The strikeout total remains the KBO’s all-time single season record.
The right-hander had a fastball over 150 kilometers per hour that helped the Giants lift the Korean Series title in 1984, in which he earned all four victories for the club in the best-of-seven final round. He took the mound in five games, in which he pitched three complete games.
He was named “Iron Arm” for his strength, throwing more than 200 innings in each of his first five seasons.
The pitcher was traded to the Lions after the 1988 season when he tried to create an association of players. He spent two mediocre seasons before retiring at 32.
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By Yi Whan-woo