Kia Tigers Professional Baseball Club is a Korean professional baseball team founded in 1982. The Tigers are a member team of the Korean Baseball Organization and the most successful team in Korean baseball having won the national championship, the Korean Series, ten times, with a perfect 10-0 series record and a 40-12-2 game record.
After the success of the 1980s and 90's, the fortunes of the team began to turn, resulting in them finishing bottom of the league for the first time in 2005, and again in 2007. In 2009, However, Kia Tigers won the 2009 KBO season and 2009 Korean Series.
They were previously known as the Haitai Tigers (해태 타이거즈). Their home stadium is Gwangju Kia Champions Field in Gwangju.
Haitai Tigers was third professional baseball team to be created in Korea, next to OB Bears and MBC Blue Dragons, founded on January 30 of 1982 with 14 players. Kim Dong-Yup, the first manager of the team was fired after just one month, and Jo Chang-Soo took over his position and led the team to 38 wins 42 losses. Due to the lack of position players, many players in the league both pitched and batted. Kim Sung-Han of the Tigers set an interesting record of 10 wins and highest RBI the first year.
1983 ~ 1985 : Kim Eung-Ryong's First Three Seasons
Haitai Tigers hired Kim Eung-Ryong as manager, who studied baseball in the USA, eventually led the team to its first victory in 1983. The Tigers won the Korean Series with 4 wins and 1 tie-game against the MBC Blue Dragons (currently LG Twins). Although the team did not make it to the playoffs for the next two years, it set the foundation for the golden years to come by signing in future megastars Lee Soon-Chul, Sun Dong-Yeol and Kim Sung-Han. Bang Soo-Won pitched the first no-hit-no-run game in Korean baseball history in 1984 against the Sammi Superstars.
1986 ~ 1997 : Haitai Tigers Dynasty – Sun Dong-Yeol and Lee Jong-Beom
In 1986, the Tigers finished in 2nd place in the pennant race with a team ERA of 2.86 and BA of 2.72 to go straight to the Korean Series against the Samsung Lions. They went on to win their second Korean Series win with 4 wins and 1 loss.
Until 1989, the Haitai Tigers won once more against the Samsung Lions and twice against the Bingrae Eagles (current Hanwha Eagles) to make an astonishing four consecutive Korean Series wins. King Jung-Soo, Kim Joon-Hwan, Moon Hye-Soo, Park Chul-Woo respectively were named MVPs of each series.
Haitai Tigers lost the playoffs to Samsung Lions in 1990, but won the next Korean series the following year. In 1991, the Tigers set a record of 6 out of 10 golden glove winners.
1993 was the year of rookie shortstop Lee Jong-Beom, closer Sun Dong-Yeol and starters Lee Dae-Jin and Lee Gang-Chul. The Tigers won 81 out of 126 pennant race games and also their 7th Korean Series.
In 1994, Lee Jong-Beom batted an average of 0.393, the second highest in Korean baseball history, but the team lost the semi-playoffs to the Hanhwa Eagles. The Tigers ended up in 4th the next year due to Lee Jong-Beom and Lee Dae-Jin leaving the team for military service, which is mandatory for all male Koreans over 18.
Star closer Sun Dong-Yeol was also transferred to the Chunichi Dragons in 1996, but Lim Chang-Yong and Gang Tae-Won filled in his position to lead the team to its 8th Korean Series win over the Hyundai Unicorns.
The next year, Lee Jong-Beom and Lee Dae-Jin returned from military service and with their help the Tigers again won the Korean Series to bring the total to nine champion wins.
1998 ~ 2001 : The Decline of the Dynasty
Due to the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Haitai was forced to sell the team to Kia in 2001. Until then the Tigers which was also in financial difficulty, could not keep its major players to stay. Eventually they lost Lee Jong-Beom to the Chunichi Dragons, and closer Lim Chang-Yong and manager Kim Eung-Ryong to the Samsung Lions.
2001 ~ 2004 : Kim Sung-Han
Lee Jong-Beom returned from Japan, and rookies Hong Se-Wan, catcher Kim Sang-Hoon and pitcher Kim Jin-Woo joined between 2001 and 2002 to lead the team to the playoffs for three years from 2002 to 2004. But each time they were beaten by LG Twins, SK Wyverns, and Doosan Bears respectively.
2005 ~ 2008 : Dark Age
Kia Tigers lost 76 games to end up in an embarrassing 8th place in 2005. Manager Yoo Nam-Ho was fired and Seo Jung-Hwan took charge, but again ended up in last place in 2007 despite his effort and joining of former MLB player Choi Hee-Seop.
Battery coach Jo Beom-Hyun was promoted to the new manager in June 2007. Former MLB pitcher Seo Jae-Weong joined the team the next year in 2008, but because of a weak lineup, unstable defense and bullpen problems, the Tigers finished the pennant race in 6th place.
2009 : The Renaissance of the Dynasty
2009 started off uneasily for the Tigers, and it looked as if the strong starting rotation of Rick Guttormson, Aquilino Lopez, Yoon Suk-Min, and Yang Hyeon-Jong was going to go unaided by the batting lineup. But with Lee Jong-Beom’s leadership and Choi Hee-Seop’s revival from his three year long slump, and Kim Sang-Hyun’s amazing batting, the Tigers won the pennant race with the second lowest team ERA of 3.92 and win percentage of 0.609.
Kia Tigers won the 2009 KBO season and 2009 Korean Series, which is the first double victory since 1997. 24 year old Outfielder Na Ji-Wan was named the series MVP.