Skip to main content
Original Issue

Sultan of Seoul

SMASHED By Samsung Lions first baseman Seung-Yeop Lee, 27, the
Asian single-season home run record of 55. Lee tied the
record--which was set by legendary Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh
in 1964 and equaled in Japan by Tuffy Rhodes of the U.S. in 2001
and by Venezuela's Alex Cabrera last year--with six games left
in the Korean Baseball Organization's 135-game schedule. Unlike
Rhodes and Cabrera, who weren't given anything good to hit after
reaching 55, Lee was challenged by pitchers, so fans armed with
butterfly nets filled the outfield seats. But the Lion King went
into a slump and remained homerless until the season's final
game. In his first at bat, in front of a home crowd of 15,000,
he bashed number 56 over the centerfield fence. The 6'1",
200-pound Lee, who hit .301 with 144 RBIs, seems a shoo-in to
win his fifth straight KBO MVP award. Earlier this year Lee
became the youngest player ever to hit 300 homers, beating Alex
Rodriguez's record by 10 months. Now he'd like to take a crack
at the same pitching A-Rod sees: Lee says he intends to pursue a
career in America when he becomes a free agent after the
playoffs. In 2002 he accepted an invitation from the Cubs to
participate in spring training, and this spring he spent time
with the Marlins, hitting two homers in 10 at bats in preseason
games. "The biggest question is how his power numbers will
translate," notes his agent, John Kim, who says 10 major league
teams have expressed an interest in the lefthanded-hitting Lee.
"Like Matsui, I think you will have to look more at his overall
value to the team." Lee has won six gold gloves and has drawn
comparisons with Don Mattingly and Rafael Palmeiro. "I've been
told that I swing like David Justice, with a little Asian
flair," Lee said last week. "Being compared to those guys gives
me satisfaction." --John O'Keefe

COLOR PHOTO: YONHAP/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (LEE) GOING, GOING, GONE? Lee (below) is eyeing America after topping Oh (left).

B/W PHOTO: AP (OH) [See caption above]