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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Korean Play Ball, Part V: SK Wyverns - 4G LTE Line detected at Incheon-Munhak.

SK Wyverns Baseball Club (Hangul: SK 와이번스 야구단) is a South Korean professional baseball team founded in 2000 based in Incheon Metropole. SK is a member of the Korea Baseball Championship and compete in the annual KBO Championship which culminates in the Korean Series. The club bagged three Korean Series Championship title in 2007, 2008 and 2010.

The Wyverns play their home games at Incheon-Munhak Baseball Stadium in 618 Maesohol Avenue/Maesohollo, Munhak-dong 482-beonji, Incheon Nam-gu. The stadium is currently the 2nd largest baseball stadium in Korea after Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul Songpa-gu, the home pitch of Jamsil Derby - LG Twins and Doosan Bears. The stadium with the capacity of 27,600 spectators is accessible by using Incheon Metro Line 1 to Station I127: Munhak Sports Complex in the neighboring precinct of Seonhak-dong, Incheon Yeonsu-gu.

In the 2000 season, the Ssangbangwool Raiders, a team that previously had represented the Northern Jeolla Province since 1991, was dissolved because of the bankruptcy of the Ssangbangwool Group, the team's owner. The franchise was subsumed by the KBO, who then awarded a new franchise to the SK conglomerate. The new franchise was named the SK Wyverns. So the Raiders and the Wyverns have no historical links although the new team consists mostly of former Raiders players.

The Unicorns moved out of Incheon to go to Suwon, and the SK Wyverns filled the void left in Incheon. Their first Korean Series appearance came in 2003, where somewhat ironically, they were defeated by the Hyundai Unicorns in seven games.

In 2007, SK defeated the Doosan Bears in six games to win the 2007 Korean Series - the first time the franchise had won the Korean Series - after finishing the season in first place. They became the first team in Korean Series history to win after losing the first two games. Designated Hitter Kim Jae-hyun was the series MVP.

SK went on to compete in the Konami Cup, a short competition between the champions of the Korean Baseball League, the Japanese Baseball League, the Taiwanese Baseball League, and the China All-Stars.

On November 8, 2007, SK Wyverns managed to defeat the Chunichi Dragons (6–3), giving Chunichi their first ever loss in Konami Cup history. On November 9, 2007, they soundly defeated the China All-Stars (13–0), causing the game to be called in the 7th inning, due to the 'Mercy Rule'. On November 10, 2007, they repeated their performance, defeating the Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of Taiwan (13–1) in 7 innings.

The final game, on November 11, 2007, was a rematch of the first game, between Chunichi Dragons and SK Wyverns. In an extremely close game, Chunichi managed to win the game, 6–5. SK went to the Korean Series again in 2008, once again facing their main rivals, Doosan Bears. In a repeat of 2007, SK defeated Doosan to become 2 time Korean Series Champions. 21 year old 3rd baseman Choi Jeong was named the series MVP.

SK once again went on to compete in the Konami Cup. On November 13, 2008, SK Wyverns managed to defeat the Seibu Lions (4–3), marking the second straight year in which the Korean champions handed the Japanese champions a loss in this competition. On November 14, 2008, they once again defeated the Chinese representatives, Tianjin Lions, in a "mercy-rule" shortened game. On November 15, 2008, they were soundly defeated in a rematch with Uni-President 7-Eleven Lions of Taiwan (10–4) and failed to qualify for the championship game for a second straight year.

In 2009, however, SK were runners-up in the 2009 KBO season and 2009 Korean Series, where they were defeated by the KIA Tigers in 7 games. SK rebounded to form in 2010, dominating the regular season and winning the Korean Series in a 4–0 sweep against the Samsung Lions. It was SK's 4th straight Korean Series appearance and their 3rd title in 4 years.

In 2011, legendary manager Kim Sung-keun was ousted mid-season after a long-standing disagreement between him and the SK front office finally boiled over. This led to then - head coach Lee Man-soo taking over the reins - a move that brought a lot of protests from the SK Wyverns fans, as Kim had led SK to the Korean Series in every year that he had been at the helm. In both 2011 and 2012, SK reached the Korean Series, where they were both times defeated by the Samsung Lions. SK has reached the Korean Series in each season since 2007 (six straight seasons).

SK Wyverns have had great success both on the field and in the stands, where they have set attendance records and rank as one of the most popular teams in the league. Their 2009/2010 winning streak of 23 games set a new record for Korean baseball and comes in second internationally to the New York Giant’s 26-game run back in 1916.