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Thursday, March 16, 2006  
Holy freaking cats, Korea.

I'm going to be a mess tomorrow. I have to be up and vaguely mobile in about 3 and a half hours. I have 10 and a half hours of solid classtime tomorrow (today), not counting transit, which works out to about 2 more hours for the whole day. I just stayed awake to watch Korea/Japan, even though I already knew that Korea had won.

It was completely worth it.

At this point I am quite incapable of summing the game up properly but let me say this: it was 0-0 going into the 8th inning.

Chan Ho Park started and threw 5 innings of 4-hit, scoreless ball. Byung Hyun Kim got the win and the Fabulous Mr. Koo (name probably picked up from some Mets blog or other) got the hold.

Korea scored when a runner hustled from first to third on what should have been just a single. The ball beat him there. The third baseman had the ball. The Korean runner sort of slid into the Japanese third baseman, forcing the ball out of his glove (all very aboveboard and and clean and legal, by the by... no slapping), and making himself safe. The next batter was the Korean captain, Jong Beom Lee, who proceeded to hit a two-run double.

Japan got one run back on a single-shot homer in the bottom of the 9th, but the ridiculously good Korean pitching held on for the win.

The crowd was overwhelmingly pro-Korean. There were signs everywhere: "Final Four-Korea-March Madness", "30 years? We only needed 1 week!" (a reference to Ichiro's comments on Japan's dominance of Asian baseball), "Korea hit homer!" with a big drawing of Homer Simpson.

When Korea got that last out. Oh man.

They got their flag, and ran around the field with it like in the Olympics. One of their players took another Korean flag, on a pole, and dug a little hole in the center of the pitcher's mound, and planted the Korean flag in front of the rubber at Angel Stadium. He took his time, concentrating on getting it straight and standing tall, digging a little deeper when it threatened to fall over, excited and happy and intent on his task, like it was the most important thing in the world at that moment. When he got it standing to his satisfaction he stepped back to rejoin his teammates in the celebration.

Then he picked up the hem of the flag and kissed it.

Japan can still get into the next round, if the US loses to Mexico tomorrow. And I'll feel bad if they don't make it in, after what happened to them in their game against us.

But for Korea to beat Japan not once, but twice, and once in the Tokyo Dome... for any team to win the Asian bracket besides Japan... for Byung Hyun Kim to have a more positive impact on a baseball game than Ichiro Suzuki... it's huge. It's immense. It's a bigger upset than Canada beating the US, which I said at the time (Korea had already beaten Japan at home at that point).

Quoth the captain: "It made me proud to be Korean, but more important, we beat Japan," he [Jong Beom Lee] offered. "It was sweet revenge."

Oh yeah, and Korea is undefeated in WBC play.

Oh, and the Korean government has announced that, since they made it to the semifinals, those members of the Korean team who have yet to serve their mandatory military service will have that three-year requirement waived.

I don't care what George Steinbrenner or David Wells think. Bud Selig got something right with this thing. If you don't love this, you don't love baseball.

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6:06 AM

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