Korea Baseball Hall of Fame, Jeju, South Korea
It’s October, and that can only mean one thing for baseball fans around the world: it’s playoff time. And with baseball hysteria at fever pitch there’s no better occasion to check out a piece of Korean baseball history at the ‘Korean Pro-Baseball Hall of Fame.’
Its home is a small museum located next to Kang Chang Hak Stadium in New Seogwipo (Shinsikaji), just north of the World Cup Stadium. The museum is quite small, occupying a large room in the wing of a local sports facility. Despite its modest proportions, the museum contains interesting exhibits and memorabilia, making it well worth a visit for true baseball fans.
The museum starts by chronicling baseball’s origins, with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics depicting a game that looks strangely similar to our modern-day pastime. It then moves on to Abner Doubleday and an excerpt from his original 1840 rulebook. Some of the rules have the potential to provoke a few laughs from contemporary fans. One rule declares: “Any member disputing the decision of an umpire during the time of exercise shall be fined 12 cents,” with all fines to be paid directly to the umpire at the end of the game!
From there, the exhibit traces Korea’s introduction to baseball in 1905, when Illinois native Phillip Gillett started a team at a local YMCA in Seoul. Black and white photos from a 1910 exhibition game show a crowd of bewildered Koreans in hanbok and gat looking on as a steely-eyed batter awaits the pitch and a catcher stands at the ready behind him. From those humble beginnings, baseball went on to become a national obsession in Korea, producing talented ballplayers who ventured from their homeland to become stars both in Japan and in the Major Leagues.
There’s plenty of memorabilia from the Korean game. Uniforms and equipment from different eras, trophies and signed balls from the Korean pro-league and pennants from various Japan/Korea matches await the visitor. Tributes to the umpires as well as to the sportscasters and writers who covered the Korean game are included for viewing. Special displays honoring Korea’s heroes, including a signed Dodger’s jersey from pitching legend Park Chan Ho and an autographed bat from former Cubs slugger Choi Hee Seop will satisfy fans.
The museum also displays memorabilia from the American and Japanese leagues. A placard devoted to the ‘87 Cardinals is signed by baseball greats Ozzie Smith, Stan Musial and Vince Coleman. There’s a whole exhibit dedicated to Joe DiMaggio’s affair with Marilyn Monroe and a loving tribute to the Babe. One picture shows him in full cowboy gear leading a chuck-wagon across a ball field and another fielding a ball while carrying a Japanese parasol during an MLB promotional tour of Japan. Even Fidel Castro, who was a star pitcher at the University of Havana and was once approached to play for the Giants, is pictured batting in a pick-up game in Cuba.
It may not be Cooperstown, and many non-baseball fans will probably find it uninteresting, but there’s plenty on offer for those with a real passion for baseball. An entry fee of 1,000 won is charged at the front, making it a cheap outing for any sports fans wanting to get a closer look at baseball history here in Korea.
– Brian Miller
Visiting Korea Baseball Hall of Fame
The museum is located next to the Kang Chang Hak Stadium in Seogwipo. A taxi ride from the World Cup Stadium is about three kilometres and should cost no more than a few thousand won.