Ma Hae-young of the Samsung Lions (R) celebrates after hitting a walk-off home run against the LG Twins in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the Korean Series at Daegu Stadium in Daegu, 300 kilometers southeast of Seoul. (Yonhap)
This is the 39th season of the Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) but starting Tuesday, the NC Dinos and the Doosan Bears will only be playing in the 38th Korean Series. So what happened in that one missing season?
The very first Korean Series game, back in 1982, ended in a tie. Yes, even in games that matter the most, there are ties in the KBO.
The answer to the above question and other factoids like tie games have helped shape the history of championship baseball in the country.
The Korean Series has been played every year except in 1985.
The regular season was played in two halves then, and under a complicated set of rules, the postseason was supposed to feature the top two or three teams from the pennant race.
But the Samsung Lions posted the best record in both the first half and the second half, and they were declared the champions without playing the Korean Series.
That prompted the KBO to alter the postseason format to ensure the Korean Series would be played in any circumstances.
The Lions didn't win their first Korean Series until 2002. They still own the dubious record for the longest losing streak in Korean Series, having dropped 12 straight games from Game 3 in 1986 to Game 1 in 1993, a span of four appearances.
The Lions hold a share of a more flattering record, with six consecutive trips to the Korean Series. They played for the title every year from 2010 to 2015, and won four straight starting in 2011.
The SK Wyverns (2007-2012) and the Bears (2015-2020) have also reached six Korean Series in a row.
Na Ji-wan of the Kia Tigers (L) celebrates after launching a walk-off home run off Chei Byung-yong of the SK Wyverns (R) in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 of the Korean Series at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul on Oct. 24, 2009. (Yonhap)
In the 1982 Korean Series, the Bears, then called the OB Bears, and the Lions squared off. They played to a 3-3 tie after 15 innings in Game 1. Ties have been a part of the KBO for all but 2008 season, and that 1982 game was the very first tie in KBO history.
When managers and players extol virtues of winning the first game, they have some valid reason behind that.
Not counting that 1982 series because of the tie, Game 1 winners have gone on to win the title 27 out of 36 times.
Like the Dinos this year, the regular season champions earn a bye to the Korean Series. And for those top seeds, just getting to the Korean Series seems to be half the battle.
Of the past 37 Korean Series, the top seed received the bye every year except for the 1999 and 2000 seasons, when the KBO was divided into two leagues and the top two teams from each league met in the playoffs to determine the Korean Series contestants. And out of the remaining 35 Korean Series, the No. 1 seed has won the championship 26 times.
No club has rallied from a 3-0 Korean Series deficit. The 2000 Bears remain the only team to even force a Game 7 after losing the first three.
The Lions came the closest in 2013, when they overcame a 3-1 deficit to win it all against the Bears.
The Lions were also part of the wildest Korean Series in 2004, against the now-defunct Hyundai Unicorns.
That series featured three ties, including one in which Samsung starter Bae Young-soo no-hit the Unicorns for 10 innings. The unprecedented Game 9 was played in heavy downpours that left the infield at Jamsil Baseball Stadium in Seoul virtually unplayable.
There were three rain delays during that game, but the KBO could ill afford to postpone it, since it was already being played on Nov. 1.
The main reason for three ties was the limit the KBO imposed on the game time: New innings couldn't begin past 10:30 p.m., and games would be declared ties after 12 innings, instead of 15 in previous postseasons.
Game 2 ended in an 8-8 tie after nine innings. In Game 4, Bae threw 10 no-hit innings, but the game finished as a 0-0 tie after 12 innings. Game 7 was the third tie of the series, with the teams deadlocked at 6-6 after nine. That game featured the very first home steal and triple play in Korean Series history, both by the Unicorns. (Yonhap)