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MLB’s first Korean player Park Chan-ho left off of 2016 HOF ballot

November 12, 2015
This file photo shows Park Chan-ho greeting the crowd with a traditional Korean bow. It became his signature move during the middle of his eight-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which began in 1994. (Korea Times file)

This file photo shows Park Chan-ho greeting the crowd with a traditional Korean bow. It became his signature move during the middle of his eight-year stint with the Los Angeles Dodgers, which began in 1994. (Korea Times file)

By Brian Han

When Park Chan-ho debuted in April of 1994 for his first big league game, it was a big deal. Maybe not for everyone, but as the first Korean to enter Major League Baseball, he became a symbol of validation for a lot of athletes who shared the same heritage.

He wound up allowing five earned runs and a homer in the four innings he pitched that season. Not an ideal introduction to baseball’s biggest stage, but he continually improved year after year.

By 2001 he made the All-Star team and proved that he could hang with the league’s elite. As a result, he inspired a lot of Korean youngsters to pick up a glove and a bat.

Park played for 17 seasons, competed for seven teams, but is best known for his eight-year run with the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1994-2001.

2015 marks his first year of eligibility to be on the 2016 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot.

The BBWAA released its official list, which introduced 15 new additions including notables such as Ken Griffey, Jr., Trevor Hoffman and Garrett Anderson.

But Park’s name wasn’t on the 2016 Hall of Fame ballot.

There are always names on the ballot that most voters and fans know won’t get inducted, but at least it gives players one final chance to be appreciated for their 10-plus years (minimum to be considered) given to the sport.

Park may not have had the numbers to match the other pitchers in the Hall of Fame, but he was a pioneer for an underrepresented Korean community.

Though modern baseball philosophy revolves around number crunching and squeezing value from every stat, the Hall of Fame sometimes goes beyond that and recognizes context and cultural significance.

Jackie Robinson’s Hall of Fame plaque recognizes him for his “tremendous courage and poise in 1947 when he integrated the modern major leagues in the face of intense adversity.”

It’s not that Park should be up there with the most legendary names in the game, but it came as a surprise to some that he didn’t make the ballot at all.

“Like Hideo Nomo, who blazed a trail for modern Japanese players to come to the majors, Park deserves the recognition that comes with a spot on the ballot,” wrote Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe.

The South Korean right hander held a 124-98 record with 1715 strikeouts and 4.36 ERA over that span. In his seventh year as a Dodger during the 2000 season, Park posted his highest Wins Above Replacement stat at a 4.6. He went 18-10 with 217 strikeouts and a 3.27 ERA over 226 innings pitched.

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