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Jinten Haku

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Jinten Haku (In-chun Baek)

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 5' 8", Weight 180 lb.

Jinten Haku was a productive hitter in Nippon Pro Baseball for 19 years, making four All-Star teams and leading the league several times in various categories. He then became a player-manager in his native South Korea and had the only .400 season in the history of the Korea Baseball Organization. In South Korea, he is known as In-chun, In-cheon or In-chung Baek.

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[edit] Early career

Haku played in the 1962 Asian Championship, hitting the tourney's only home run and helping South Korea win a Silver Medal. He played for the Korea Agricultural Bank team in the Japanese industrial leagues before being signed by the Toei Flyers later in 1962. He debuted with Toei in 1963, going 3 for 19 while playing catcher. In 1964, Haku hit .252/.284/.380 while settling into regular playing time. At age 21 in 1965, he batted .267/.294/.435 with 14 home runs. In 1966, Haku was moved to the outfield. He hit .262/.293/.336 that year, drawing only 12 walks in 126 games but stealing 18 bases in 23 tries to finish 4th in the Pacific League.

[edit] Productive player in Japan

Haku produced at a .280/.313/.419 clip in 1967 with 13 steals in 17 attempts. He made his first PL All-Star team and finished 11th in the league in batting average. He lost a walk-off home run on July 19 when he passed another baserunner. It would be 37 years until another player, Tsuyoshi Shinjo, made a similar blunder. In 1968, the South Korean slugged 15 home runs and hit .296/.316/.463; he was among the top 10 in average.

In 1969, the 25-year-old batted .291/.314/.447 with 13 steals (caught 5 times) and a league-leading 9 triples. He was 9th in the PL in batting average. Haku made his second All-Star team in 1970; that season, he hit .276/.325/.454 with 36 walks, more than double any prior campaign. He swiped a career-high 28 bases in 38 tries, swatted 18 home runs and 30 doubles. He led the Pacific League in doubles that season.

Haku struggled in 1971, producing at a .238/.283/.361 clip. Haku bounced back in 1972, batting .315/.362/.512 with 33 doubles, a career-high 19 home runs, 80 RBI and 20 steals (in 33 tries) as he just missed a 20-20 season. He made his third All-Star squad, led the league in doubles and was third in batting average behind Isao Harimoto and George Altman.

Haku struggled in 1973 and batted .247/.290/.354. In 1974, he played his 12th and last season for the Flyers, hitting .261/.310/.421 with 15 home runs and 24 stolen bases in 29 tries.

Moving to the Taiheiyo Club Lions in 1975, Haku rebounded by batting .319/.349/.504 with 16 long balls. He edged Yoshihito Oda by .0005 for the PL batting title and made his only Best Nine.

In 1976, Haku hit .288/.321/.441 with 17 home runs and 15 stolen bases in 25 tries. He led the PL by grounding into 22 double plays and finished 6th in the circuit in batting average.

Joining the Lotte Orions in 1977, Haku batted .281/.327/.420 with 16 home runs. He was 10th in the league in average. No longer a speedster, he only swiped 6 bases in 12 attempts. Haku had an off-year in 1978, only hitting .257/.289/.351 in a reduced role.

In 1979, the veteran batted .340/.378/.549 for Lotte with 18 home runs. He finished third in the Pacific League in average (behind Hideji Kato and Hiromasa Arai) and slugging (behind Charlie Manuel and Kato). He made his fourth and final All-Star team. Overall, he was 11 for 21 with 6 RBI in nine All-Star Games in Japan.

Haku had his worst Japanese season in 1980, only managing a .216/.257/.335 batting line in 76 games. He joined the Kintetsu Buffaloes in 1981, hitting .277/.292/.345 for them.

In 1,969 games in NPB, Haku had batted .276/.316/.430 with 801 runs, 209 home runs and 212 steals (in 316 attempts). He had only drawn 322 walks in 7,040 plate appearances.

[edit] South Korea

When the Korea Baseball Organization was formed in 1982, Haku helped play a leading role. He became the player-manager of the MBC Blue Dragons and hit .412/.497/.740 with 19 homers. 25 years later, he remains the only .400 hitter in KBO history. He managed his club to a 46-34 record.

Haku ran into off-field problems in 1983, being arrested for adultery. He was fired as manager of the Blue Dragons but caught on as a player-coach with the Sami Superstars. Haku batted only .190/.261/.281 as age was catching up to the 39-year-old.

In 1984, Haku hit .281/.343/.625 to complete his playing career. He had hit .335/.421/.593 in three years in the KBO, with 23 HR in 403 AB.

Haku reappeared in 1990 as manager of the LG Twins, guiding them to a 71-49 record, the best in the league and a victory in the 1990 Korean Series. In 1991, his charges fell to 6th place at 53-71-2. He then joined the Samsung Lions in 1996 and guided them to a 54-67-5 finish. In 1997, his Lions were 44-36-5 when he missed time due to a brain aneurysm.

Haku piloted the Lotte Giants in 2002-2003. They were 18-53 his first year (taking over partway into the year) and 23-66 the next (getting canned partway through the season).

He has also been a hitting coach for Yonsei University, the Hanwha Eagles and SK Wyverns. Additionally, he has worked as a baseball commentator on TV.

[edit] Sources

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