Ernesto Carlos Kuk Lee

From BR Bullpen

Ernesto Carlos Wong Kuk Lee (이원국) also listed as Won Lee and Genkoku Lee born as Wong Kuk Lee

  • Bats Right, Throws Right
  • Height 6' 0", Weight 175 lb.

BR register page

Biographical Information[edit]

Ernesto Carlos Kuk Lee was a top Mexican League pitcher and the first Asian native to be a serious candidate for Mexico's Salon de la Fama. Born in Seoul, he attended high school in South Korea and became a star at that level, attracting international notice.

Kuk Lee debuted in 1967 with Japan's Tokyo Orions, allowing 2 runs in 1 1/3 IP. After being released, he was signed by the San Francisco Giants; this was 13 years before Chul-soon Park signed with the Milwaukee Brewers and some sources mistakenly list Park as the first South Korean to sign with a US MLB club, though Lee did so over a decade beforehand.

Lee spent 1968 with the Fresno Giants, going 7-10 with a 3.94 ERA. At the plate, he was 10 for 60 and homered once. In 1969, he went 5-5 with 8 saves and a 3.44 ERA in 47 games for Fresno with 106 strikeouts in 102 innings. He moved up to the AA Jacksonville Suns after being taken in the AA phase of the 1969 Rule V Draft and posted a 4-7, 3.71 record to finish his career in the USA.

The right-hander began his Mexican League career in 1972 with the Piratas de Sabinas, going 11-11 with a 3.27 ERA. In '73, he split time between Sabinas (26 games) and the Saraperos de Saltillo (7 games), with a cumulative record of 16-13, 2.30. He was 7th in the Mexican League in ERA. In 1974, he was 16-14 with a save and a 3.08 ERA for the Mineros de Coahuila, starting a long span with the Mineros.

Lee fell to 7-20 with a save and a 3.33 ERA for Coahuila in '75, leading the Mexican League in losses. He rebounded in 1976 to go 16-9 with a 2.29 ERA, allowing only 5 home runs in 212 innings and just missing the top 10 in ERA. In 1977, he had 16-10, 3.51 record, followed by 13-13 with three saves and a 2.80 ERA in 1978.

At age 31, the Seoul native was 19-14 with a 2.83 ERA in 1979. He led the Liga in innings (277), starts (35) and hits allowed (285). In 1979-1980, he led the Mexican Pacific League in shutouts while toiling with the Águilas de Mexicali.

Lee split 1980 between the Acereros de Monclova and Petroleros de Poza Rica, going 10-9 with a 3.39 ERA. He was 18-11 with 3 saves and a 2.36 ERA for Poza Rica in 1981, finishing second in the Mexican League in wins behind Ralph Garcia. His last season was his best in terms of ERA, as he had a 7-4, 1.98 record for the '82 Poza Rica club, finishing 5th in the LMB in ERA.

Lee signed with the MBC Blue Dragons of the Korea Baseball Organization in 1983, his first time pitching in his homeland as a pro. He was 1-1 with a 4.42 ERA in eight games in the second-year league, wrapping up his career. He was almost definitely the first player to appear in the KBO, NPB and LMB as well as probably the first player to appear in the KBO, NPB and minor leagues.

Overall, he was 149-128 with 8 saves and a 2.81 ERA in 336 games in the Mexican League. He allowed only 80 home runs in 2,103 1/3 innings and struck out 1,126 Through 2000, he was 4th in Mexican League history in ERA among pitchers with 2,000+ innings, trailing only Vicente Romo, George Brunet and former teammate Ricardo Sandate.