Hideki Irabu

Last updated
Hideki Irabu
Hideki Irabu.jpg
Born:(1969-05-05)May 5, 1969
Hirara, Okinawa, Japan
Died: July 27, 2011(2011-07-27) (aged 42)
Rancho Palos Verdes, California, U.S.
Batted: RightThrew: Right
Professional debut
NPB: May 7, 1988, for the Lotte Orions
MLB: July 10, 1997, for the New York Yankees
Last appearance
NPB: June 11, 2004, for the Hanshin Tigers
MLB: July 12, 2002, for the Texas Rangers
NPB statistics
Win–loss record 72–69
Earned run average 3.55
Strikeouts 1,282
MLB statistics
Win–loss record34–35
Earned run average5.15
Career highlights and awards

Hideki Irabu(伊良部 秀輝,Irabu Hideki, May 5, 1969 – July 27, 2011) was a Japanese professional baseball player of American and Japanese mixed ancestry. He played professionally in both Japan and the United States. Irabu left Japan for the San Diego Padres in a controversial sale that would lead to future changes. In 1997, he joined the New York Yankees to much fanfare, but was ultimately unsuccessful in the MLB. Irabu died in 2011 of an apparent suicide.

Baseball Sport

Baseball is a bat-and-ball game played between two opposing teams who take turns batting and fielding. The game proceeds when a player on the fielding team, called the pitcher, throws a ball which a player on the batting team tries to hit with a bat. The objectives of the offensive team are to hit the ball into the field of play, and to run the bases—having its runners advance counter-clockwise around four bases to score what are called "runs". The objective of the defensive team is to prevent batters from becoming runners, and to prevent runners' advance around the bases. A run is scored when a runner legally advances around the bases in order and touches home plate. The team that scores the most runs by the end of the game is the winner.

San Diego Padres Baseball Team and Major League Baseball franchise in San Diego, California, United States

The San Diego Padres are an American professional baseball team based in San Diego, California. The Padres compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the National League (NL) West division. Founded in 1969, the Padres have won two NL pennants — in 1984 and 1998, losing in the World Series both years. As of 2018, they have had 14 winning seasons in franchise history. The Padres are one of two Major League Baseball teams in California to originate from that state; the Athletics were originally from Philadelphia, and the Dodgers and Giants are originally from two New York City boroughs – Brooklyn and Manhattan, respectively. The Padres are the only major professional sports franchise to be located in San Diego, following the relocation of the Chargers to Los Angeles in 2017. The Padres are the only MLB team that does not share its city with another major league professional sports franchise. They are also the only franchise in the MLB to not have a no-hitter, having gone 8020 games without throwing one, a major league record to begin a franchise.

New York Yankees Baseball team and Major League Baseball franchise in the Bronx, New York, United States

The New York Yankees are an American professional baseball team based in the New York City borough of the Bronx. The Yankees compete in Major League Baseball (MLB) as a member club of the American League (AL) East division. They are one of two major league clubs based in New York City, the other being the New York Mets of the National League. In the 1901 season, the club began play in the AL as the Baltimore Orioles. Frank Farrell and Bill Devery purchased the franchise and moved it to New York City, renaming the club the New York Highlanders. The Highlanders were officially renamed the Yankees in 1913.


Early life

Irabu was born on May 5, 1969 in Hirara (present: Miyakojima), [1] Okinawa, Japan (then administered by the government of the United States). His father was a U.S. Air Force meteorologist named Steve Thompson, married to a woman in the United States at the time. Thompson, who had been redeployed to Vietnam before his son's birth, briefly visited young Hideki and his mother a year later, but they would not again meet until after Irabu reached the U.S. major leagues. [2] Hideki's mother, Kazue, a native of Miyako, later married a restaurateur, Ichiro Irabu, from Osaka. Irabu raised Hideki as his son in Amagasaki, Hyōgo Prefecture. [3] [4]

Hirara, was a city located in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan on the island of Miyako. Hirara was founded on March 7, 1947.

Miyakojima, Okinawa City in Kyushu, Japan

Miyakojima is a city jurisdiction located on several islands in Okinawa Prefecture, Japan.

Okinawa Prefecture Prefecture of Japan

Okinawa Prefecture is the southernmost prefecture of Japan. It encompasses two thirds of the Ryukyu Islands in a chain over 1,000 kilometres (620 mi) long. The Ryukyu Islands extend southwest from Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu to Taiwan. Naha, Okinawa's capital, is located in the southern part of Okinawa Island.


Japanese career (1988–1996)

Irabu pitched for the Lotte Orions, who later became the Chiba Lotte Marines, of the Pacific League from 1988 to 1996. He was known as a high-speed pitcher and in 1993, he threw a 158 km/h (98 mph) fastball against Kazuhiro Kiyohara of the Seibu Lions. This was the fastest clocked pitch in all of Japanese Professional Baseball (NPB) until 2005, when the record was broken by Marc Kroon of the Yokohama BayStars. [5] [6]

Chiba Lotte Marines Nippon Professional Baseball team in the Pacific League

The Chiba Lotte Marines are a professional baseball team in Japan's Pacific League based in Chiba City, Chiba Prefecture, in the Kantō region, and owned by Lotte Holdings Co., Ltd.

Pacific League Nippon Professional Baseball league

The Pacific League or Pa League is one of the two professional baseball leagues constituting Nippon Professional Baseball in Japan. The winner of the league championship competes against the winner in the Central League for the annual Japan Series. It currently consists of six teams from around Japan.

Kazuhiro Kiyohara baseball player

Kazuhiro Kiyohara is a former professional baseball player in Japan, having played in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league for 23 seasons. He retired following the 2008 season.

Irabu led the Pacific League in wins in 1994 (15) and in ERA in 1995 and 1996 (2.53 & 2.40, respectively). He also led the Pacific League in strikeouts in 1994 and 1995 (239 & 167, respectively). [7]

American career

In 1997, the San Diego Padres purchased Irabu's contract from the Chiba Lotte Marines. The criticisms of this sale from other MLB teams, who wished to bid on Irabu, led to the creation of the posting system currently used by Japanese and MLB teams. [8] Irabu, however, refused to sign with the Padres, saying he would only play with the Yankees. For the negotiating rights to Irabu, the Yankees offered the Padres a choice of one from a list of players including Brian Boehringer, David Weathers, Chris Cumberland, Andy Fox and Matt Luke. The Padres eventually included him as a player-to-be-named-later in a trade that involved Homer Bush and Irabu going to the New York Yankees in exchange for Rafael Medina, Rubén Rivera, and $3 million in cash. [9] The Yankees signed Irabu to a $12.8 million, four-year contract, and after only eight minor league appearances, the Yankees put him in their rotation. [10]

Posting system

The posting system is a baseball player transfer system that operates between Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and the United States' Major League Baseball (MLB). Despite the drafting of the United States – Japanese Player Contract Agreement, unveiled in 1967 to regulate NPB players moving to MLB, problems began to arise in the late 1990s. Some NPB teams lost star players without compensation, an issue highlighted when NPB stars Hideo Nomo and Alfonso Soriano left to play in MLB after using loopholes to void their existing contracts. A further problem was that NPB players had very little negotiating power if their teams decided to deal them to MLB, as when pitcher Hideki Irabu was traded to an MLB team for which he had no desire to play. In 1998, the Agreement was rewritten to address both problems; the result was dubbed the "posting system".

Brian Edward Boehringer is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He won the 1996 World Series with the New York Yankees over the Atlanta Braves.

David Weathers American baseball player

John David Weathers is a former Major League Baseball pitcher. He was a part of the New York Yankees' 1996 World Series championship over the Atlanta Braves. He bats and throws right-handed.

New York Yankees (1997–1999)

Irabu made his highly publicized debut on July 10, 1997, drawing almost twice as many fans that night as they averaged for weeknight games. [11] He played with the Yankees from 1997 through 1999, winning two World Series rings (1998, 1999) despite only pitching in one postseason game and having no postseason decisions. George Steinbrenner publicly expressed disgust at his weight, at one point calling him a "fat pussy toad" [12] after he failed to cover first base on a ground ball during a spring training game. Steinbrenner refused to let Irabu accompany the team to Los Angeles, but two days later, Steinbrenner apologized and allowed Irabu to join the team. [13]

A World Series ring is an award given to Major League Baseball players who win the World Series. Since only one Commissioner's Trophy is awarded to the team, a World Series ring is an individual award that players and staff of each World Series champion team get to keep for themselves to symbolize the victory. World Series rings are uniquely commissioned by the winning team each year and presented to deserving players and staff early in the next season. The rings have been made by companies that include Jostens, Tiffany & Co., Dieges & Clust, and L.G. Balfour Company.

George Michael Steinbrenner III was an American businessman who was the principal owner and managing partner of Major League Baseball's New York Yankees. During Steinbrenner's 37-year ownership from 1973 to his death in July 2010, the longest in club history, the Yankees earned seven World Series titles and 11 pennants. His outspokenness and role in driving up player salaries made him one of the sport's most controversial figures. Steinbrenner was also involved in the Great Lakes and Gulf Coast shipping industry.

1998 was Irabu's best season in MLB, featuring career bests in games started (28), complete games (2), innings pitched (173), wins (13), and ERA (4.06). [14] Despite his inconsistency, Irabu was twice named the American League's Pitcher of the Month: in May 1998 and June 1999.

Montreal Expos (2000–2001) and later career

After the 1999 season, he was traded to the Montreal Expos for Ted Lilly, Christian Parker, and Jake Westbrook. [1] He started only 14 games for the Expos in 2000 and 2001, pitching 71⅓ innings with a 6.69 ERA and only 2 wins against 7 losses. [14]

In 2002, he signed as a free agent to pitch for the Texas Rangers as a closer. [14] At the end of the year, Irabu moved back to Japan to pitch in the Hanshin Tigers' starting rotation for the 2003 season, helping the team win the Central League pennant for the first time since 1985. When Major League Baseball opened its 2004 season in Tokyo, he pitched against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Over the course of six MLB seasons, Irabu's career totals are 126 games, 514 innings, 34 wins, 35 losses, 16 saves, 405 strikeouts, and a 5.15 ERA. [14] His Japanese totals for eleven seasons are 273 games, 1,28613 innings, 72 wins, 69 losses, 11 saves, 1,282 strikeouts, and a 3.55 ERA.

In April 2009, Irabu had come out of retirement and made a contract with Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League. He posted a 5–3 record in 10 starts, with an ERA of 3.58. In 65 innings Irabu struck out 66 batters while walking just 19. In August, he announced his intention to return to the Japanese professional leagues, [15] and began playing for the semi-professional Kōchi Fighting Dogs. [4]

Later life

On August 20, 2008, Irabu was arrested on the suspicion of assaulting the manager of a bar in Umeda, Osaka. He was upset that his credit card was not accepted in the bar. At the time of the suspected assault, Irabu had consumed at least 20 glasses of beer. Irabu admitted to the assault, the bartender sustained no injuries, and Irabu paid the bill with another credit card. [16]

Irabu was arrested for DUI on May 17, 2010, in Redondo Beach, California. [17] The press release of his arrest stated he resided at the time in Rancho Palos Verdes. [18]

Irabu was found dead in his home in Los Angeles on July 27, 2011, in an apparent suicide. He was reported to have hanged himself. [19] He left behind his wife and two children. [20] Irabu's autopsy showed he was inebriated at the time of his death with both alcohol and Ativan in his system. He was reportedly despondent because his wife had taken their two daughters and left him. [21]

Irabu was referenced in the final episode of the popular sitcom Seinfeld during the trial of the show. Costanza's father harangues George Steinbrenner for signing Irabu, in response to Steinbrenner accusing George of being a communist.

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  1. 1 2 Remembering Hideki Irabu: Japanese MLB Pitcher and Link to Donnie Moore | MLB reports
  2. Reiter, Ben. "The Complicated Life and Death of Hideki Irabu". SI.com. Retrieved 2017-08-02.
  3. Curry, Jack (July 15, 1997). "Stepfather Says Irabu Is the Son of an American". The New York Times.
  4. 1 2 Associated Press, "Irabu dead in apparent suicide", Japan Times , 30 July 2011, p. 1.
  5. Rest in peace, Hideki Irabu - Chuck Miller
  6. Whiting, Robert, "Irabu's impact on MLB-NPB relations profound", Japan Times , 16 October 2011, p. 16.
  7. Hideki Irabu - Japanese stats - JapaneseBallPlayers
  8. Kurkjian, Tim (December 15, 2006). "Posting process needs to be altered". ESPN. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  9. Hideki Irabu, 42, found dead in Los Angeles home | River Avenue Blues
  10. Whiting, Robert, "Attitude, lifestyle contributed to Irabu's demise", Japan Times , 23 October 2011.
  11. "Hideki Irabu gave New York Yankees fans a Stadium night to remember – ESPN New York". Sports.espn.go.com. 1997-07-10. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  12. http://espn.go.com/page2/s/list/steinbrenner.html
  13. Merron, Jeff. "The List: Steinbrenner's worst". ESPN. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  14. 1 2 3 4 Hideki Irabu Stats ESPN
  15. "Baseball pitcher Hideki Irabu dies, aged 42". BBC News. July 28, 2011.
  16. Yuasa, Shino (August 20, 2008). "Ex-Yankee Irabu arrested for alleged assault". Fox News. Associated Press.
  17. "Hideki Irabu: Former New York Yankees Pitcher Hideki Irabu Arrested on Suspicion of Drunken Driving". ktla.com. May 25, 2010. Archived from the original on March 18, 2012. Retrieved 2011-07-29.
  18. Whiting, Robert, "Irabu spent final days lost, without purpose", Japan Times , 30 October 2011, p. 16.
  19. Ex-Yankee Pitcher Hideki Irabu DEAD -- Suicide By Hanging Himself | TMZ.com
  20. Fortuna, Matt. "Yankees have fond memories of Irabu". MLB.com. Retrieved 4 August 2011.
  21. Gallagher, Jack. "Coroner's Office says Irabu intoxicated at time of death". Japan Times, 16 October 2011, p. 16. Retrieved 2012-07-27.