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Dodgers Blast From the Past: Hideo Nomo

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In 1995, the baseball world experienced a phenomena.
While it may never have hit Fernandomania levels from the 1981 season, it was still quite the ride.

Hideo Nomo became the fist major Japanese star baseball player to permanently relocate to the U.S. and Major League Baseball. He is credited with opening the door for all the Asian born players to take their talents stateside.

His tornado windup delivery baffled players in Japan, and the question was whether it would translate to the players in the American leagues. While he started the season in the minors, he received his first MLB start a month later.

On May 2nd, Nomo became the first Japanese-born player to start a game since 1965, when Masanori Murakami took the mound for the San Francisco Giants.

His tornado delivery was indeed, deceptive. He burst onto the scene and was an instant star. Games he started were televised back home to Japan, where fans woke up in the early morning hours to tune in. He was, by all accounts, a Japanese rock star living in Hollywood.

His rookie year was magical. He led the league in strikeouts and allowed the second fewest walks, while also finished second in ERA. He started the All-Star game as a rookie, and to top it off, he broke Sandy Koufax’s record of K/9 with 11.101. To cap off his rookie season, he narrowly beat out Chipper Jones to win Rookie of the Year.

While 1995 may have been the best year he would ever have, 1996 was pretty remarkable.

To this day, Hideo Nomo is the only player to walk into Coors Field and no-hit the Colorado Rockies when he did so on September 17. Not only that, but it was the largest attended no-hitter ever at over 50,000 fans.

While his stay in Los Angeles was relatively quick, his star burned bright and faded quickly. He was traded to the New York Mets after opening the 1998 season terribly, going 2-7. He bounced around following that season, even playing in the minors in the Chicago Cubs organization. His tenure included stops in Milwaukee with the Brewers, he was a Philadelphia Phillie for 24-hours after they claimed and then waived him. Nomo ended up signing with the Detroit Tigers in 2000 and had a losing record with an ERA over 4.70 and was released.

The new millennia brought a new Nomo to the baseball world when he signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2001. He was dominant again. His first game as a member of the Red Sox rotation, he threw his second, and last, no-hitter on April 4th. There have been only four other pitchers who own a no-no in both leagues – Cy Young, Jim Bunning, Nolan Ryan, and Randy Johnson.

Boston was a one-year trip as he became a free agent and returned to the Dodgers in 2002. Dodger blue looked good on him, and he had his best year since 1996. He went 16-6 with nearly 200 strikeouts and an ERA just under 3.40. 2003 was nearly just as good, but it was clear the pitching was taking it’s toll on his shoulder and faltered.

Nomo had shoulder surgery in 2003 and was never the same.

After leaving the Dodgers in 2004, he signed with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in 2005, and bounced around some more when he played for the New York Yankees, Chicago White Sox, and finally the Kansas City Royals in 2008.

After the Royals released him in April of 2008, he announced his retirement a few weeks later.

Nomo was inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame in 2014 and still resides in Los Angeles.

Featured Image: AP Images
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