May 5 – Happy Birthday Hideki Irabu

Yankee fans will never forget the hype that surrounded the $12.8 million signing of this huge and mysterious right-hander from Hyogo, Japan. When he won his first major league start impressively, many of us were convinced he was the chosen one. When I saw him for the first time, I remember being surprised by the size of his head and I also remember thinking that if Babe Ruth came back to life as a Japanese male, he’d look like Irabu.

In any event, Hideki did not fulfill the huge expectations of Yankee fans or the Yankee brass. After three OK seasons in the Bronx, which included Steinbrenner’s infamous “fat toad” insult incident, the Yankees sent Irabu to Montreal for Ted Lilly.

If right now someone told Yankee fans that Phil Hughes would finish the current season with a 13-9 record, most of us, including Joe Girardi and the Yankee front office would be extremely pleased. That was Irabu’s record in 1998, his first full season with the team. I know I would  also be thrilled if Andy Pettitte rejoins the Yankees this month and ends up going 11-7 during the rest of the 2012 season. That was Irabu’s record during his second and final full year as a Yankee starter.

On July 28, 2011, Hideki Irabu was found dead in his Los Angeles home. He was 42 years-old. Initial reports indicated LA police were treating it as a suicide. Irabu’s wife had recently separated from him and taken the couple’s two young children with her. Former Met Manager, Bobby Valentine, who managed Irabu for one season in Japan, indicated that Irabu liked to drink beer and was at times “his own worst enemy.” The Japanese culture has traditionally treated suicide as an honorable way to die. As a Japanese friend of Irabu told reporters covering his death, “He decided to go to heaven.” I hope he got there. Rest in peace Hideki.

Irabu shares his May 5th birthday with this one time roommate of the M&M Boys.

Year Tm W L W-L% ERA G GS GF CG SHO SV IP H R ER HR BB IBB SO WHIP
1997 NYY 5 4 .556 7.09 13 9 0 0 0 0 53.1 69 47 42 15 20 0 56 1.669
1998 NYY 13 9 .591 4.06 29 28 0 2 1 0 173.0 148 79 78 27 76 1 126 1.295
1999 NYY 11 7 .611 4.84 32 27 2 2 1 0 169.1 180 98 91 26 46 0 133 1.335
6 Yrs 34 35 .493 5.15 126 80 28 4 2 16 514.0 547 308 294 91 175 3 405 1.405
NYY (3 yrs) 29 20 .592 4.80 74 64 2 4 2 0 395.2 397 224 211 68 142 1 315 1.362
MON (2 yrs) 2 7 .222 6.69 14 14 0 0 0 0 71.1 99 54 53 12 17 0 60 1.626
TEX (1 yr) 3 8 .273 5.74 38 2 26 0 0 16 47.0 51 30 30 11 16 2 30 1.426
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 5/5/2013.

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