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  • Los Angeles Dodgers Information

    Hideo Nomo; goodbye to baseball
    7/22/2008

    Hideo Nomo was one of the most popular baseball players in Japan. After the 1994 season, he got into a contract dispute with team management. The team of Buffaloes rebuffed his demands to have a contract agent and multi-year contract. Instead of working things out with the Buffaloes, Nomo and his agent; Don Nomura, exploited a loophole in the agreement between Japanese baseball and the major leagues: if a player retired, he was free to play for whomever he wished. This led to him heading to the U.S., in which February of 1995, the LA Dodgers signed him.

    At present, Hideo Nomo, who pitched a pair of no-hitters and led a rush of Japanese players to the Major Leagues, announced his retirement Thursday, according to agent Don Nomura.

    Once known for a deceptive delivery and a devastating forkball, the 39-year-old Nomo was released by the Royals in late April. Nomo's 123 wins are the most in the Majors by a Japanese pitcher. He was the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year with the LA Dodgers and is one of only four pitchers to throw no-hitters in the AL and NL.

    "Hideo Nomo was a trailblazer," said Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers in 1995. "He represented himself and his country to the highest degree of class, dignity and character. I am so proud of all he did for Japanese players."

    Moreover, Hideo Nomo made a comeback this year and earned a spot in the Royals bullpen, out of the Majors since 2005. However, he was slowed by an injury late in Spring Training, Nomo had an 18.69 ERA in three relief appearances in which he gave up 10 hits, including three home runs, in 4 1/3 innings. According to Kansas City general manager Dayton Moore, the team of Royals knew the odds were against Nomo when they signed him.

    "But he still had the motivation to pitch, so we were more than willing to give him an opportunity," Moore said. "If he hadn't hurt his groin, who knows what he might have accomplished with us this year?"

    Nomo, who was a star in Japan before he signed with the Dodgers, made an immediate impact in the Majors. He led the NL in strikeouts in 1995 and went 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA. He also created wave of Nomo-mania wherever he pitched. Many fans were curious to see his tornado windup, in which he paused with his arms overhead and then twisted his body before throwing.

    Furthermore, opposing hitters were not so eager to see him. Nomo's forkball took a wicked dip, similar to a split-fingered fastball. He was tough for catchers to handle, also; with balls often bouncing before the plate, he led the Majors with 19 wild pitches as a rookie. Hideo Nomo was able to finish 123-109 with a 4.24 ERA with the teams of Dodgers, Brewers, Mets, Red Sox, Rays, Royals, and Tigers.

    The right-hander's highlights were his two no-hitters. By 1996 with the Dodgers, he pitched the first no-hitter in the history of Coors Field. He beat the Colorado Rockies at a time when pitchers routinely struggled at the mile-high ballpark. In his debut for the Red Sox, by 2001, he pitched the first no-hitter at Camden Yards and beat Baltimore. Nomo joined Cy Young, Jim Bunning and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in both leagues.

    "He was a workhorse as a pitcher," Lasorda said. "Nobody alive today can throw a no-hitter in Colorado, and he did. He won the Rookie of the Year, and helped the Dodgers win the division in 1996. I know he will be inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame, and certainly hope he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is a pioneer, and he deserves all the recognition in the world."

    In addition, Hideo Nomo as he signed with the LA Dodgers team became only the second Japanese player to reach the Majors -- Masanori Murakami pitched 54 games for San Francisco in the mid-1960s. Following Nomo's success, many more Japanese players came to the Majors. Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hideki Irabu, and Tomo Ohka were among those who quickly followed, with Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki and Hideki Matsui arriving later.

    "He pioneered the Japanese players' transition to the United States," Moore said. "He was one of the dominant pitchers of his era."

    Hideo Nomo has contributed a lot to the identity of the LA Dodgers as an outstanding team. He was a big part of the team and he was a proud LA Dodger.

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