Nomo, Hideo

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Hideo Nomo

1968-

Japanese baseball player

Pitcher Hideo Nomo, nicknamed "Tatsumaki" (the Tornado) for his unusual windup delivery, was the first Japanese major league baseball player to join the American major leagues. After playing four years with Japan's Kintetsu Buffaloes, he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, in 1995. He was voted Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers and led the National League in strikeouts. Already popular in Japan, Nomo became a superstar during his first year with the Dodgers, drawing thousands of Asian fans to Dodger games. He reached the 1,000 career strikeout mark faster than any other player in the history of Japanese professional baseball. Nomo is only the fourth pitcher to have pitched no-hitters in both the National League and the American League, joining Hall of Famers Cy Young , Jim Bunning, and Nolan Ryan .

Super Tornado

Hideo (pronounced He DAY oh) Nomo was born August 31, 1968, in Osaka, Japan, the oldest son of Shizuo (a postal worker) and Kayoko Nomo. The name "Hideo" means "a superman" in Japanese. The American sport of

baseball was extremely popular in Japan, and many Japanese boys aspired to be major league ballplayers. Nomo graduated from Seijyo Kogyo High School in 1986, where he developed his unusual pitching windup resembling a whirling tornado. In 1988 he pitched for the Japanese team that brought home the Olympic silver medal from Seoul, South Korea.

Nomo, 6'2" and 210 lbs., was drafted by the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the Japanese Pacific League in the first round of the 1989 free-agent draft. In his first season, 1990, he led the Pacific League in wins and strikeouts, a pattern he would repeat for three consecutive years. He won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in 1990, finishing the season 18-8, with an earned run average (ERA) of 2.91.

Nomo won Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award for the league's best pitcher, the Sawamura Award. His teammates gave him the nickname "Tatsumaki" (the Tornado) for his unique pitching windup that confuses and terrorizes batters. A right-handed pitcher, Nomo first raises his arms slowly, high over his head, and arches his back. Then he turns to put his back toward the plate, with his left foot pointing toward second base. He pauses and then whirls, releasing a 90-mile-per-hour fastball or forkball, his trademark pitches.

Nomo was considered one of Japan's best pitchers, but a dream to play in the American major leagues was kindled when he pitched 1-1 against a U.S. All-Star team on tour in Japan. After a salary dispute with the Buffaloes in 1994 and an arm injury that some thought would permanently reduce his effectiveness, Nomo was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers on February 8, 1995, with a $2 million bonus. He became the first professional Japanese player to join an American major league team and only the second Japanese player to play in the American major leagues.

L.A. Dodger, Japanese Superstar

When Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda saw Nomo pitch, he told his coaches, "Don't touch a thing with this kid's motion or his delivery. The batter doesn't know what he's doing out there, but he does." Nomo himself, speaking through a translator because he speaks little English, told People in 1995 that he does not know how he developed his windup. "I just wanted to pitch," he said. "Every part came naturally."

Chronology

1968Born August 31, in Osaka, Japan
1986Graduates from Seijyo Kogyo High School, where he played baseball and developed his trademark pitching windup
1988Leads the Japanese baseball team to the Olympic silver medal win in Seoul, South Korea
1989Is chosen by the Kintetsu Buffaloes professional team in the Japanese Pacific League in first round of free-agent draft
1990-94Plays with the Kintetsu Buffaloes
1991Marries wife, Kikuko; they will have two children, Takahiro and Yoshitaka
1994Injures arm and is limited to 114 innings
1995Signs with the Los Angeles Dodgers on February 8, becoming the first Japanese major league player to move to the American major leagues and only the second Japanese to play in the American major leagues
1995Appears onstage with American music group the Eagles at a concert in Tokyo on November 15; on New Year's Eve, Japanese television runs a 12-hour special on Nomo
1996Signs new contract with Dodgers
1997Is hit in elbow with a ball and requires surgery to remove bone fragments at end of season; pitching record drops to 14-12; teaches at Nike instructional baseball clinics throughout Asia during baseball offseason
1998Is traded to the New York Mets in June
1999Asks for release from Mets in March; is signed by the Chicago Cubs one week later; Cubs trade him to Milwaukee Brewers after only two outings
2000Signs one-year contract with Detroit Tigers as a free agent; signs with Boston Red Sox at end of season
2001Signs two-year contract with Los Angeles Dodgers on December 20 for $13 million

After signing with the Dodgers, Nomo became a superstar in Japan. Asian fans came to Dodger games in record numbers, and busloads of Japanese tourists arrived to watch their hero play or to buy Nomo memorabilia. When Nomo was named starting pitcher for the All-Star Game in 1995, some fifteen million people watched the televised game in Japan. The pressure on him was great, but Nomo told his fans, "I will not disappoint." In 1995 he won the National League Rookie of the Year Award, even though he had played professional baseball in Japan.

On September 17, 1996, Nomo made baseball history by pitching a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies at their Coors Field, known as a hitter's paradise. Nomo was the first Dodger pitcher to strike out more than 200 batters in his first two seasons. In 1997, however, batters began to catch on to his delivery, and his record and ERA dropped to 14-12 and 4.25. Late in the season he was hit in the elbow with a ball and had arthroscopic surgery to remove bone fragments. In mid-1998, the Dodgers revamped their team and traded Nomo to the New York Mets.

Traveling Years

His fastball dropping to about 86 miles per hour, Nomo finished his year with the Mets 6-12, with a 4.92 ERA. In March 1999, Nomo asked to be released from the team. One week later, he was signed by the Chicago Cubs, who traded him to the Milwaukee Brewers after just two outings. Nomo's pitching improved in Milwaukee, and the team offered him a two-year contract, but he instead signed as a free agent with the Detroit Tigers. He finished 8-12 and in 2001 signed a one-year deal with the Boston Red Sox.

The highlight of his year with Boston came on April 4, 2001, when he pitched his second no-hitter, against the Baltimore Orioles. Nomo became the fourth player to pitch no-hitters in both the National and the American Leagues.

Return to the Dodgers

In December 2001 the Dodgers signed their former pitcher to a new two-year contract. With a total ERA of 3.39 for the 2002 season, Nomo made a comeback with the Dodgers. His drive to stay on the mound in spite of difficulties during a game led his teammates to nickname him "The Warrior" for his fighting spirit.

Hideo Nomo is known for his calm, almost otherworldly ability to concentrate while on the pitcher's mound. He has proved quite capable of carrying the burden of great expectations and has maintained his dream to play in the American major leagues. By signing with the American majors, Nomo paved the way for other Japanese baseball players to join U.S. teams, including Ichiro Suzuki , Kazuhiro Sasaki, and Shigeki Maruyama.

Career Statistics

YrTeamWLERAGSCGSHOIPHRBBSO
BOS: Boston Red Sox; DET: Detroit Tigers; LA: Los Angeles Dodgers; MIL: Milwaukee Brewers; NYM: New York Mets.
1995LA1362.542843191.31241478236
1996LA16113.193332228.31802385234
1997LA14124.253310207.31932392233
1998LA275.05122067.75783873
NYM454.82161089.773115694
1999MIL1284.542800176.31732778161
2000DET8124.743110190.01913189181
2001BOS13104.503322198.01712696220
2002LA1663.393400220.318926101193
TOTAL98773.96248147156913516907131625

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address: c/o Los Angeles Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, 1000 Elysian Park Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012. Email: [email protected] Online: http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/.

FURTHER INFORMATION

Books

Newsmakers, Issue 2. "Hideo Nomo." Detroit: Gale Group, 1996.

Periodicals

Dougherty, Steve. "Tornado Watch: Dodger Ace Hideo Nomo Comes from Japan, but His Fastball Is Making It Big in the U.S.A." People (July 17, 1995): 103.

Schmuck, Peter. "Mets Take a Risk on Nomo, but It's One Worth Taking." Sporting News (June 15, 1998): 30.

Other

Baseball-Reference.com. "Hideo Nomo." http://www.baseball-reference.com/ (December 14, 2002).

Green, Adam. "Hideo Nomo." BaseballLibrary.com. http://www.pubdim.net/baseballlibrary/ballplayers/ (November 27, 2002).

Los Angeles Dodgers Web Site. "Hideo Nomo." http://losangeles.dodgers.mlb.com/ (November 27, 2002).

McAdam, Sean. "Nomo's No-Hitter Lifts Red Sox's Spirits." ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/mlb/columns/mcadam_sean (December 14, 2002).

Morris, Sarah. "Sarah's Take: Hideo Nomo." Dodgers.com. http://mlb.mlb.com/ (November 27, 2002).

Whicker, Mark. "Nomo's Second Time with Dodgers as Good as the First." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. (September 16, 2002).

Sketch by Ann H. Shurgin

Awards and Accomplishments

1988Pitcher for Japanese baseball team winning silver medal in Olympics in Seoul, South Korea
1990Won Sawamura Award, Japanese baseball's equivalent to the American Cy Young Award for the Pacific League's best pitcher; won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player Awards with Kintetsu Buffaloes of Japanese Pacific League
1990-93Led Japanese Pacific League in strikeouts
1995Named National League Rookie Pitcher of the Year by Sporting News ; named National League Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association; strikeout leader in the National League; became first Japanese player to be selected All-Star Game; set Dodger record for most strikeouts by a rookie (236); on December 1 became only the second athlete to receive Japan's Kikuchi Award, given to individuals who play an important role in introducing Japanese culture to other countries; was chosen top sports story and third biggest news event of 1995 in Japan by Kyodo News Service and the Daily Yomiuri ;
1996Pitched a no-hitter against Colorado Rockies at Coors Field on September 17; first Dodger pitcher to strike out more than 200 batters in first two seasons
2001On April 4, pitched a no-hitter against the Baltimore Orioles, becoming fourth player to pitch a no-hitter in both American and National Leagues