Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Hideo Nomo

Hideo Nomo (野茂 英雄,August 31,1968 -) is a right-handed pitcher who has achieved success both in Japan and the United States.

Nomo was on the silver medal winning Japanese baseball team at the 1988 Olympics, and the Kinsetsu Buffaloes drafted him in 1989. Nomo debuted with them in 1990 and was an immediate success, going 18-8 but more impressively striking out 287 hitters in just 235 IP's. The strikeout numbers are attributed to his unorthodox wind-up, where he turns his back to the hitter, raises his pivot leg, and freezes for a second before throwing. The windup gave him the nickname "Tornado". In his first 4 seasons, Nomo was as consistent, and consistently good, as any pitcher in Japanese baseball, winning 17 or 18 games each year. His 5th season in 1994 was marred by a shoulder injury and only notted him 8 wins.

Nomo was becoming one of the most popular baseball players in Japan but after the '94 season, Nomo got into a contract dispute with team management. This lead to Hideo heading stateside, where in February of 1995, the Los Angeles Dodgers signed him to a contract. After a month in the minors, necessitated by a season shortened by a player's strike, he became the first Japanese-born Japanese Leaguer to appear in a major league game on May 2nd. The pressure on him would be tremendous, and Japanese media and fans appeared in large numbers in games he started. Nomo's games were regularly broadcast live to Japan, despite the fact most people would be waking up when he started games. Nomo more than lived up to their expectations.

The tornado delivery that baffled batters in Japan had the same effect to stateside hitters, and he led the league in strikeouts (while finishing second in walks) and was second with a 2.54 earned run average. He also started that year's all-star game, striking out 3 of the 6 batters he faced. But he only barely won National League rookie of the year honours that year over future MVP Chipper Jones, as most voters felt that his Japanese success made him anything but a rookie, although by major league rules he was one. Nomo only dropped slightly in 1996 as he had another fine season, which was capped by a no-hitter in the unlikiest of places, Denver's Coors Field, a park which is essentially a pitcher's hell. Nomo remains the only pitcher to throw a no-hitter at Coors Field.

As batters caught on his delivery, his effectiveness waned somewhat in 1997, although he still went 14-12, and then crashed down on him in 1998 when he started the year 2-7 and earned a trade to the New York Mets, where he wasn't much better and got released. He signed with the Chicago Cubs in 199, but didn't even make the team, got released, and got a contract with the Milwaukee Brewers, where he went 12-8 and had a okay season, but the Brewers waived him after contract issues. The Philadelphia Phillies claimed him, then granted him free agency only 24 hours later after more contract issues. Finally signed by the Detroit Tigers in 2000, the story was the same, he had an okay season and got released again.

He signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2001 and had an okay season again, but it started off with a bang, as he threw his second no-hitter in his Sox debut against the Baltimore Orioles. As in the case of his previous no-hitter, this one was the first ever thrown in the park where he was pitching, in this case Oriole Park at Camden Yards. He also led the league in strikeouts for the first time since his first American campaign. A free agent after the end of the year, Nomo returned to where it all began stateside with the Dodgers in 2002, and ended up having his best season since 1996, when he finished a solid 16-6 and a low 3.39 ERA, finally regaining the form he came from Japan with.

Still with the Dodgers, Nomo has over 100 wins stateside, to go along with 78 in Japan. Nomo's success helped inspire other stars from Japan such as Ichiro Suzuki and Hideki Matsui to come over to the States as well.