Touch 'Em All: Former big-league pitcher Hideki Irabu found dead

Former Yankee Hideki Irabu died in California in what police say was a suicide.
Former Yankee Hideki Irabu died in California in what police say was a suicide. (MARK LENNIHAN / Associated Press)
Posted: July 29, 2011

Former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead, apparently of a suicide, on Wednesday evening in the Los Angeles suburb of Rancho Palos Verdes, authorities said Thursday.

Other details were not immediately released.

The righthander starred in Japan for nearly a decade before the San Diego Padres purchased his contract from the Chiba Lotte Marines in 1997. But Irabu declined to join the Padres, insisting he would only play for the Yanks.

Signed a few months later to a four-year, $12.8 million contract, he made a memorable debut at Yankee Stadium against the Tigers on July 10, 1997, fanning nine in 62/3 innings for the win and a standing ovation.

But that was the high point of his career, and it was mostly downhill after that. Irabu finished 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA in three seasons with the Yankees, two years in Montreal, and a final season in the Texas bullpen in 2002. He's probably best remembered for the label late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner stuck on him after he failed to cover first base during an exhibition game: "Fat ... toad."

Along with a couple of comeback attempts, Irabu had a few alcohol-related arrests in the last few years.

Those fighting Tigers

The Detroit Tigers were spitting mad while losing, 12-7, to the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday. Unfortunately they directed their ire at everybody except the Halos. First, manager Jim Leyland was ejected in the third inning by first base umpire Jerry Layne after arguing that a pitch had hit Austin Jackson

.

Then, pitcher Brad Penny got into a heated argument on the mound with catcher Victor Martinez in the Angels' four-run fourth. Penny later downplayed the brouhaha, saying it was actually a discussion of the signs.

Stars shine

When you're Derek Jeter, your life is a saga. So it's a natural that HBO made a documentary, Derek Jeter 3K, about the Yankee icon's pursuit of his 3,000th hit - it premiered Thursday.

Jeter, who always comes through, even provided some drama for the flick, in the form of the calf injury that delayed the big moment. And then there's his girlfriend, actress Minka Kelly, who steals the show with this comment on the injury: "It sucked."

His money is on ketchup

When Boston's Dustin Pedroia came to bat in the eighth against Kansas City on Thursday after going hitless in his first three at-bats, the Fenway faithful cheered, knowing he had a 24-game hitting streak on the line. He delivered with a solo homer over the Green Monster.

Red Sox manager Terry Francona gave the fans some props for following the game: "We don't need to have president races, or mustard racing ketchup. . . . Nothing against mustard."

(Just lay off the Phanatic, Tito, and we're cool.)

History lesson

On this date in 1915, 41-year-old Pirates shortstop Honus Wagner became the oldest player to hit a grand slam as Pittsburgh beat Brooklyn, 8-2. Wagner held the record until 1985, when the Reds' Tony Perez hit one the day before turning 43.

But get this: The squat, bandy-legged Wagner's slam was an inside-the-park homer. That's why he's one of the all-time greats.


Contact staff writer Michael Harrington at mharrington@phillynews.com.

This article contains information from Inquirer wire services.

 

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