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Hideki Irabu found dead; suicide suspected

Jul 28, 2011, 3:24 PM EDT

Hideki Irabu AP

Former Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead at his California home yesterday.  The initial reports came from the Japanese paper, Asahi Shimbum, and his death has since been confirmed by the New York Yankees. Suicide by hanging is suspected.

Irabu has had a troubled post-baseball career. He was arrested in Gardena, California last year for drunk driving.  Back in 2008 he was arrested for assaulting a bar manager in Japan after allegedly consuming 20 glasses of beer.

After achieving stardom in Japan, Irabu’s contract was purchased by the San Diego Padres in early 1997.  Irabu wanted no part of San Diego, however, and a trade to the Yankees was arranged.  Irabu earned World Series rings with the Yankees in both 1998 and 1999, but he fell far short of expectations and drew the ire of George Steinbrenner who famously dubbed him the “fat toad.”  The Yankees shipped him off to Montreal for Jake Westrbook following the 1999 season. He lasted two seasons with the Expos and one season with the Rangers before retiring after the 2002 season.  Matthew Pouliot has a more thorough analysis of Irabu’s career here.

We’ll update with more information when it becomes available.  For now, however, it appears to be a sad end to a troubled life.

  1. frankvzappa - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    i wonder if it was a seppuku…

    • Utley's Hair - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:54 PM

      You’re a real piece of work—or maybe something else would be appropriate.

      • hittfamily - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:26 PM

        I’ll back that assertion. Despicable!! In no way do these statements reflect this community.

    • paulsdamnblog - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:53 PM

      Ass! What’s wrong with you!?!?!?

    • homesteader1 - Jul 28, 2011 at 7:26 PM

      He did the honorable thing, even though he lost face. Tee hee.

      • Amy Swinehorse - Jul 28, 2011 at 8:56 PM

        He is an hero

      • kopy - Jul 28, 2011 at 11:25 PM

        I’m somewhat fortunate enough to know before clicking on that link what it is, and all I can do is hope that whatever is wrong with you gets fixed soon. Folks, don’t go there unless you want to make fun of suicide.

    • frankvzappa - Jul 28, 2011 at 9:15 PM

      Too soon?

      It’s a new thumbs down record!

      • JBerardi - Jul 29, 2011 at 9:27 AM

        Too soon, too dickish, not clever or funny in any way. That about sums it up.

      • frankvzappa - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        wasn’t trying to be funny…i just thought that was how the japanese did things and was curious…

  2. garryfish - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:33 PM

    RIP Fat Toad

  3. icanspeel - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:34 PM

    As a Padres fan I remember hating him back when he refused to play for us.. Ironically he went to the team that beat the Padres in the 98 world series

    • steveinphilly - Jul 28, 2011 at 6:40 PM

      “Ironically” in an Alanis Morissette kind of way more than in a Noah Webster kind of way.

      RIP, Hideki. Hopefully you are in a better place.

      • koufaxmitzvah - Jul 29, 2011 at 1:36 PM

        Isn’t it ironic that Alannis made her name by writing a song misdefining the word Ironic?

  4. genuinejake - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:39 PM

    I hope this causes professional sports to focus more on the physical and psychological strain of foreign superstars moving into the US market – especially in baseball.

    Irabu was an incredible Pedro-Martinez-like pitcher in Japan – look at his stats – – but he was never able to cut it in the US, especially in its toughest market (you Yankee fans are tough even on A-Rod).

    May we remember Irabu fairly.

    • nyyankeefanforever - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:52 PM

      I don’t recall ever knowing of or seeing a single knowledgeable Yankee fan who was “tough” on Alex….however, the NY media is certainly always hypercritical of our star players in all sports; comes with the territory.

      • hittfamily - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:05 PM

        I’ve seen him hit a homerun and get booed. I had never seen a player more disliked for temporary failure than ARod.

      • lordd99 - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:09 PM

        You’re correct on that. The overwhelming majority of Yankee fans were very supportive of A-Rod, even during his down times. The NY media, and especially the back-page tabloids and the sports radio talkshows, basically manufactured the entire “Yankee fans hate A-Rod” nonsense. I remember clearly sitting at Yankee Stadium with 50,000 fans, and when A-Rod was slumping, the park was quiet, but there was a couple thousand scattered fans who would boo. That’s the only thing the media would report, and they claimed it was all Yankee fans, when it was a very small minority.

      • Casey - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:20 PM

        As a yankees fan I hate arod but it has nothing to do with baseball abilities… He is everything wrong with professional athletes… And he juices (hgh probably now)

  5. The Common Man - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:41 PM

    @Zappa and @garry,

    you guys are horrible people.

    • dodger88 - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:43 PM

      Agreed. I’ll add calous and cruel.

      • thebigwhitecat - Jul 28, 2011 at 6:43 PM

        I’m afraid my post was misunderstood.

        I harbor no ill will against against Mr. Irabu. May he rest in peace.

        I was merely saying I was anticipating what the Yankees might say, given that George Steinbrenner referred to Mr. Irabu as a fat toad.

        Suicide is terrible upon surviving members of the family. Godspeed, Mr. Irabu.

    • Old Gator - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:04 PM

      Yeah, that’s cup0pizza level lowlife comedy. It doesn’t come much lower.

      I don’t know if stress per se explains a suicide like that. Sounds like the guy was seriously depressed, and the recurrent drinking problems are murder on someone suffering from depression. I wonder if he’d’ve worked things out any better if he’d gone back to Japan.

    • hittfamily - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:16 PM

      I’ll put my name behind these statements.

  6. thebigwhitecat - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:47 PM

    Looking forward to the Yankees’ official press release on his demise.

    • The Common Man - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:00 PM

      That you could be looking forward to anything in this tragedy is revolting.

  7. Utley's Hair - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:48 PM

    It’s always sad to see something like this happen. As I’ve heard time and again, suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I hope his family can get past this. RIP Irabu.

  8. deathmonkey41 - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:51 PM

    For some reason, this is my most fond memory of Hideki Irabu

  9. hittfamily - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:54 PM

    I am an Alcoholic. I haven’t had a drink in 9 years. It is an awful life. I am thankful I lived through my darkest period, and saddened he didn’t. Good wishes to his family.

    • Utley's Hair - Jul 28, 2011 at 3:55 PM

      Congratulations on your nine years.

      • Phillies Homer - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:10 PM

        Who would thumbs down you two for what you said??? Weird!

        But, yea… Congrats on the sobriety!

      • hittfamily - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:11 PM

        Thanks Utley. I’m proud of it. The hardest thing I have done.

      • hittfamily - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:12 PM

        U2 Homer

    • paulsdamnblog - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:56 PM

      Congrats to you! You should be commended for the commitment you’ve made.

    • pisano - Jul 28, 2011 at 8:43 PM

      hittfamily… congrats on your nine years you should be proud of yourself it’s a difficult disease to deal with . God rest Hideki’s soul, it’s a shame he didn’t get some help. I don’t know if the cultural difference was part of the reason or not, but 42 is way too early to leave this earth. I also feel for the ones he left behind. God bless him and his family.

      • hittfamily - Jul 29, 2011 at 3:59 PM

        It is a disease, and thank you for your well wishes.

    • Amy Swinehorse - Jul 28, 2011 at 8:50 PM

      Congratulations! Have a drink, on me.

      • nocryinginbaseball07 - Jul 29, 2011 at 9:48 PM

        What is WRONG with you!?

  10. brutus1925 - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    It is unfortunate that the author would use the term “hanging it up” — “He lasted two seasons with the Expos and one season with the Rangers before hanging it up after 2002” — in an article about suicide by hanging.

    • lordd99 - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:04 PM

      It’s actually more unfortunate that you pointed it out simply to gain attention.

    • Utley's Hair - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:11 PM

      It’s a common term when it comes to retirement, and at the time, Craig was going by Japanese reports. Get over it.

  11. Craig Calcaterra - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:02 PM

    Folks — I took the phrase “hanging it up” out of the post. I wrote that before I had seen the report of his cause of death.

    • deathmonkey41 - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:07 PM

      Oh come on- don’t give into political correctness, Craig! We know you weren’t being snarky when you wrote it!

    • pisano - Jul 28, 2011 at 8:45 PM

      Craig… I don’t think any of us would question your seriousness on this matter.

  12. lordd99 - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:18 PM

    Irabu never lived up to the ridiculous, media-created hype that he was the Japanese Nolan Ryan. Yet he pitched in the highest pro baseball league on the planet, for the most successful baseball franchise ever, and was an above-average pitcher and one of the starting five for what most regard as the best baseball team (the 1998 Yankees) of the past generation. He was a member of that late 90’s dynasty team. Few athletes can make such claims.

    RIP in Hideki.

  13. fryban - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:36 PM

    Awful news. And while not exactly the same circumstances, I’m reminded of Donnie Moore. Although there’s great reward, these people have an awful lot of pressure on them.

  14. yournuts - Jul 28, 2011 at 4:47 PM

    Just awful news. It’s very difficult to play baseball in New York unless your playing up to expectations. Hideki was a good man but had difficulty with the expectations of New York baseball. I hope he and his family find peace!

  15. fribnit - Jul 28, 2011 at 5:29 PM

    On July 24, 1999 my friendand I went to a Yankee game and saw Irabu and the Yanks beat Cleveland 21-1.

    Irabu pitched very well, scattering 7 hits with 7 strikes outs and 1 walk. That will always be my memory of Irabu. RIP.

  16. razedeyebrow - Jul 28, 2011 at 7:04 PM

    Sure looks like a bunch of old churchladies posting here today. It’s really really hard to feel sorry for somebody who made as much money playing a kid’s game as Irabu raked in. He was a coward, a lush, and a faux tough guy who got what was coming to him, even better by his own hand. Screw him and the uma he rode in on.

    • cur68 - Jul 29, 2011 at 3:23 AM

      What a curious thing to say ‘brow. You have something personal against expressions of empathy? Did you know Mr. Irabu? How can you make such statements without a ‘yes’ to both questions? If a ‘yes’ then what in HELL is the matter with you?
      Please, do us all a favor: get lost.

      • nocryinginbaseball07 - Jul 29, 2011 at 9:56 PM

        You beat me to it; I was wondering what could possibly possess someone to react to a human tragedy and others’s expressions of sympathy so appallingly. Could it be that Mr. ‘Brow’ suffers from depression himself, and all this misplaced anger is really just fear? One wonders….

    • hittfamily - Jul 29, 2011 at 8:05 AM

      There is far more to life than money and fame. We put animals down to spare them pain and misery. I can’t imagine the pain and misery this man felt to take his own life. You are a calous human being, incapable of empathy or sorrow. I feel bad for your sad, miserable existance.

    • irishjackmp - Jul 29, 2011 at 12:10 PM


      Irabu was a coward? Funny, because many people would define a coward as someone who sits behind a computer screen acting like an internet tough guy making obnoxious statements about someone who had died that they would never dream of making in front of the deceased family… all because they have the anonimity of the internet to hide behind.

      If there is an afterlife I hope this guy found the peace in the next life that he wasn’t able to find in this one.

      • hittfamily - Jul 29, 2011 at 3:53 PM

        well said

    • ballsout1950 - Jul 29, 2011 at 5:58 PM

      what a sad, uncaring creature you are. you may want to consider what those who know you might say in the event of your passing.

      I can not imagine a more pitiful response to the passing of another human being, a man that leaves behind a wife and two children because whatever demons he was battling got the best of him

  17. ballsout1950 - Jul 28, 2011 at 7:32 PM

    what a sad, uncaring creature you are. you may want to consider what those who know you might say in the event of your passing.

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