While we sit and wait around for Masahiro Tanaka news, we can remember one of the greatest pitchers to come out of Japan and play for the Dodgers: Hideo Nomo. Nomo was elected into the Japan Hall of Fame on Friday. He is the youngest player to be elected at age 45.
Nomomania swept Dodger Stadium nearly two decades ago when Hideo became the first player to be transplanted from Japan’s professional baseball league over to the United States and the MLB since 1965 when Masanori Murakami played with the Giants. Nomo was and still is one of my favorite pitchers, and watching him pitch was a pleasure. His windup was a different twisting style, but his tenacity and focus made him a special pitcher.
Nomo is a founding partner of Historic Dodgertown in Vero Beach, Florida. Dodgertown, a multi-sport tactility, has recently expanded their website. Nomo hosted a Japanese college baseball team at Dodgertown last year. Dodgertown CEO Peter O’Malley signed the free agent pitcher back on February 13, 1995.
O’Malley had a special message for Hideo Nomo:
"Hideo Nomo and Peter O’Malley in 1995. Photo: Los Angeles Dodgers/Jon SooHoo“Congratulations, Hideo, I am very happy for you. You deserve this extraordinary recognition by the Baseball Hall of Fame. Ever since we first met in 1995, I have admired your professionalism and courage facing baseball’s finest hitters. Everyone in the Dodger organization respected you. You are a pioneer and have opened the door for others to follow you in Major League Baseball, well done.”"
Hideo was a superstar both in Japan and the U.S. His games were very popular to watch in Japan even though they were early in the morning, and every game was televised. Hideo finished his career with 123 wins, a 4.24 ERA, and 1,918 strikeouts in 1,976 1/3 innings pitched. His 12 seasons saw him with the Dodgers for two stints: 1995-1998 and 2002-2004. After going 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA and 236 strikeouts in 1995, Nomo was honored with the NL Rookie of the Year award which he well deserved.
Hideo went on to throw two magnificent no-hitters, one of which was accomplished at Coors Field in Colorado…in the rain. He led the league in strikeouts twice.
I wonder if Hideo Nomo has spoken to Masahiro Tanaka? Tanaka must certainly know about Nomo’s legacy as a Dodger and as a MLB player in general. Could Nomo’s presence affect Tanaka’s decision? While I don’t want to make this post about Tanaka, but instead the greatness of Nomo, I can’t help but draw similarities.
Like Hyun-jin Ryu, Nomo appeared in television ads and he even had his own signature Nike sneaker in 1996, the “Air Max Nomo.” I found some on eBay if anyone is interested in collecting shoes.
By adding Tanaka to the Los Angeles roster, the Dodgers could connect again with the Japanese community of L.A. Ryu has Korean fans which watch him at almost every stadium around the MLB. Nomo paved the way for other Japanese players like Ichiro Suzuki, Hideki Matsui, and Daisuke Matsuzaka to come to the United States and play in the MLB. Tanaka will be the next Japanese import star, but the question is on which coast?
The Dodgers and Los Angeles, complete with the Hideo Nomo history, seems to be the perfect team and city situation for Tanaka. Will Tanakamania be next?