He was known as the "Japanese Nolan Ryan" for how fast he could hurl a ball. But more unflattering descriptions eventually found their way to MLB's Hideki Irabu, leading to a downward spiral that culminated in his 2011 suicide.
In his look at Irabu for Sports Illustrated, Ben Reiter plumbs the pitcher's life, including his media-hyped 1997 arrival to NYC, where a nearly $13 million contract with the NY Yankees waited for him. His early performance earned the respect of his teammates and fans, but those raves were short-lived.
Soon the smoking, drinking, sushi-binging Irabu started giving up runs and gained a rep for being curt with reporters. What Reiter calls sporadic "tantalizing runs of brilliance" still only resulted in a "just above average" performance with the Yankees; his last disastrous game with them was in 1999.
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