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Hideki Irabu, who is thought to have committed suicide by hanging himself, was a star pitcher in Japan but fell flat with the New York Yankees and was nicknamed the "fat toad" by owner George Steinbrenner.
Former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu has been found dead at his home near Los Angeles after reportedly committing suicide.
Suicide by hanging is the apparent cause of death, the New York Daily News reports.
Irabu was a superstar pitcher in Japan before arriving in the United States in 1997 saddled with sky-high expectations for his performance. He had been pre-emptively nicknamed the "Japanese Nolan Ryan."
According to the New York Daily News, Bobby Valentine, who managed Irabu in Japan, said at the time he was signed to an American team: "I'm glad he signed, but boy, I don't think it's gonna be good for the young lad. It's not a good situation. I just have a feeling."
Irabu's contract with Japanese team the Lotte Orions — now the Chiba Lotte Marines — had been purchased by the San Diego Padres, but Irabu refused to play for the Padres and a Yankees trade was arranged.
Irabu earned World Series rings with the Yankees in 1998 and 1999, but his pitching fell far short of expectations and he was scorned by Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, who famously called him the “fat toad.”
Irabu was traded to the Montreal Expos in 1999 and later played a season with the Texas Rangers before retiring from the big leagues in 2002, having gone 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA in his major league career.
Since leaving baseball, the 42-year-old has had a few run-ins with police, according to Baseball Nation. Irabu was arrested for drunk driving last year in California, and was arrested for assaulting a bar manager in Japan in 2008 after allegedly drinking 20 glasses of beer.