Irabu to retire; seen doing pull-ups, chanting “Steinbrenner”

Michael Cox

TOKYO, Japan — Hideki Irabu, who once refused to play baseball unless it was with the Yankees, has decided to retire, according to a report in the Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper. The pitcher had reportedly asked his current team, the Hanshin Tigers, to set up a press conference, but the date is unknown.

Irabu, who once threw the fastest clocked pitch in Japanese pro baseball history, jumped to MLB in 1997 when the Padres purchased his contract from the Chiba Lotte Marines. He then refused to play for the Padres, forcing a trade to New York. He was on the Yankee roster for three seasons and two World Championships, despite pitching in only one postseason game, giving up seven earned runs in 4-2/3 innings against the Red Sox in 1999.

Famously referred to by George Steinbrenner as a “fat toad,” Irabu was traded to the Expos before the 2000 season. After spending 2002 with the Rangers, he returned to Japan and won 13 games while helping the Tigers to the 2003 Central League championship. Until his press conference, speculation is rife as to whether he is retiring due to nagging injuries, or because he’s run out of leagues…

Published April 9, 2005

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