PawSox hitting coach Chili Davis was stunned to learn that his former New York Yankees teammate Hideki Irabu was found dead on Wednesday of an apparent suicide by hanging.
“It’s sad to hear the news of him passing – especially with the idea that it might be a suicide,” Davis said. “That would be my second ex-teammate to commit suicide along with Donnie Moore. It’s sad to hear. I know he has a family and I know that it’s a great loss for them. I’m really sad to hear that.”
Irabu signed a 4-year, $12.8 million dollar contract with the Yankees in 1997 after being dubbed the “Nolan Ryan of Japan.” But he never lived up to the hype, going 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA in 6 seasons with the Yankees, Expos, and Rangers. George Steinbrenner famously referred to Irabu as a “fat toad” after the pitcher failed to cover first base in an exhibition game.
“He had a lot of pressure on him from being one of the dominant pitchers out of Japan and coming to the Yankees,” Davis said. “These guys are like national treasures coming over here. For guys like Hideo Nomo, Hideki Irabu, and Hideki Matsui, they come over here and not only do the American media put a lot of pressure on them, but they have the Japanese media following them everywhere that they go. After every start that he made, Irabu had to answer twice as many questions as an American pitcher.
“He had very little escape. We might look at it and say, ‘Yea, but he made the big bucks,’ but players here that make a lot of money don’t have to undergo that kind of pressure.”
Davis and Irabu won World Series rings together with the Yankees in 1998 and 1999 – Chili’s final two major league seasons.
“He was an intense guy, but I had a lot of fun with him,” Davis said. “I went out to dinner with him and spent a lot of time in the outfield with him trying to learn Japanese. The words he taught me are basically the ones that you learn in any language as a ballplayer… he taught me all of the bad ones first. I liked him. He had an up-and-down career. He would go out one day and you would marvel at his stuff. Then he would go out the next start and you would wonder where that stuff went. But he was a good teammate.”
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The PawSox will look to earn a split in their 4-game series at Lehigh Valley on Friday night at 7:05. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
Pawtucket opens an 8-game homestand on Saturday, and it’s Clay Buchholz Bobblehead Night at McCoy Stadium for the first 4,000 kids (14-and-under).
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