Former New York Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu has been found dead at a house in California after an apparent suicide. Lt. Fred Corral of the Coroner’s Investigative Division of Los Angeles County said Thursday that Irabu who, was 42, had apparently hanged himself in a home in Rancho Palos Verdes, it was not clear whether the home was Irabu’s, he added.
Irabu started playing professional baseball in 1987, when he was the No. 1 draft pick of the Lotte Orions of Japan’s Pacific League; the team later became the Chiba Lotte Marines. Irabu pitched nine seasons for the club, compiling a 57-57 record. He led the league in strikeouts in 1995 and in E.R.A. in 1995 and 1996, with 2.53 and 2.40, respectively.
The San Diego Padres purchased his contract from the Chiba Lotte Marines. But Irabu declined to join the Padres, insisting he would only play for the New York Yankees. The Yankees signed him to a contract worth $12.8 million for four years in 1997. It was the richest deal in history for a player who had yet to throw a pitch in the major leagues.
He played for New York for three years, where he was an inconsistent but key contributor on two championship teams in 1998 and 1999. After three years with the Yankees, he played for the Montreal Expos in the National League and the Texas Rangers in the American League. His overall record was 34-35 with a 5.15 ERA.
Irabu returned to Japan to pitch for the Hanshin Tigers in 2003. In California he pitched for the Long Beach Armada of the independent Golden Baseball League in 2009. He also invested in Japanese restaurants in the Los Angeles area, where he lived with his wife, Kyonsu, and two children. Irabu’s recent years were troubled. He pleaded guilty to assaulting a bartender in Japan in 2008 and was arrested last year on drunken driving charges in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena.