Hideo Nomo joined the Red Sox starting rotation for the 2001 season, following an up and down career. He started it off in a blaze of glory with the Dodgers in the mid 90’s. He was the first major Japanese import, and everyone went crazy over the rookie with the tornado wind-up. He ended up winning the NL rookie of the year award that season. After that, he had a more mediocre stretch. Obviously, nothing could match the hype of his debut season. By the time he joined the Sox, he had kicked around a couple years, and he wasn’t a major free agent pick-up. He ended up having a fine season for the Sox. He led the team in wins (with 13!), innings pitched, and complete games. He led the American League with 220 strikeouts. That total was the 13th best in Red Sox history. He started his Red Sox career about as well as he could, as well. He threw a no-hitter in his very first start with the team. That’s even better than Clay Buchholz.
I was lucky enough to see Nomo pitch live five times during the 2001 season. He got a no-decision against the Yankees and the Athletics. He picked up three wins, against the Phillies, Braves, and Expos. Interesting that he won the three games against NL teams, coming from the NL as he did. It’s the Montreal start that I remember best, since it was in Montreal. It was the second time I had seen the Red Sox play outside of Fenway Park. It was also the second time I had seen a pitcher with a bat in his hands. The stadium was crazy. At the time, Montreal was drawing about 8,000 fans to a game. For the Red Sox series, they had about 30,000 each game. Nomo got to the plate three times in the game. He struck out the first time with men on first and third to end the inning. He struck out the second time as well. The third time, with Brian Daubach on second, he singled. He almost got an RBI, but Dauber was cut down at the plate. We were all very excited. Nomo was removed during the next inning, after giving up five runs in five-plus innings of work. Not a stellar performance, but it was enough for the win. Nomo struck out 7 batters in that game.
All told, I saw him strike out 28 of his league leading total live. In the five games I saw him, he pitched 27 innings, and gave up 15 earned runs. It’s amazing to think that he was 3-0 in those five games with a 5.00 ERA, and a 1.37 WHIP. That’s how it does sometimes. I don’t remember what happened to Nomo after that season, but he bounced around a few more years as he toured the major leagues. His stop in Boston ended up being one of his better stints.
N is for Nomo, Hideo.