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野茂 英雄

Hideo Nomo (1968- ) became the first Japanese to play in the Major Leagues in thirty years when he debuted as a pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers in May, 1995 (reliever Masanori Murakami had pitched briefly for the Giants in 1964 and 1965). Nomo's astonishing success created a sensation known as "Nomomania" as Japanese fans flocked to ballparks across America to see their hero pitch. Nomo baffled hitters with his slow twisting wind-up, nicknamed the "Tornado" and his devastating forkball. Nomo finished the year 13-6 with a 2.54 ERA, garnering rookie of the year honors and helping the Dodgers capture the NL west division crown.

Hitters soon figured out Nomo's delivery and quickly learned to layoff Nomo's forkball and feast on his rather average fastball. As a result, Nomo's winning percentage and ERA declined in each of his next three seasons. Today Nomo is a very average starting pitcher, although on occasion he can still be dominant if he locates his fastball well to set up the fork, as evidenced by his two no-hitters including one in the hitter's paradise of Coors Field.

Before Nomo, Japanese baseball had been seen as a very low quality league. Nomo's brief but brilliant success showed that it was possible for at least a few Japanese stars to succeed in the Majors, and helped pave the way for current stars like Hideki Matsui and Ichiro.

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