Former Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead at his California home yesterday. The initial reports came from the Japanese paper, Asahi Shimbum, and his death has since been confirmed by the New York Yankees. Suicide by hanging is suspected.
Irabu has had a troubled post-baseball career. He was arrested in Gardena, California last year for drunk driving. Back in 2008 he was arrested for assaulting a bar manager in Japan after allegedly consuming 20 glasses of beer.
After achieving stardom in Japan, Irabu’s contract was purchased by the San Diego Padres in early 1997. Irabu wanted no part of San Diego, however, and a trade to the Yankees was arranged. Irabu earned World Series rings with the Yankees in both 1998 and 1999, but he fell far short of expectations and drew the ire of George Steinbrenner who famously dubbed him the “fat toad.” The Yankees shipped him off to Montreal for Jake Westrbook following the 1999 season. He lasted two seasons with the Expos and one season with the Rangers before retiring after the 2002 season. Matthew Pouliot has a more thorough analysis of Irabu’s career here.
We’ll update with more information when it becomes available. For now, however, it appears to be a sad end to a troubled life.