Hideki Irabu’s sad final years

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Ken Belson of the New York Times had an excellent albeit sad story in yesterday’s New York Times about the final years of Hideki Irabu, who committed suicide in late July.

In some ways it’s a familiar story of an athlete who doesn’t know what to do with himself after his playing days are over. But there’s one aspect of it Belson touches on that made Irabu’s situation way worse: he was basically a man without a country.

He was of mixed heritage, with his father being an American military man who has been stationed on Okinawa and who Irbau never met. This caused him to be taunted to some degree by the media and fans when he played in Japan. After coming to America to play he remained here, living in Southern California, but he never really got acclimated. Belson says that before he killed himself his wife and children, “had become acculturated to American life” and left him.

We saw during his career that he was not one who fit in easily anywhere. We learn now that, on top of that, he was isolated. ¬†Putting that together with a career that was unsatisfying in many respects and which he tried and failed to revive later, it’s much easier to understand why the man was so haunted in his final days.