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Hideo Nomo - Super Tornado

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Hideo (pronounced He DAY oh) Nomo was born August 31, 1968, in Osaka, Japan, the oldest son of Shizuo (a postal worker) and Kayoko Nomo. The name "Hideo" means "a superman" in Japanese. The American sport of

Hideo Nomo

baseball was extremely popular in Japan, and many Japanese boys aspired to be major league ballplayers. Nomo graduated from Seijyo Kogyo High School in 1986, where he developed his unusual pitching windup resembling a whirling tornado. In 1988 he pitched for the Japanese team that brought home the Olympic silver medal from Seoul, South Korea.

Nomo, 6'2" and 210 lbs., was drafted by the Kintetsu Buffaloes in the Japanese Pacific League in the first round of the 1989 free-agent draft. In his first season, 1990, he led the Pacific League in wins and strikeouts, a pattern he would repeat for three consecutive years. He won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in 1990, finishing the season 18-8, with an earned run average (ERA) of 2.91.

Nomo won Japan's equivalent of the Cy Young Award for the league's best pitcher, the Sawamura Award. His teammates gave him the nickname "Tatsumaki" (the Tornado) for his unique pitching windup that confuses and terrorizes batters. A right-handed pitcher, Nomo first raises his arms slowly, high over his head, and arches his back. Then he turns to put his back toward the plate, with his left foot pointing toward second base. He pauses and then whirls, releasing a 90-mile-per-hour fastball or forkball, his trademark pitches.

Nomo was considered one of Japan's best pitchers, but a dream to play in the American major leagues was kindled when he pitched 1-1 against a U.S. All-Star team on tour in Japan. After a salary dispute with the Buffaloes in 1994 and an arm injury that some thought would permanently reduce his effectiveness, Nomo was signed as a free agent by the Los Angeles Dodgers on February 8, 1995, with a $2 million bonus. He became the first professional Japanese player to join an American major league team and only the second Japanese player to play in the American major leagues.

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