(Osaka, 1968- )
Nomo Hideo's distinctive wind-up brought him the nickname 'The Tornado'. This combined with an awesome fastball and one of the best split-finger pitches in the game make him a formidable opponent. But he actually spent his first few years playing in Japan's minor leagues, with the highlight being a silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, where he played in one game as a pinch runner. He was selected by the Kintetsu Buffaloes, based in his hometown of Osaka, in the 1989 free-agent draft at the age of 21. After leading the league in wins (18), strikeouts (287), and ERA (2.91), Nomo easily won that season's MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. Over the next five years he compiled a record of 78 wins against 46 losses, leading the league each year in wins and strikouts.
Nomo's career has had its ups and downs since he moved to the US to play for the LA Dodgers in 1995. As only the second-ever Japanese player to play in the Major leagues and the first in 30 years, he was the focus of huge media attention, something he was never too fond of. But in addition to helping the Dodgers win the National League West that season, he was named Rookie of the Year and started the All-Star game. A subsequent loss of form and transfers to a string of other teams (Mets, Brewers, Tigers) saw him fade from the spotlight, only for him to return to center stage with the Boston Red Sox in April 2001 when he pitched his second no-hitter. He became only the 4th player in US baseball history to pitch no-hitters in both leagues.
The 2002 season saw him back with the Dodgers, this time with new teammate and fellow pitcher Ishii Kazuhisa, formerly a star with the Yakult Swallows, deflecting most of the media attention.