This Day in Baseball History: May 7th, 1999

Steinbrenner will probably sue me for finding this picture. These two would be great friends.

On May 7, 1999:

Hideki Irabu faces off with Mac Suzuki.

Mac Suzuki was born in Kobe, Japan, but he decided to quit high school in 1992 and take a shot at the major leagues, except it wasn’t the Japanese major leagues. Instead, he signed on with the Salinas Spurs, and he would make his debut in 1996 as a Seattle Mariner. As he did so, he became the first Japanese player to skip the Japanese professional leagues and head straight to the United States.

Hideki Irabu took a more conventional road to the majors, but it was still unconventional. From 1988 to 1996, he played for the Lotte Orions, and he had the best fastball in the league. Before the 1997 season, the San Diego Padres bought the strikeout king’s contract, but Irabu was not going to play for them. In fact, he refused to play for anyone but the Yankees. Seeing their opportunity, the Yankees traded for Irabu and signed him to a 4-year/$12 million deal. The confusion of this deal led to the posting system we now have. After 8 starts, Irabu made his debut in 1997 with the Yankees.

Neither pitched well in their careers, but they made a fairly historic appearance one night. It was the first time that two Japanese starting pitchers faced each other in the same game. Regardless of the possible build up, the game was relatively unsuspenseful. Hideki Irabu pitched one of the best games of his Yankee career, going 7 innings giving up 4 hits and a run while striking out 5 and walking zero. Mac Suzuki, on the other hand, wasn’t so good. After four scoreless innings in which he danced in and out of trouble, the Yankees got to him in the fifth and sixth. Derek Jeter hit a 3-run homer in the fifth, and after 3 walks and a double, Suzuki exited the game having gone 5.1 innings giving up 7 runs (4 earned) along with 5 hits and 5 walks. The Yankees added 3 more and took the game 10-1. The historic matchup ended up a dud.

Actually, their careers ended up being duds. Irabu pitched in parts of 6 seasons, and besides a decent 1998 season, he was ineffective to say the least. In fact, the only midly entertaining moment was George Steinbrenner’s continual comments about Irabu’s weight, once calling him a “fat pussy toad” (“pussy”, in this instance, meant full of puss; what did you think it meant, sicko?). Suzuki did just about the same — 6 seasons but only one decent one (2000 with Kansas City).

Trivia Time
What two teams began their infamous rivalry 106 years ago today, and what were their names at the time?

Yesterday’s Answer –> Rogers Hornsby in 1925 and 1929

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3 Responses to “This Day in Baseball History: May 7th, 1999”

  1. Ron Rollins Says:

    New York Hilltoppers and Boston Pilgrims.

  2. Kevin Says:

    Being a Yankee fan I still cringe at the sight of Hideki Irabu on the mound.

    You did remind me of a Letterman Top Ten List on the 10 ways to mispronounce his name.
    http://lateshow.cbs.com/latenight/lateshow/top_ten/index/php/19970730.phtml

    Hopefully this link gets you there.

  3. Ian Says:

    Highlanders and Americans?

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