Hideki Irabu, the underwhelming Yankees hurler who George Steinbrenner once called a “Fat Pus-y Toad,” took his own life in 2011.
A vital piece of his sad story was the depressing journey of finding his father, according to a new Sports Illustrated report.
The feature on Irabu’s life explains that the pitcher left Japan to hopefully succeed as a Yankee in part so his father would hear of his fame and want to find him.
Steve Thompson, an air force veteran, traveled to Japan during his service and had an affair with a woman in 1968. A year later, she gave birth to Irabu.
Hideki left his home country for the Yankees in 1997 and, despite being on the 1998 World Series team, Irabu’s reputation in New York was headlined by his partying, eating and poor performance on the field during both games and practice (he ended his Yankees career in 1999 with a 4.80 ERA).
It was not until Irabu’s final year in pinstripes that he finally met his father, and the ballplayer came away from the interaction disappointed.
He came away disappointed in Thompson’s 5-foot-11, 200-pound frame. Irabu, at 6-foot-5 and 240-pounds, always assumed he inherited his figure from his father.
That, coupled with the strained communication due to the language barrier, led Irabu to have very few other interactions with Thompson.
After leaving the Yankees after the 1999 season, Irabu had a two-year stint in Montreal before playing his final MLB season with the Texas Rangers.
By 2008, Irabu was back in Japan.
According to Sports Illustrated report, frequent “binge drinking” led to Irabu’s arrest for assault in 2008.
Back in America two years later, he was charged with a DUI in California.
Irabu’s life spiraled out of control from there.
When he hanged himself on July 27, 2011, an autopsy showed a heavy mixture of alcohol and pills.
Thomspon died five years later at the age of 81 from lung cancer.
Send a Letter to the Editor