He was a star in Japan before he signed with the Dodgers, and he made an immediate impact, leading the NL in strikeouts in 1995 and recording a 13-6 record and a 2.54 ERA.
Not many realize how dominating he was over his first three seasons in Los Angeles. He struck out 11.10 batters per nine innings, surpassing Sandy Koufax's record (10.57) set in 1962. Nomo is second only to Koufax on the charts in hits allowed per nine innings (5.83) and opponents batting average (.182).
Nomo is also fifth (10.13) and seventh (9.22) on the strikeout/9 inning list. Koufax holds six of the all-time top records, five of the top 10 in hits/9 innings and five of the top 10 in opponent's batting average.
SO per nine innings— 11.10 - Hideo Nomo, 1995 10.57 - Sandy Koufax, 1962 10.23 - Sandy Koufax, 1965 10.13 - Sandy Koufax, 1960 10.13 - Hideo Nomo, 1997 9.46 - Sandy Koufax, 1961 9.22 - Hideo Nomo, 1996 9.00 - Sandy Koufax, 1964 8.83 - Sandy Koufax, 1966 8.64 - Chan Ho Park, 2000 Hits per nine innings— 5.79 - Sandy Koufax, 1965 5.83 - Hideo Nomo, 1995 6.13 - Don Sutton, 1972 6.19 - Sandy Koufax, 1963 6.22 - Sandy Koufax, 1964 6.55 - Sandy Koufax, 1962 6.56 - Fernado Valenzuela, 1981 6.71 - Orel Hershiser, 1985 6.72 - Sandy Koufax, 1966 6.79 - Don Drysdale, 1964 Opponents average .179—Sandy Koufax, 1965 .182—Hideo Nomo, 1995 .189—Sandy Koufax, 1963 .189—Don Sutton, 1972 .191—Sandy Koufax, 1964 .197—Sandy Koufax, 1964 .205—Sandy Koufax, 1966 .205—Fernando Valenzuela, 1981 .206—Orel Hershiser, 1985 .206—Ramon Martinez, 1990Nomo's 123 wins ties him with Don Newcombe and Carl Erskine at 11th place on the Dodger win list and are the most in the majors by a Japanese pitcher. He was the 1995 NL Rookie of the Year with the Dodgers and is one of only four pitchers to throw no-hitters in the AL and NL.
Nomo's National League no-hit gem in 1996 came in the most improbable of places under the most difficult conditions -- on a cold and rainy night in the Coors Field launching pad in Colorado. The pitching mound was so slick with rain, Nomo pitched out of the stretch most of the game.
Then in 2001, in his debut for the Red Sox, he pitched the first no-hitter at Camden Yards and beat Baltimore. Nomo joined Cy Young, Jim Bunning and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers to throw no-hitters in both leagues.
His success brought on a a wave of "Nomomania" wherever he pitched. He delighted fans with his "tornado" windup, in which he paused with his arms overhead and then twisted his body before throwing.
Opposing hitters weren't so delighted. Nomo's forkball took a remarkably sharp dip, similar to a split-fingered fastball or, as oldtimers remarked, a spitter. The pitch was tough for catchers to handle, with balls breaking into the dirt in front of the plate, and he led the majors with 19 wild pitches as a rookie in 1995.
Nomo finished 123-109 with a 4.24 ERA with the Dodgers, New York Mets, Milwaukee, Detroit, Boston, Tampa Bay and Kansas City.
"Hideo Nomo was a trailblazer," said Hall of Famer Tom Lasorda, who managed the Dodgers in 1995. "He represented himself and his country to the highest degree of class, dignity and character. I am so proud of all he did for Japanese players.
"He was a workhorse as a pitcher. Nobody alive today can throw a no-hitter in Colorado, and he did. He won the Rookie of the Year, and helped the Dodgers win the division in 1996.
"I know he will be inducted into the Japanese Hall of Fame, and certainly hope he is inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. He is a pioneer, and he deserves all the recognition in the world."
When Nomo signed with the Dodgers, he became only the second Japanese player to reach the majors, following Masanori Murakami who pitched 54 games for San Francisco in the mid-1960s.
Following Nomo's success, many more Japanese players came to the majors. Hideki Irabu, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Tomo Ohka were among those who quickly followed, with Ichiro Suzuki, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Hidecki Matsui, Takashi Saito and Hiroki Kuroda arriving later.