Former Yankees pitcher Hideki Irabu was found dead in his home near Los Angeles in an apparent suicide, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.
The body of Irabu, 42, was discovered Wednesday night by a friend after he hanged himself, according to published reports.
Despite signing with the Yankees in a $12.8 million deal after success in Japan, Irabu’s career never seemed to catch fire. He played with the team from 1997 to 1999, winning World Series titles the last two years. But he was virtually unused in the postseason and suffered from a noticeable weight gain.
In 1999, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner mocked Irabu as a “fat p---- toad” after a poor showing in an exhibition game, but apologized two days later. Irabu was traded to the Montreal Expos after the 1999 season.
He also played with the Texas Rangers before retiring from the Major Leagues in 2002.
Irabu’s personal life was also dogged by troubles, including a 2008 arrest in Japan for assaulting a bartender after reportedly drinking 20 mugs of beer, and then a 2010 arrest in California for suspicion of drunk driving.
“We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Hideki Irabu. Every player that wears the Pinstripes is forever a part of the Yankees family, and his death is felt throughout our organization,” the Yankees said in a statement.