Hideki Irabu 1997 Bowman International Rookie Card
Hideki Irabu was a flame-throwing phenom for the Lotte Orions and then Chiba Lotte Marines. He was the first Japanese pitcher to ever throw a fastball clocked at 99 MPH, and he knew where it was going too…well, most of the time, at least! He was the Central League-leader in wins and strikeouts in 1994, ERA and strikeouts in 1995, and ERA in 1996. All of that success earned him a ticket to New York to play for the Yankees. While his MLB career didn’t quite live up to the hype, it turns out that his personal situation was even more complicated than it was known to be by the public. Tragically, Irabu died by suicide in 2011. Fore more on Irabu’s life, check out this article from Sports Illustrated.
This MLB rookie card is Bowman’s “International” variant on their traditional set, featuring a chromatic surface and the Japanese flag in the background on the front and back of the card. Upon its release, this was one of the hobby’s hottest cards, depicting Japan’s most recent import in his new Yankee pinstripes!