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Japan Cheers as Nomo Hurls No-Hitter

September 18, 1996

TOKYO (AP) _ Hideo Nomo may have sounded modest about pitching a no-hitter against the National League’s top hitting team in a stadium known as being tough on pitchers.

There was no such restraint back home in Japan.

``This is a historical moment,″ Osamu Shiraishi, 36, said of Tuesday night’s game. ``I think that it will serve as an inspiration for young Japanese baseball players.″

As with all games featuring Nomo, the 9-0 Los Angeles victory over Denver was broadcast live in Japan via satellite television. Because of the time difference, the game ended at 3 p.m. Wednesday, allowing crowds to gather around giant TV screens in electronics shops and downtown shopping districts.

Masami Hase, a 37-year-old office worker who watched some of the game in the glitzy Ginza area, said Nomo ``doesn’t talk much, but I think he’s a good ambassador. I think Japanese are proud to see him doing so well.″

Nomo, 28, quickly became a sensation in the major leagues after quitting Japan’s Kintetsu Buffaloes and signing with the Dodgers following the 1994 season.

Japanese fans have been following his career closely, and were overjoyed when he was chosen as starting pitcher in last year’s All Star Game.

``To go to the United States on his own without knowing English and still be doing so well is really terrific,″ said Akira Murata, an company employee who heard the game on the radio.

``His fast ball is getting a lot better,″ said Murata, who was reading an early edition of the Nikkan Sports newspaper. ``He must be gaining confidence.″

Nomo became the first Japanese to break into the U.S. major leagues in decades, and is viewed on both sides of the Pacific as a kind of goodwill ambassador between two very different cultures that happen to share a love for baseball.

``It seems like he was carrying all of Japan on his shoulders while he was pitching,″ said Kazuyuki Yoshikawa, a 31-year-old company employee. ``He was surrounded by very good people who took him in as one of their own.″

Nomo, whose first name means ``hero″ in Japanese, has achieved widespread fame in his home country and has appeared in numerous advertising campaigns.

A current campaign for a brand of canned coffee is offering 300 winners of a baseball trivia quiz a trip to Dodgers stadium to see Nomo in action.

The softspoken Nomo didn’t take a hero’s pose, however, in discussing whether he had thought a no-hitter could be thrown at Coors Field.

``I cannot say it was impossible,″ he said. ``I was never concerned about it.″

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