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Nomo’s No-Hitter Wows Japan

September 18, 1996

TOKYO (AP) _ Because they have their own professional leagues at home, most Japanese are not avid watchers of American baseball.

Except when Hideo Nomo pitches for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The games that Nomo pitches are always shown live on satellite television in Japan _ virtually the only U.S. baseball games televised here.

So when Nomo pitched a no-hitter for the Los Angeles Dodgers against the Colorado Rockies, the National League’s top-hitting team, the event was widely followed in his homeland.

``I doubt there’s a single person in Japan right now who isn’t a Nomo fan,″ said Osamu Goto, a 45-year-old shopper who stopped to watch on television. ``There are a lot of Americans doing well in Japanese baseball, so Nomo’s big-league success over there makes me happy.″

``He’s definitely cool,″ said Yasuyuki Shirasaka, a 27-year-old television salesman in Akihabara, a Tokyo district with scores of electronics stores.

He and about a dozen shoppers gathered in front of a bank of display televisions, watching an elated Nomo being carried on the shoulders of his teammates after pitching his gem in Coors Field, a notoriously tough place for pitchers.

``It’s a great thing to see a guy winning like that,″ Shirasaka said. ``People here are especially proud of him because he’s the first Japanese to really be a star in the big leagues.″

In homes, offices and shopping malls, people were gathered around radios and televisions to follow the action.

``He doesn’t talk much, but I think he’s a good ambassador. I think Japanese are proud to see him doing so well,″ said Masami Hase, a 37-year-old office worker who was watching on a giant TV screen in a shopping mall in the downtown Ginza district.

While the game was played Tuesday night in Denver, the time difference meant that the game ended at about 3 p.m. Wednesday in Japan.

Networks flashed news of the no-hitter in supertitles across television screens.

``He did it!″ shouted 39-year-old accountant Ichiro Ishikawa, who listened to radio news of the victory as he sat at a McDonalds.

``This is a historic moment,″ said Osamu Shiraishi, 36, a company employee. ``I think that it will serve as an inspiration for young Japanese baseball players.″

Nomo, 28, pitched for five years for Japan’s Kintetsu Buffaloes and was one of the top players in Japan before being signed by the Dodgers in the spring of 1995. He was the NL Rookie of the Year last season.

Video edited to show third-strike pitches by Nomo one after another have become a staple of Japanese recaps of Dodgers games. Nomo also has become a regular in Japanese advertising for products from cars to soft drinks.

One current billboard visible throughout Tokyo shows Nomo winding up on the mound. The ad is for American Blue Jive Coffee, a popular drink sold in vending machines. The Japanese slogan says: ``Nomo in a can.″

A trivia quiz that is part of the promotion will award 300 winners a trip to Dodgers stadium to see Nomo in action.

Nomo has been criticized in Japan for occasionally being taciturn, and as being selfish for quitting Japanese baseball to advance his career _ and boost his salary. But Shirasaka could find only one fault with him Wednesday: ``He hasn’t sold us any televisions yet.″

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