There isn't a baseball fan around who didn't try to emulate Hideo Nomo's pitching windup back in 1995. I remember the first time I tried to do it — I'm pretty sure I damn near threw my hip out. My mom saw me "practicing that Nomo" in the backyard as I attempted to perfect the windup with a tennis ball pitched at the fence. She had a puzzled look on her face.
Mom: Son, what are you doing?
Young Ed: Practicing that Nomo.
Mom: Oh. Well, it looks like you're doing yoga.
Young Ed: Mom! I'm trying to buy you a house, and this Nomo windup is going to make that happen.
Mom: Really? Well, that's nice. Just be sure to take out the trash when you're done.
Young Ed: (Sigh) Yes ma'am.
The wave of Hideo Nomo had taken the American sports scene by storm, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.
The truth is, Yasiel Puig, with that egregiously awesome back flip, isn't the first rookie or the first signature move that the Los Angeles Dodgers had the opportunity to highlight to baseball's general public. In fact, Nomo did Puig one better as the Japanese import was not only chosen to play in the 1995 MLB All-Star Game, but he was named the starting pitcher for the National League.
Nomo earned that starting nod by putting together one of the greatest pitching performances in a month we'd ever seen. SB Nation's True Blue LA does a great job highlighting Nomo's exploits from '95:
In his 6 starts, he pitched at least 8 innings in all 6 games, he gave up a total of 5 earned runs in 50.1 innings, he allowed 25 hits and 16 walks while striking out 60. He would win all 6 games, capping the month with back to back, complete game, 13 strike out shutouts (per Baseball Reference, no other Dodger pitcher has ever had back to back shutouts with 13 or more strikeouts, not Koufax, not Drysdale, not Fernando).
Nomo's stellar June would be the springboard for 1995 Rookie of the Year campaign and a fourth-place finish for the league's Cy Young award. The Tornado was as real as it gets, and in the Midsummer Classic in Arlington, Texas, Nomo would have the chance to take his talents into action against the American League for the first time. (Interleague play was not introduced until 1997.)
No. 16 faced the minimum in two innings of work, as legendary names like Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga. Edgar Martinez, Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Cal Ripken all took quick seats back in the dugout after failing Nomo's pop quiz. (To be fair, Baerga did get a hit off Nomo, but of course, he was caught stealing on a well-executed pitchout between Nomo and Mike Piazza.) Nomo struck out three, allowed one hit, no runs and no walks.
Twenty years later, we pay respect to the legend that is 野茂 英雄 aka Hideo Nomo. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to attempt to try and mimic the Tornado windup one more time. (Also, be sure to call 911 as I'm probably going to throw my hip out.)
Eddie Maisonet is the founder and editor emeritus of The Sports Fan Journal. Currently, he serves as an associate editor for ESPN.com. He is an unabashed Russell Westbrook and Barry Switzer apologist, owns over 100 fitteds and snapbacks, and lives by Reggie Jackson’s famous quote, “I am the straw that stirs the drink.”