My friend Jesse is visiting me in Vermont this week. Jesse is a baseball enthusiast like myself, so I naturally wanted to show him a book I had picked up on the cheap at a thrift store a number of years ago, Big League Ballparks: The Complete Illustrated History. The book — printed in 2009 — is a real treasure and I recommend it to all that like baseball, books, and pictures, and timelines.

There are some weird aspects of the book, however. For each stadium they select a number of baseball cards (three of four) depicting different players that played in the stadium. There does not seem to be any sort of rhyme nor reason for the players selected. For example, the players shown on the page dedicated to Nationals Park are Nook Logan, Dmitri Young, and Mike Bacsick. For PNC Park, Pirate greats Tom Gorzeleanny, Matt Capps, Jason Bay, Freddy Sanchez get the high honors (Bay and Sanchez make sense). For the Diamondbacks, a baseball card with Randy Johnson batting (right-handed, of course) seems like an odd choice.

Obviously the editors were looking for players who played in the given ballpark, and some teams don’t have a breadth of pedigree to choose from. But omitting players like Ryan Zimmerman in favor of a guy like Nook Logan — or Brian Giles in favor of Gorzeleanny — is strange. And the more teams you flip through the more random it seems.

Take the Texas Rangers, for example. No Pudge, no Juan Gonzalez, no Rafael Palmeiro. Instead we see the baseball cards of Michael Young (totally fair), Gerald Laird (strange), and Kazuo Fukumori. Kazuo. Fukumori.

So naturally, we googled Fukumori and found out that in 4 major league innings he complied a 20.25 ERA, a 3.75 WHIP, and 1 strikeout. Then we moved on to his Wikipedia page, and let me tell you: holy shit. In fact, no need for me to tell you when you can read it for yourself. So I’ve copy and pasted it for your viewing pleasure. I’ve emboldened some places that deserve extra emphasis.

“Biography[edit]

Fukumori was unable to advance to the National High School Baseball Championship during his high school years, losing in the prefectural final for three consecutive years. He was drafted by the Yokohama BayStars in the third round of the 1994draft, and marked his first win against the Chunichi Dragons on July 3, 1997. He pitched as a fifth and sixth-string starter for the BayStars rotation during his early career, with a career-high 9 wins in 1999. He was traded to the Osaka Kintetsu Buffaloes in 2004 after pitching in a career-high 62 games in 2003 with a 4.50 ERA as a reliever in his final year with the BayStars. He became the closer for the Buffaloes midway through 2004, and ended the year with 2 wins and 10 saves with a 5.18 ERA. However, the Buffaloes team was disbanded during the off-season, and Fukumori was handed over to the newly created Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles in a distribution draft. He recorded the first save in history for the Eagles on April 13 against the Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks, and was the only pitcher to not let up a run in the team’s epic 0-26 loss to theChiba Lotte Marines in the second game of the season.

Fukumori was relegated to setup duty at the start of 2006 in favor of Shinichiro Koyama, but returned to his closing role early in the year, pitching 26 straight innings without giving up a run in the first half of the season. This earned him his first appearance in the Japanese all-star game. However, his pitching quickly deteriorated after the all-star break, and he was relegated to setup duty again after blowing several save opportunities. He pitched decently as a reliever, and returned to his closing role again on September 22 with a save against the Seibu Lions. He made two more consecutive saves, ending the season with a career-best 2.17 ERA and a career-high 21 saves.

Fukumori continued his success in the closing role during early 2007, but dropped down during the interleague games in June. He made his second appearance at the Japanese all-star game, but admitted that he had been pitching with pain in his right elbow, and was removed from the active roster after the all-star break to receive surgery to remove bone chips from his right elbow. He spent the rest of the season in rehab.

Fukumori declared free-agency on November 7, 2007, and began negotiating with both Japanese teams and major league teams on November 13, 2007.

Texas Rangers[edit]

On December 13, 2007 it was reported that he had agreed to a two-year $3 million deal with the Texas Rangers.[1] He made an appearance at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington the following day to officially announce his move to the major leagues. Fukumori was released by the Rangers on May 12, 2008, after having pitched extremely poorly in four games. It was the end of his Major League Baseball career.

Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles[edit]

On June 13, 2009, the Texas Rangers released Fukumori so that he could sign with the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles of the Japanese Pacific League.

Pitching Style[edit]

Fukumori throws a fastballshootball, and forkball with varying degrees of success. He is also one of the few Japanese pitchers to have experimented with a knuckle curve. His fastball only reaches in the low 90 mph range, and he rarely displays good control of any of his pitches. His shootball comes in at a similar velocity as his fastball, and his forkball can be devastating at times. Fukumori’s career in Japan was marked with inconsistency, as he rotated between periods of exceptional and disappointing performances even during his most successful seasons.”

We all learn a crazy amount of information via Wikipedia these days, but never have I felt so educated than the moment I finished Fukumori’s page. He throws a fucking shootball, but rarely displays good control. He admitted his arm was a mess and then the Texas Rangers paid him 3 million dollars to come serve up home run derby pitches in Arlington.

Wikipedia is the best. Fukumori was not.

Special thanks to the guys that created Big League Ballparks and their choosing to hold Fukumori as a member of the Rangers Mt. Rushmore, some two years after he flamed out of the Major Leagues.