Still, Irabu figures to extend the depth of a pitching staff that at week's end had not allowed more than three runs in 10 straight games, and to give an Iraboost to the Yankees' otherwise unimpressive attendance. That prospect pleased Steinbrenner, who, after lamenting at a pregame press conference about free agents Roger Clemens's and Greg Maddux's having spurned New York, boasted, "Now you've got a guy who wants to come to New York." In a uniquely Yankees moment, Steinbrenner promptly was followed into the interview room by infielders Wade Boggs and Mariano Duncan, both of whom can't wait to hail the next cab out of town.
The Yankee Stadium fans tracked Irabu's strikeouts with seven sets of K cards, including three in Japanese. They gave him a standing ovation when Torre, capping the evening's choreographed proceedings, pulled him in the middle of an inning with no one on base. "He's got a great sense of humor, and he's a gamer," said teammate and fellow rotund pitcher David Wells, fast forging a kinship. "He got a little chapped out there on the mound, too, and that's a good sign."
Showered and dressed, and still magnetized, Irabu plopped his ample self at a picnic table in the Yankees clubhouse, alternately taking pulls from a cheap American beer and an American cigarette. When several television crews from the ubiquitous Japanese media closed in with tapes rolling. Irabu chased them off with a quick warning and a wave of his hand. Cone, who has also been known to harbor a renegade streak, smiled upon surveying the scene. Said Cone, "It's like my long-lost brother showed up."