Hall of Fame Baseball Pitcher Dies in Fire: What We Know About the Death of Choji Murata

Choji Murata, a former pitcher who is a member of the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame, died after a fire broke out in his home earlier Friday morning. He was 72 years old. According to Nippon.com, firefighters received a phone call at 3:15 am local time about black smoke coming out of Murata's two-story home in the Seijo district of Tokyo's Setagaya Ward. Murata was rushed to the hospital but was confirmed dead. The cause of the fire has yet to be determined, but Murata's cause of death is believed to be carbon monoxide poisoning. 

Murata spent his entire baseball career with the Tokyo Orions/Lotte Orions. He started in 1968 and would play for the team until 1990. Murata was nicknamed "Sunday Choji" for frequently taking the mound on Sundays and finished his career with over 215 wins. He led the league in ERA three times and won the Comeback Player of the Year Award in 1985 after missing most of the 1982 season and all the of the 1983 and 1984 seasons due to him having Tommy John surgery in 1982. He was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame in 2005. 

In 2014, Murta paid tribute to Dr. Frank Jobe, the man who developed Tommy John Surgery. Jobe, who died at the age of 88 years old, operated on Murata's elbow and 1982 and became the first Japanese player to undergo the operation. "At that time, elbow surgery was taboo (in Japan)," Murata said, per Aarab News. "In Japan, it was said a comeback was impossible, but Dr. Jobe made the impossible possible. He is the one who restored my energy to live." Murata added: "It left a message to the next generation of players that there was no need to fear surgery. May he rest in peace."

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Following his playing career, Murata spent time as a commentator and coach. In September this year, Murata was arrested on suspicion of assaulting a female inspector at the security checkpoint of Tokyo International Airport after he was stopped at a metal detector checkpoint.