Baseball fans around the globe are thrilled this isn’t a story about Hideki Irabu.

From the Mainichi Daily News (link swiped from Repoz and Baseball Think Factory) :

“I’ve decided to take my uniform off at the end of this season.”

With these words, Nippon Ham Fighters outfielder Tsuyoshi Shinjo announced his plans to end one of the more unconventional careers in Japanese professional baseball.

What the fans at Tokyo Dome didn’t realize when 34-year-old Shinjo (above, left) told them on April 18 that he was removing his uniform, was that he was speaking literally, according to Shukan Gendai (5/6-13).

Many were shocked that Shinjo chose a mid-April date to announce his plans to quit — the season was only a few weeks old, after all — most say it’s characteristic behavior for the player nicknamed “Spaceman,” who’s as well known for his tendency to come out of left field (even though he’s a centerfielder) as for his baseball.

“It was typical Shinjo. I wasn’t surprised at all,” baseball analyst Takenori Emoto tells Shukan Gendai, regarding the sudden retirement. “I think part of the reason there was so much showbiz in the announcement was that the entire Pacific League seemed to be caught up in Shinjo and he was basically running wild, doing whatever he wanted to. He didn’t give a damn about his team as long as he looked good.”

“Actually, Shinjo’s thinking about releasing a collection of nude photos. Straight after he announced his retirement, the president of a major talent agency Shinjo is expected to join on his retirement called the player and said, ‘If you’re gonna do nude stuff, let me look after it for you.’ And, as a bit of an extra for his real fans, there’s also talk of Shinjo and his wife doing a nude shot together. If they don’t want to go all the way, it could be a shot of them in some pretty racy underwear. The Shinjos are a lot more appealing than David and Victoria Beckham,” Motoji Takasu, a publishing company producer, tells Shukan Gendai.