When I think about Jim Abbott I have three factoids about the man pop into my head. In no particular order:
- He had only one hand.
- He threw a no-hitter as a member of the New York Yankees.
- In his last full season he lost 18 games.
That’s a lot to chew on. I know. The guy was prolific.
Like me, Abbott is from the beautiful state of Michigan. Unlike me, Jim Abbott is completely mediocre. A student of mine actually suggested this post and pointed out to me that Abbott’s career ERA+ is 100. In other words, he is completely mediocre and entirely average.
Abbott was a terrific collegiate pitcher at the University of Michigan. He was named the top amateur athlete in the country in 1987 and is the proud owner of a gold medal. Being that he had one hand and all, Abbott came into the big leagues with quite a bit of fanfare and was the #8 overall pick in the 1988 draft. He was picked ahead of fellow first rounders like Robin Ventura and Tino Martinez.
Jim made his debut with the Angels in 1989 at the tender age of 21 and held his own. In his rookie season he won 12 games and finished 5th in the Rookie of the Year vote (the immortal Gregg Olson won the award). He bounced back to earth a bit in 1990, losing 14 games and leading the league in hits allowed (ouch!).
However, Jim showed his trademark resiliency in 1991, winning a career-high18 games with an ERA of 2.89. That season Abbott finished third in Cy Young voting (a juiced up Roger Clemens won the award) and won the hearts of fans all over the nation.
The next season was a weird one. Abbott improved on his already sparkling ERA with a mark of 2.77, fifth in the American League. However, he was the victim of some tough luck and played for a really shitty team and lost 15 games. Jim was a legitimate tough-luck loser. That winter the Angels shipped the lefty to the New York Yankees for Russ Spring and JT Snow, it was a pretty big deal at the time.
It was in his first season with the Yankees, 1993, that Abbott hurled a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians. His time in New York was relatively brief and he spent the next few years bouncing around the league, playing for the Yankees, White Sox, Angels (again), and Brewers. Abbott retired following the 1999 season.
Abbott had only 21 at-bats in his career (all with the NL Brewers). In those 21 at-bats, he struck out 10 times and recorded two base hits. It’s obviously difficult to bat with only one hand on the bat. Stunningly, both of his hits came off of certified staff ace, Jon Lieber.
Abbott currently works as a motivational speaker.