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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Farewell To Arm: A Remembrance Of Jim Abbott

Dave Murray, the proprietor of Mets Guy In Michigan, wrote me with this remembrance of Angel pitcher Jim Abbott. Excerpt:
Only twice have I witnessed visiting players get a standing ovation at Yankee Stadium.

And one of those times shouldn’t count. It was August 4, 1985, the day Tom Seaver won his 300th game, and we Mets fan pretty much took over the Yankees’ home that day.

But the other time was May 24, 1989, coming when a rookie pitcher was making in warm-up tosses.

Jim Abbott was already pretty famous. He was on the mound when the United States won the Olympic gold medal in 1988, was drafted in the first round by the California Angels and went straight to the major leagues.

What amazed a lot of people was that Abbott was born without a right hand.

The handicap didn’t seem to hold him back at all. He pitched and was the quarterback at Flint Central High and played for the University of Michigan’s baseball team. There were stories about how an opposing college team tried to take advantage of him, sending the first four batters to the plate bunting. The team changed its strategys after Abbott fielded each attempt cleanly.

Abbott had a decent enough career, though he was never Hall of Fame material, and neither did he make an All-Star team. Nonetheless, he's about as iconic as Inspiring Stories get.

The neatest thing about Abbot was that you could watch him pitch, and about two innings into the game, you'd forget that he only had one hand. He was so smooth and natural with the transfer that you'd forget about it if you weren't paying attention.
abbot was one of my favorite pitchers growing up. right up there with ramon and orel. he was the best thing about going to angels games as a kid.

Everyone was a HUGE Jim Abbot fan. How could you not be?
1) I wasn't following baseball back then (he retired after the 1999 season, which was just before I got back into it).

2) He's not a Hall of Famer.

3) He's not even an All-Star.

His career is good but hardly great. Yes, it's impressive that he did what he did minus an arm, but his record ain't all that. The "Similar Pitchers" list at his Baseball-Reference page is littered with 3-4 starters who stayed on in the majors for a good number of years -- including a personal favorite, Jerry Reuss -- but none of them ever really acquired the mantle of greatness.

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