Jim Abbott has battled the odds his entire life. Despite being born with only one hand he was the 15th player to ever make a professional debut in the Major Leagues. Many considered the move a publicity stunt by manager Doug Rader, but after struggling early, Abbott proved his doubters wrong by winning 12 games with a 3.92 ERA in his rookie season.
On the mound, Abbott wore a right-hander’s fielder’s glove at the end of his right arm. While completing his follow-through after delivering a pitch, he rapidly switched the glove to his left hand so he could handle any balls hit back to him. In that first 1989 season as a professional he won more games as a rookie than any other previous player without Major League experience.
Abbott spent hours as a youngster bouncing a ball off a wall to practice fielding as well as throwing. He was the starting quarterback on his high school football team, which went to the state finals in Michigan. And he showed enough promise as a pitcher to be drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays shortly after graduation.
However, Abbott went to the University of Michigan on a baseball scholarship. Abbott led the Wolverines to Big Ten titles in his freshmen and junior years and won the prestigious Golden Spikes Award, presented annually to the outstanding U.S. college baseball player. He had a career record of 26 wins and eight losses at the school.
As a member of Team USA in 1987, he became the first American pitcher in 25 years to beat a Cuban team on Cuban soil. The team won a silver medal at the Pan-American Games and Abbott won the U. S. Baseball Federation’s Golden Spikes award as the best amateur player in the country. Abbott participated in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games, pitching a complete game seven hitter, leading the United States to the Gold Medal in a 5-3 victory over Japan. This was the United States’ first-ever gold medal in Olympic Baseball competition.
He joined the California Angels following the Olympics. Abbott made his pro debut in spring training and made it to the Major Leagues without playing in the minor leagues, which was the beginning of a tremendous Major League career – including a no-hitter for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium in 1993.
Hear Jim Abbott tell his in story during the IWLA Convention & Expo, March 24, at 8:30 a.m., in Phoenix, Ariz. Abbott will be on-hand following his keynote to sign pre-ordered copies of his book “Imperfect.” Please pre-order your copy here.
Jim Abbott’s biography courtesy of Eagles Talent Speakers Bureau.