One of the joys of baseball is the history of the sport. In what other sport can the players from the turn of the 20th century be compared to the players of today? Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb and Cy Young are just as well known now as they were back in their playing days. Every once in a while, that history can come back in an unexpected way. Seeing a picture or finding an old baseball card can cause the memories to flood back, reminding us all of a simpler time when we were younger and the great game was all that mattered.
Today, when looking for a player to represent number 25 on the Opening Day Countdown on the Halo Hangout Facebook page (if you haven’t liked us yet on there, go ahead to receive our updates) there were a number of worthy candidates. Don Baylor, Jim Edmonds and Troy Glaus all proudly sported the number with class and grace. Yet, there was one player who stood out when looking through the names – Jim Abbott.
Abbott, at first glance, was a barely notable pitcher. In his career, he posted an 87-108 record with a 4.25 ERA and struck out only 4.8 batters per nine innings. He received votes for the Cy Young award only once, in 1991, when he put together his best season, going 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA and 158 strikeouts. Abbott was never an All-Star, and appeared as though he would have been a mere footnote in baseball history, having retired at age 31.
However, Jim Abbott had one thing that made his accomplishments, no matter how modest, quite notable – his left hand. Specifically, that left hand was the only hand he had, as Abbott was born without his right hand. That lack of a second hand did not stop Abbott in pursuing an unlikely career in baseball, to the point where the Angels drafted him eighth overall in the first round of the 1988 MLB Amateur Draft. Despite not pitching in the minors, Abbott made the Opening Day roster, posting a 12-12 record and a 3.92 ERA, finishing fifth in the Rookie of the Year vote.
There were other highlights for Abbott as well. He threw a no-hitter for the New York Yankees on September 3, 1993 against the Indians. Following his first retirement in 1997, he came back with a 5-0 record for the White Sox in 1998, winning each of the games he appeared in. He even got two hits and three RBIs in his 21 major league at bats. Abbott, for overcoming the obstacles in his way, even received 13 votes for the Hall of Fame in 2005
Abbott made the most out of his abilities and did not let his disability stop him. Today, with 25 days left until Opening Day, it is a good time to look back and remember Jim Abbott.