March 18, 1991: California Angels pitcher Jim Abbott records his first hit in a major league uniform, a triple, in a Spring Training game against the San Francisco Giants.
Jim Abbott remains one of the most remarkable stories in sports history. Born without a right hand, the man become a major league pitcher. The Flint, Michigan native spent ten seasons in the majors, including a total of six with the Angels. Having pitched most of his career in the American League, he didn’t find the batter’s box often (remember, this was pre-Interleague play), so with lack of experience and only one working hand, he made headlines by smacking a 400-foot triple off San Francisco Giants pitcher Rick Reuschel for his first major league hit, albeit during Spring Training, twenty-nine years ago today.
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Abbott eventually found his way to the National League late in his career and recorded his first official hit in 1999, an RBI single to left-center field off Jon Lieber. And because baseball works in mysterious ways, he got his next and final hit of his career only two weeks later, once again, off Jon Lieber, this time a slow roller through the middle infield, scoring two runs. Abbott retired 2-21 as a hitter.
There are two generations of Halo fans who remember Jim Abbott. There are those old enough to remember him as a top draft pick who joined the Angels staff without pitching a single minor league game. He won 18 games three years later, finishing third in the AL Cy Young voting. Then there are those a little younger who only remember 2-18, his record in 1996. Whichever way you remember Jim Abbott, it’s still amazing to think of the odds he defied to become a major league pitcher.
Abbott’s greatest feat coming on September 4, 1993 when he pitched a no-hitter as a member of the New York Yankees. Although, smashing a 400-foot triple is a close second in my book.