Former baseball player Jim Abbott always wanted to be more than a curiosity.
Admittedly, he's always going to be known by the general public for the fact that he reached the major leagues in spite of having only one hand. His drive and determination to overcome that disadvantage have always been admirable and made him special.
But now that he's written an autobiography, it's obvious that Abbott is admirable in more ways than one. After reading "Imperfect," it's fair to say that most people will come away thinking that Abbott has written a superb book that details just what it's like to be a big league pitcher - any big league pitcher.
Abbott and co-author Tim Brown use something of a ping-pong approach to the book, alternating subjects for the chapters. Half of the sections are devoted to Abbott's entire career, and it was interesting one.
The left-hander grew up not realizing that he wasn't supposed to play baseball, so he played and practiced whenever he could. Abbott threw against a wall for hours in order to make the smooth transition between throwing and fielding, which involved moving the glove to his left hand after making a pitch. He was a good enough athlete that he even played a little quarterback in high school.
From there he passed up the chance to sign with a major league baseball team straight out of high school, earning a scholarship to Michigan. From there, Abbott landed a spot on the 1988 United States Olympic baseball team, which won a gold medal in Seoul.
He landed a big contract with the Angels, who put him in the rotation without a day in the minors. Abbott didn't need much time to fit in on the field, becoming a regular even if he was rarely dominant.
The pitcher became something of a media sensation, as everyone wanted to do a story on him. But that had a side effect; Abbott was sought out by children throughout the country who needed inspiration to face their own challenges. The hurler said he was blind-sided by all of the emotion involved there, but felt an obligation to help. It's compelling material.
Eventually, Abbott was traded to the Yankees, and bounced to the White Sox, Angels (again) and Brewers. There haven't been many descriptions of what it's like to be unable to make the transition from thrower to pitcher at that level, as Abbott slowly lost his ability to get outs at the game's highest level. It's painful to read about the pitcher's unraveling toward what he considered a premature retirement, mostly because it's so easy to root for him while reading this.
Meanwhile, the rest of the book is devoted to Abbott's no-hitter for the Yankees against the Cleveland Indians in 1993. Each inning receives a chapter.
Abbott had been bombed by the Indians in his last start, so he didn't exactly come into the game thinking no-hitter. He just wanted a win. The pitcher takes us through the game in a way that brings real insight into the art of pitching.
Abbott and Brown talked to some of the people in Abbott's life who provide additional background information on the key points of the story, and an Angels' executive opened up his clippings file on Abbott for more memory-jogging. Brown deserves credit for putting the package together in such a good way.
The result is more than simply worth your time. For those interested in inspiring stories, and in baseball, "Imperfect" works just about perfectly.