Talk about overcoming obstacles. Jim Abbott was born without a right hand yet still managed to play 10 Major League Baseball seasons as a pitcher from 1989-1999. Abbott played for four different teams, most of them with the California Angels, the team that drafted him with their first pick in the 1988 MLB draft. He was highly touted entering the draft after a successful pitching career at the University of Michigan.
Jim Abbott’s amateur baseball career
In the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, South Korea, baseball was a demonstration sport, but Jim Abbott pitched the final game for the U.S. to win the unofficial gold medal.
At the University of Michigan, Abbott played from 1985-88 and twice led the Wolverines to Big Ten titles. In 1987, Abbott was named the recipient of the Jim Sullivan Award, which is given out to the top amateur athlete in the United States. Abbott remains the lone baseball player to ever earn that award.
In 1988, Abbott was named the Big Ten Athlete of the Year and his No. 31 jersey at Michigan was retired. At Michigan, he compiled a record of 26-8 and had a 3.03 ERA. In 2007, Abbott was elected to the College Baseball Hall of Fame.
Abbott’s MLB career and no-hitter
The 1988 Major League Baseball draft was stacked, especially with pitchers, and Jim Abbott was the eighth player selected, taken by the California Angels. Andy Benes was the No. 1 selection that year, while Steve Avery and Gregg Olson, who both had long professional careers, were also chosen before Abbott.
Abbott made his Major League Baseball debut on April 8, 1989, and went 12-12 in his rookie season. In 1991, Abbott had his best season in the big leagues as he went 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA. He finished third in the CY Young Award voting.
For his career, Abbott finished with a record of 87-108 and had an ERA of 4.25. Although Abbott’s carer numbers aren’t earth-shattering, Abbott’s biggest highlight came on Sept. 4, 1993, as a member of the New York Yankees.
Against the Cleveland Indians, Abbott and the Yankees came away with a 4-0 victory in a game that was all Jim Abbott. The lefty went the distance and threw his first and only no-hitter. The feat still didn’t resonate with him even a day after it happened.
“I guess it kind of hit me walking in, seeing the people were still going crazy,” Abbott said then. “I’m thrilled about it. I didn’t think it would get this kind of reaction.”
What is Jim Abbott doing now?
After his lengthy Major League Baseball career, Abbott has settled down and has been touring the country as a motivational speaker. He speaks about overcoming challenges and his message is received loud and clear coming from a pitcher with one hand.
“Obviously, missing a hand growing up played a big part in who I was and my drive and my ambition,” Abbott said. “From that, you can’t help but take away the idea that sometimes a little adversity, a little challenge in our lives can be the push that we need to find the strength and the resiliency inside of us, and really to win an appreciation for the other blessings that we have.
“Motivational speaking has, hopefully, made a positive impact with the message that I have. That life has allowed me to be around the house a lot and raise two daughters, which I’m very proud of as well.”
Abbott lives in California with his wife Dana and two daughters, Maddy and Ella.