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Reader's Corner Idaho Statesman Column
Mon July 23, 2012
"Imperfect: An Improbable Life" By Jim Abbott
In addition to following their favorite team stats and player profiles, devoted baseball fans owe it to themselves to add Jim Abbott’s new memoir, “Imperfect: An Improbable Life,” to their must-read list.
On an overcast September day in 1993, Abbott took the mound at Yankee Stadium and threw one of the most dramatic no-hitters in major league history. The game was the crowning achievement in an unlikely success story, unseen in the annals of professional sports.
In his new memoir, “Imperfect: An Improbable Life,” the one-time big league ace retraces his remarkable journey. Born without a right hand, a young Abbott dreamed of being a great athlete. He became a two-sport standout in high school, then an ace pitcher for the University of Michigan. At 19, Abbott beat the vaunted Cuban National Team. By 21, he’d won the gold medal game at the 1988 Olympics and — without spending a day in the minor leagues — cracked the starting rotation of the California Angels. In 1991, he finished third in the voting for the Cy Young Award. Two years later, he donned Yankee pinstripes and delivered his one-of-a-kind no-hitter.
In his honest and insightful memoir, Abbott reveals the insecurities of a life spent as the different one, how he habitually hid his disability in his right front pocket, and why he chose an occupation in which the uniform provided no front pockets.
The book’s chapters offer a moment-by-moment account of his no-hitter, alternating with chapters on his deepest thoughts about what it was like to grow up with a disability, how he sought acceptance beyond what his appearance told people about him, how he always heard people murmuring about him but learned to play through the noise, and why he doesn’t want to be remembered just for being the “one-armed pitcher.” Baseball gave him a platform where he could be a little less different.
Abbott’s attitude is consistently that life has given him much more than it has taken away. His incredible optimism and winning spirit will inspire readers to re-think the obstacles in their own lives.