Update on former M-baseball great Jim Abbott

Submitted by ST3 on October 14th, 2010 at 9:19 PM

    Jim Abbott gave a speech today where I work as part of an employees with disabilities awareness event. There was a board topic a couple days ago about a UofM-related 30 for 30 special. I think Jim's life story would be a perfect choice for 30 for 30. A few highlights: he pitched the gold-medal winning game for the USA in the '88 Olympics, he was 3rd in the Cy Young voting one year, and he pitched a no-hitter in Yankee Stadium. For more info, see: http://www.jimabbott.info/biography.html.

    He spoke for an hour and I was on the edge of my seat for the whole time. He claims he's semi-retired now. He does some public speaking and works as a pitching instructor in the Angels system. He had many great stories to tell, but I'll only share a couple.

    When he was in 2nd grade, his teacher noticed that Jim's shoes weren't tied. This is not surprising, given that Jim was born without a right hand. According to Jim, the teacher went home and figured out how to tie his own shoes with one hand and his fist, to mimic the end of Jim's right arm. He then taught Jim how to tie his shoes. Jim told this story with as much energy and emotion as when he told his story about winning the gold medal or pitching a no-hitter. If there are any teachers out there reading this, you can make a huge difference in a child's life. You never know what event or action will turn a kid around, or give them confidence in themselves, but it is beautiful when it happens. I must admit, my eyes were getting a little moist as Jim told the story.

    The second story to note here was about his start the game before his no-hitter. He was facing the Indians in Cleveland, the same team he would no-hit 5 days later. Only in this game, he gave up 10 hits, 5 walks, and 7 runs in 3 innings. He was terribly upset and left the stadium to go running around Cleveland while the game was still in progress. When he got back to the stadium, the yanks had rallied to win. Jim's message was that in the first game, he didn't trust his stuff. In the no-hitter, he trusted that his catcher Matt Nokes would call a good game and he trusted in his own ability. He said that most of the great occasions in his life followed difficult times. I could only think of our Wolverines coming off this past weekend. Hopefully we've learned some lessons and will come out strong against the hawkeyes. Denard needs to trust in his ability to throw the ball like he did in the first 5 games, and in the offense to run the ball. If UofM does that, gets some stops on defense, and protects the football, we'll be right back on track.

Go Blue! 




October 14th, 2010 at 9:34 PM ^

Very cool to hear.

My 3rd year at UM I had moved into a house on the corner of Arch and White streets.  The Notre Dame game was at home that year and we were parking cars on the lawn out front, having some beers, throwing the football around and basically just enjoying the morning.  This guy comes up and says he used to live in the house and asked if he could come in and see his old room.  As he was walking past I noticed he was missing one hand and realized it was Jim Abbott.  He was kind enough to pose for a picture with me and my housemates before he left.

My camera was stolen that night.  They didn't leave the film.  :(

PSALM 23 Rod N…

October 14th, 2010 at 9:34 PM ^

JIm is a great guy.   His stories and life experiences were/are inspirational.    He bleeds blue.   Jim was a guest at our MSU v UM tailgate with a bunch of mutual friends.  He always takes the time to personally talk to  all of his old teachers administrators, parents of his friends, and coaches.   Best of all, he took the time to throw a football for about 20 minutes with my 9 year old son.

Mitch Cumstein

October 14th, 2010 at 9:43 PM ^

To really have experienced him as a player, but everything I read or hear about him is remarkable.  He is a very inspirational character and I agree that a 30 for 30 about him would be quite interesting.


October 14th, 2010 at 10:06 PM ^

Being on the west coast I am a Seattle Mariners fan and remember watching in 1995 when the Angels and Mariners were battling for 1st place in the AL West.  I was amazed to see a pitcher in the big leagues with only one hand.  My dad explained a little bit about him and that he went to Michigan and I instantly became a fan.  Jim is truly an inspiration.


October 14th, 2010 at 9:44 PM ^

Great stories.  The teacher story is amazing.  Thanks for sharing this.  Not a fan of the Yanks, but this was one time, I did cheer for them.


October 14th, 2010 at 10:11 PM ^

being absolutely blown away by his fielding. That guy could get his glove onto his hand after releasing the pitch with near-dilithium speed. Think about it - he had a successful major-league pitching career with ONE hand. Unbelievable.


October 14th, 2010 at 10:55 PM ^

You could always tell when Abbott was pitching because there was a lot more traffic around the stadium.  He could hit, too.  It sorta demoralized opposing pitchers when he got a hit off of them. 

Watching him back then, if you didn't know ahead of time that he had a handicap, you probably wouldn't notice it.  He was very, very smooth on the mound.  On a team with four or five other future major leaguers, he held his own.


October 14th, 2010 at 11:56 PM ^

I remember seeing Jim at Tiger Staduim when he was in town with the Angels.  I was around 10 and he was signing autographs until right before the game.  He was the only one out there doing that.  Class act all the way.


October 15th, 2010 at 2:37 AM ^

I found the Jim Abbott Michigan baseball shirt that they gave out at Ray Fisher when they retired his number at the salvation army this summer!

I wear the shirt at least once a week down here at my college, and I love talking about him every chance I get!

He's embodies what a Michigan Man is.  And why the people down in Columbus will never be as special as the men they make in Ann Arbor.

End of story.

PSALM 23 Rod N…

October 15th, 2010 at 6:50 AM ^

Jim could do it all.   As a youth Football coach, we have experienced Center Quarterback fumbled exchanges.  I remember watching JIm play QB for Flint Central in a High School Playoff game at Lansing in about 30 degree weather.   No Fumbles.  


He was also fierce in the South Quad/West Quad snow ball fight.    I remember Football Player WR Greg McMurtry, who also played CF for Baseball team throwing darts at Jimmy.   I remember Jimmy throwing 90 mph darts back.    (Advantage McMurtry, he made a better snow ball for obvious reasons)


October 15th, 2010 at 7:05 AM ^

one good memory of Jim Abbott..he went to Flint Central, I went to Midland Dow...I got to bat against and pitch to Jim Abbott.  We hit a homerun late to win at there place 5-3. 


October 15th, 2010 at 12:46 PM ^

that story was awesome for me to read.  i love to help out those that appear to folks to not be of the athlete variety!  i want to inspire children to grow up strong, healthy and wanting to stick with working out and staying healthy for thier lifetime.  that is hard to do, day in and day out think about your health, whether eating right and/or exercising.  in having only one hand from birth Jim mentioned in the clip (paraphrased) 'i have always had one hand so it is natural for me to do things with one hand'.  He could have given up at any point and said i dont want to do this anymore and feel sorry for himself!  He obviously overcame those feelings and succeeded athletically and in life!  i teach in a VERY impoverished neighborhood where school is not highly thought of outside of a baby sitting service and where most of the boys grow up to roam these streets.  it would be awesome to have children come back one day and say 'mr. miller i became a teacher; i have an awesome family and my children love school; i am a scientist; i went to college and graduated, and you helped me believe in myself!  thank you for sharing this thread with all of us.  i am pumped to be the best teacher i can be!  GO BLUE beat iowa!