Sunday, November 4, 2012

Jim Abbott's Perfectly Imperfect Life

Jim Abbott 
At Fullerton, CA Public Library 
Sunday 11.4.12; 12 Noon

Jim Abbott
Imperfect:   An Improbable Life 
By Jim Abbott and Tim Brown 
Ballantine: 288 pp., $26 
Five Scoops of Bosco

Reviewed by Allen Bacon, The Daily Bosco

When it comes to putting sports figures up on a pedestal and calling them a hero, I very rarely do that.

Sports figures are human beings like the rest of us with faults and imperfections.

We usually are disappointed to find out that our heroes aren't quite as heroic as we think they are.

I did make an exception.... Once.  I think if I had to hang the title of hero on a sports figure it would be former California Angel Pitcher Jim Abbott.

I first saw Jim Abbott, who speaks in promotion of his book Imperfect: An Improbable Life at the Fullerton Public Library in Southern California Sunday,  pitching for Michigan against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in a tournament inside the Metrodome in Minneapolis.

I could not believe what I was seeing.  I had to do a double take.

The kid on the mound had no hand and a stump for an arm.  Yet he was pitching and fielding his position as naturally as any fully developed person....maybe even better.

Then I saw him bat.  Turns out he was a good hitter too.  How?  I still don't know.

They used to do this exercise in baseball practice where you hit with one hand to strengthen yourself when you actually put two hands on the ball.  Imagine doing that in a game situation which is exactly what he had to do in High School and College.

Then, as everybody else on the planet, we were surprised and in awe when Abbott helped Team USA win a Baseball Gold Medal at the 1988 Olympics.

Well surely, we thought, that's pretty good but he won't make it out of the Minor Leagues on the Pro Levels.

But there he was less than a year later pitching for my home team, The California Angels.

Jim Abbott continued to amaze us year after year to the point we forgot he even had a deformity.  And, we were heartbroken when our favorite Angel of all time was traded and ended up with, gasp, The enemy, The New York Yankees.

He had a few rough seasons as a lot of pitchers do, but I continued to root for him, and when he pitched his no-hitter as a member of the Yankees, I could not be happier.

What have I learned from my hero Jim Abbott?

I learned that no matter what, through the biggest setback, if you want something bad enough you can accomplish anything.

I also learned that when times are not going well, to hang tough and continue to work hard, keep the faith, and you can make a comeback

No comments: