September 19 – Happy Birthday Jim Abbott
The memory of watching Jim Abbott pitch still leaves me in awe. Born with no right hand, he defied incredible odds and became a front-line starting pitcher in the Major Leagues. He began his big league career as an Angel and in 1991, he finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting when he put together an 18-11 record with a 2.89 ERA. I still believe that year’s award should have gone to Abbott instead of Roger Clemens and consider the Angel lefthander’s 1991 season one of the most significant accomplishments in baseball history. The bad side was that Abbott pitched 246 innings to achieve those numbers and I believe the resulting wear and tear on his arm hurt the balance of his career.
The 1992 Yankees had experienced some horrible starting pitching. When a guy like Melido Perez is the ace of your staff, you know you need to acquire some arms. So when Abbott slumped to 7-15 for the Angels in ’92, he became available and the Yanks gave up a very good prospect named J.T Snow, to get him. New York had also signed free agent Jimmy Key giving them what they hoped would be two big winners for the front of their 1993 rotation. Key had a terrific year, going 18-6. Abbott, on the other hand, struggled, going 11-14 and seeing his ERA increase by a run and a half over the previous season. But he made the deal worth doing with just one incredible performance on September 4 of the 1993 season, when he threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.
Abbott’s Yankee career ended in 1994, when he went 9-8 during the strike-shortened season. He then became a free agent and signed with the White Sox. The low point of his career was 1996, when he returned to the Angels and suffered through a disastrous 2-18 season. He retired in 1999 after being released by the Brewers. His career record was 87-108 but his inspirational impact on America in general and the physically challenged among us in particular, was priceless.