On the surface, Jim Abbott was a pretty forgettable major league pitcher. In the course of his four-team, 10-year career, the Flint, Mich., native compiled an 87-108 record. He was never an All-Star, never a World Series participant. Just, well, OK.
That's why, 13 years after his last game, the saga told in Abbott's new autobiography, "Imperfect: An Improbable Life" (Ballantine, $26), still resonates. It's not merely another baseball tale. It's a story of how to fight, overcome and, ultimately, thrive. Abbott will be at Book Revue in Huntington on Monday to talk about his story.
You gained great fame as a rookie one-handed pitcher with the California Angels in 1989. But you haven't played in a major league game in 13 years. Why write a book now?
Why now? I wasn't ready to write a book when I was playing and, even if I was ready, I couldn't have. The world of professional sports is very sheltered and protective, and to have written a book as an active player would have violated something. Believe me, I had plenty of offers. But I was 28. What did I know? Also, like many people, I've had a lot of experiences I've had to reconcile. That takes time and maturity. I was finally ready.
In the book, you describe your relationship with your hand as "blurred." What does that mean?
It came in and out of focus. There were days and weeks when I never even thought about only having one hand. Then, there were other periods where it was right up front and in my face. Maybe it was a tease or taunt at a playground; maybe a coach trying to exploit something.
You're 44 years old, now. Do you even think about the hand any longer?
It never goes away. It's there, it's me, and it's always part of my experience. The opening chapter of the book is me going to my daughter's preschool class to speak. I'm going to talk about my career, but inevitably most of the questions are about my hand. When I go to the airport and I give the TSA agent my license, they double check and look at my hand. So I can't say it ever goes away. But I've more than come to grips with it.
That's definitely fair, and I'm appreciative of that. As a baseball player, I always wanted to be judged on the standard of my pitching. And I still want to be judged as all others are judged. The intent of the book was never to take advantage. I've had a different experience than others, and I thought it was worth discussing. I still receive a lot of cards and letters and emails from kids and parents. I send out a lot of responses that contain three, four paragraphs and a photo. I wish I had time to write more, but I don't. So, in a sense, I view this book as an answer to those letters and calls. This is my response.