Sat 7 Apr, 2012 10:26 am
Imperfect: An Improbable Life
by Jim Abbott & Tim Brown
Publication Date: April 3, 2012
On an overcast September day in 1993, Jim 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 Imperfect, the one-time big league ace retraces his remarkable journey.
Born without a right hand, Jim Abbott as a boy dreamed of being a great athlete. Raised in Flint, Michigan, by parents who saw in his condition not a disability but an extraordinary opportunity, Jim became a two-sport standout in high school, then an ace pitcher for the University of Michigan.
But his journey was only beginning.
As a nineteen-year-old, Jim beat the vaunted Cuban National Team. By twenty-one, 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 would finish third in the voting for the Cy Young Award. Two years later, he would don Yankee pinstripes and deliver a one-of-a-kind no-hitter.
It wouldn’t always be so good. After a season full of difficult losses—some of them by football scores—Jim was released, cut off from the game he loved. Unable to say good-bye so soon, Jim tried to come back, pushing himself to the limit—and through one of the loneliest experiences an athlete can have.
But always, even then, there were children and their parents waiting for him outside the clubhouse doors, many of them with disabilities like his, seeking consolation and advice. These obligations became Jim’s greatest honor.
In this honest and insightful memoir, Jim 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. With a riveting pitch-by-pitch account of his no-hitter providing the ideal frame for his story, this unique athlete offers readers an extraordinary and unforgettable memoir.
Advance praise for Imperfect
“Jim Abbott is the embodiment of perseverance. The obstacles that he was able to overcome to play the game at the highest level are remarkable and his story can teach all of us valuable lessons. Jim was a fierce competitor. He never viewed his disability as a disadvantage and, as a result, it wasn’t. Imperfect is a terrific story and the best part is that it’s true.” —Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
“As I read Imperfect: An Improbable Life, Jim Abbott’s love for the game jumped off the pages. It was like Jim was right in front of me telling me his life’s journey. I felt his pain, hurt, joy, exhilaration, disappointment and accomplishments throughout his life. Jim has always been and continues to be an inspiration for all of us.”—Don Mattingly, former New York Yankee captain and current Los Angeles Dodgers manager
“The story of Jim Abbott—wonderfully crafted by Tim Brown—is everything you’d expect from a baseball life: funny, heartbreaking, and triumphant, though not necessarily in that order. Still, to label this fine book ‘an inspiration’ almost misses the larger point. Imperfect isn’t about learning to cope with a disability. It’s about becoming a man in America.”—Mark Kriegel, author of Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich and Namath: A Biography
“Jim Abbott was 20–22 as a pitcher for the Yankees, and yet, as a man who played the game with one hand, an argument should be made that he belongs among the greatest players of all time. In Imperfect: An Improbable Life, Abbott and one of America's leading sports journalists, Tim Brown, tell the amazing story of a man’s dignity and grace in overcoming a forbidding physical hurdle to pitch 10 big-league seasons and to throw a no-hitter. Abbott won every day he took the mound. This book is required inspirational reading for all fans of the human spirit.”—Ian O’Connor, New York Times bestselling author of The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter and Arnie & Jack
“If you think you knew the inspirational story of Jim Abbott, think again. With Tim Brown, Abbott gives an unflinching account of his remarkable baseball life—the joys and the pains. With each chapter you know him better and root even harder for him.”—Tom Verducci, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and New York Times bestselling co-author of The Yankee Years
“Imperfect is one of the finest baseball memoirs ever written, an honest, touching, and beautifully rendered story that will remind even the most jaded fans why they loved the game. It is far more than a book about baseball; it is a deeply felt story of triumph and failure, dreams and disappointments. Jim Abbott has hurled another gem.”—Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season
About the Author
Jim Abbott was a major league pitcher with the Los Angeles Angels and the New York Yankees, among other teams. Born in 1967, he was an All-American at Michigan; won a gold medal with the 1988 Olympic baseball team; and threw a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium in 1993. He retired in 1999. Abbott has worked with the Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, has been a guest pitching instructor for the Los Angeles Angels, and has appeared as a motivational speaker. He lives with his wife and two children in Anaheim.
Tim Brown is an award-winning writer with twenty years of experience covering Major League Baseball at the Los Angeles Times, The Star-Ledger, Cincinnati Enquirer, and Los Angeles Daily News. He studied journalism at the University of Southern California and Cal State Northridge, and currently works for Yahoo! Sports.
Inspiring, February 29, 2012
By Terry Crock (Massillon, Ohio USA)
I am somewhat prejudiced in writing this review because Jim Abbot once wrote a letter to my son, Sam. Sam was born with a handicapped arm and hand. When he was in grade school, the school guidance counselor contacted Jim Abbot and asked him if he would write my son a letter. Jim did. And it was not just a form letter of some kind; it was a personal letter to Sam. My son was very impressed that a major league baseball player would write to him. He could relate to what Jim told him because he and Jim had similar handicaps. Anyway, to keep a short story short, Sam was very excited and inspired that Jim wrote to him.
So what does that have to do with the book? Well, nothing, I guess, other than to point out what type of man Jim is. But anyway, back to the book. To sum it up, this is a well-written, interesting, and inspiring story of a man who didn't give up.
Like all of us Jim had his ups and downs, both before he became a major league player and during the times he was one. At one point in his career the big league basically gave up on him. But he didn't give up, and he came back to pitch again. That is what is inspiring. The guy just didn't give up. And because of my son, I know what Jim means when he talks about hiding his hand in his pocket. I know it is not easy being someone who is different than others. However, really Jim, why pick on the Cleveland Indians when pitching that no-hitter? Man, we have enough sports problems in northeast Ohio without something like that. That's right, I'm a Cleveland sports fan. That isn't easy you know.
It was interesting to read it was not until he reached the major leagues that Jim felt as if he were finally judged just as an athlete instead of the "pitcher with one hand," because it took until then before his missing hand came secondary to his wins vs. losses record. Because of my son, it is even more interesting to read of Jim's childhood and how other kids related to him. I know as a parent what it is like to see the sadness on my son's face when he overheard a comment or saw a mime action, or saw the stares of those looking at his arm. I know what it is like to have a son that wants to hide his hand in his pocket or who wears long sleeves shirts all summer so no one can see his arm and hand. So I can relate to how Jim's parent's felt, and I can somewhat understand what Jim went through because my son is going through the same thing. But this brings me to another situation where Jim was not judged by his number of hands. I know when he wrote my son a letter, my son didn't care whether Jim had one hand or five; all he knew was that a major league athlete took the time from his busy schedule to write him a personal letter of encouragement. And instead of sadness in his eyes, my son had a glint of joy, just because someone cared enough to do something nice. One hand, two hands; it didn't really matter.
Anyway, the book is enjoyable to read. It is well-written. It never gets dull. I like the way the book was divided up in telling the story (which you will understand once you read the book). This is an inspiring book for anyone to read, but probably even better for those who have children with handicaps to give to them to read.
I would recommend this book to everyone. And, by the way, my son Sam still has that letter Jim wrote him (and the picture). Sam is in high school now. He received the letter when he was in grade school. Jim Abbott's baseball career is impressive, but it is what he has done afterwards that is of greater importance. Jim Abbot is an inspiration to others. And that is why I like this book, not because he was a major league baseball player, but because he uses his gifts to help others. And, frankly, I like stories that inspire. There are too few of them.
And thank you Jim Abbott for giving my son a day that made him smile when he received that letter. It meant a lot to him. And it meant even more to me. Still does.
Simply a great book!, March 5, 2012
By Rushmore (CHICAGO, IL United States)
When I was little and I finished a book I had loved, I would hug it to me.
I haven't done that for years, decades.
I hugged this book.
I have always been intrigued by Jim Abbott and was pleased when he played briefly for my beloved White Sox. It is amazing to me, as to so many others, that he could become a one-handed Major League pitcher.
It wasn't until I read this book that I realized - and it seems so obvious now - that Jim Abbott wanted more than anything not to be known as the one-handed guy. He just wanted to play baseball.
He is so unstinting in telling his story. He grew up in Flint, Michigan, where times were tough and sports were everywhere. His family life was complicated. He knew from a very young age that he loved baseball, and he worked hard to become a baseball player. Along the way he attended the University of Michigan which had always been his dream; played for the U.S. Baseball team and won a gold medal at the Olympics in Seoul; played for several major and minor league baseball teams; and on September 3, 1993, he threw a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. And then there were the children. He always found time for the challenged children and their families who looked up to him.
Jim Abbott is incredibly humble and repeatedly thanks the people who have supported him throughout his life, from his dad who wrote him a note that said "Proud of you, son," to his teammates and coaches, to the teacher who taught him how to tie his shoes. Jim Abbott walked away from Major League Baseball when he was just 31 years old.
So now you know the plot of this book. You need to read it yourself to find out how beautifully written it is. The writing team of Jim Abbott and Tim Brown (a Yahoo! Sports baseball columnist) is simply magical. The story itself is in many respects a pretty routine tale of a journeyman baseball player, but it is written with such dignity, such humanity, and occasional sly humor. His description of Lance Parrish's athletic cup is probably worth the price of the book.
Just for good measure, there are insights into the mind and methods of Abbott's agent, the notorious Scott Boras, and also accounts of his relationship with a rather quirky sports psychologist by the name of Harvey Dorfman. Abbott's Major League career had more downs than ups. The challenges he faced, at least the ones he writes about, were definitely mental rather than physical, and Dorfman really had Abbott's number. It is so cool to read about.
I have tried to hold myself back from gushing about this book. Gushy reviews aren't very useful when you're trying to decide whether to invest time in reading a book. This is a book about a unique and exceptional human being. There's a lot of baseball in it but it's not too technical. There's also a lot of psychology in it. So if you're interested in a really neat guy telling his story, the baseball detail will not be overwhelming. If you love baseball, the details of the no-hitter (each inning pitched is its own chapter interspersed through the narrative of his life story), there is plenty of baseball to geek out on.
I can't imagine a better way to observe the start of spring training than by reading this wonderful book. This is a guy you want to read about. He doesn't pull any punches, he is honest and thoughtful. I hope this isn't the only book this pair ever writes. I wouldn't mind reading about the 13 years since Abbott retired. He has a very special voice and I am so glad to have found this book.