Like I say there, I’m not a particularly organized or thoughtful collector. There are some players, of course, that I gravitate to. So… why not feature them in posts?
First up: Jim Abbott.
my very first post. My first MLB game was a particularly special one. September 4, 1993 at Yankee Stadium. I was 10 years old, I loved baseball, and at my first trip to a big-league stadium, Jim Abbott no-hit the Cleveland Indians. It was incredible.
Anyways, Abbott squared off against a Cleveland Indians lineup that included Kenny Lofton, Carlos Baerga, Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez (making his second career start), and Jim Thome.
- It was a gray day with a constant threat of rain. We were fearful we would make the 2 ½ hour trek from Upstate NY to the city for a rain out.
- There were a lot of empty seats.
- Abbott walked the first batter of the game – Kenny Lofton. I remember this because my host family for the day were immediately on his case.
- Manny Ramirez, a local who homered twice in his MLB debut the night before, had a large following. I didn’t understand why so many Yankees fans cheered him.
- Lofton tried to bunt in the ninth inning. Oh my goodness, that was not met favorably by the NYY fans.
- The popcorn was stale.
- After the second out of the ninth inning was recorded – on a deep drive to center – it was loud. It was exciting as anything I had experienced in my 10 years on this planet. I had to stand on my seat to see the final out and post-game celebration. When Abbott doffed his cap before heading to the clubhouse I fell while jumping up and down. It was a thrill.
I haven’t mentioned it yet, though I assume if your reading a baseball card blog you – more likely than not – know Jim Abbott’s story. Abbott achieved success in collegiate, Olympic, and MLB success despite having been born without a right hand.
Abbott pitched three years at Michigan (1985-1988), leading the Wolverines to two Big Ten Championships. He won the James E. Sullivan Award – the first baseball player to do so – given to the top amateur athlete in the U.S. Baseball was a demonstration sport at the 1988 Summer Olympics and Abbott pitched the final game, winning an unofficial gold medal.
Abbott broke out in 1991 with a 2.89 ERA over 243 innings. He posted an 18-11 record and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting. In ’92 he lowered his ERA to 2.77 but suffered a 7-15 win-loss record.
The strike-shortened 1994 season, in which he went 9-8 with a 4.55 ERA was his last in pinstripes. He’d sign with Chicago White Sox before the ’95 season and was traded back to the Angels in July. The Angels squandered an 11-game division lead in August, losing a one-game playoff to the Mariners.
He’d return to the White Sox in 1998, winning each of his five starts. He signed with Milwaukee for ’99, but struggled with a 2-8 record and a 6.91 ERA.