James Anthony Abbott (born September 19 , 1967), was a Major League Baseball pitcher for the California Angels, the New York Yankees, the Chicago White Sox, and the Milwaukee Brewers, from 1989 to 1998. Abbott is best known for playing despite having no right hand.
While with the University of Michigan, Abbott won the James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's best amateur athlete in 1987 and won a gold medal in the 1988 Summer Olympics. He was drafted in the first round of the 1988 Major League Baseball Draft and reached the Majors the next year. He threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians in 1993. Abbott retired with a career record of 87 wins and 108 losses, with a 4.25 earned run average. He currently works as a motivational speaker.
Abbott was born in Southfield, Michigan and moved to Flint, Michigan shortly afterwards. He was born without a right hand. He was picked up by the Ypsilanti MI team in American Legion and went to win the championship. He graduated from Flint Central High School in Michigan where he was a stand-out pitcher and as an American football quarterback led his team to the state championships. He was drafted in the 36th round by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 1985 Major League Baseball Draft but didn't sign, instead moving on to the University of Michigan.
He played for Michigan three years, from 1985 to 1989, leading them to two Big Ten championships. In 1987, he won the James E. Sullivan Award as the top amateur athlete in the United States, becoming the first baseball pitcher to win that award. The same year Jim pitched for the United States at the Pan-American Games, winning a silver medal. The highlight of his amateur career was when he pitched the final game in the 1988 Summer Olympics, winning a gold medal for the United States. Jim was voted the Big Ten male athlete of the year in 1988, receiving the Jesse Owens Award. Abbott would be selected 8th overall by the California Angels in the 1988 draft.
In 1989 he jumped directly from the University of Michigan into the Angels' starting rotation without playing a single minor league game. In his rookie year, he posted a 12-12 record with an ERA of 3.92 at the age of twenty-one. His 12 wins in his first professional season were the most since Mark Fidrych won 19 for the Detroit Tigers in 1976, and he finished fifth in the year's rookie of the year voting.
Abbott's best season was in 1991, when with the California Angels he won 18 games while posting an ERA of 2.89, finishing third in the American League Cy Young Award voting. He also pitched well in 1992 season, posting an even better 2.77 ERA, but his win-loss record fell to 7-15 for the sixth-place Angels. In 1992 Abbott was also honoured with the Tony Conigliaro Award.
On September 4, 1993 while pitching for the Yankees, Abbott threw a no-hitter against the Cleveland Indians.
Although Abbott pitched effectively for the Yankees and White Sox before returning to the Angels, he never recaptured his 1991 form. He struggled through the 1996 season, posting a disastrous 2-18 record with a 7.48 ERA and briefly retired.
He returned to the White Sox in 1998, starting five games and winning all five. Abbott continued his comeback the following year with the Brewers, but pitched ineffectively. However, his stint in Milwaukee was notable as it was the first time he had played for a National League team, thus forcing him to bat for the first time in his career.
Abbott retired with a career record of 87-108, with a 4.25 ERA. He currently works as a motivational speaker. Abbott has come back to Yankee Stadium to pitch on Old Timer's Day.
During play, Abbott wore a left-handed glove over the stump on his right arm, swapping the glove to his left to catch return throws from the catcher. When fielding, he would most often keep the glove on his stump and knock the ball down, allowing a quicker transition to making a throw. Despite his physical limitations, he was considered an above average fielder.
Batting was not an issue for Abbott for the majority of his career, since the American League uses the designated hitter. He did bat for himself during spring training games. When Abbott joined the National League's Brewers in 1999 he had 2 hits in 21 at-bats. It is worth noting that Abbott once tripled in a spring training game (in 1991 off of veteran Rick Reuschel) when in the American League and it is widely believed that he would not have been any more a liability than any other pitcher when batting.