Other Free Encyclopedias » Famous Sports Stars » Baseball » Jim Abbott Biography - The Abbott Switch, Into The Majors, Chronology, Down, But Not Out, Career Statistics

Jim Abbott - Into The Majors

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Abbott finished his junior year at the University of Michigan by garnering honors including the Golden Spikes Award as outstanding amateur baseball player in the United States; and the Sullivan Memorial Trophy as America's outstanding amateur athlete. It was only a matter of time before the Major Leagues came calling. Abbott decided to forego his senior year in favor of a spot on the California Angels roster. When he reported for practice in March, 1989, however, the first-round draft choice was discouraged to learn that there was some lingering doubt about his ability to hold his own in big-league ball. "There are times it hurts," he told Sport reporter Johnette Howard. "Especially when you work as hard and do as much as anybody else has done, you feel maybe there's not much more to prove, and yet, there's still that skepticism."

Still, Abbott's debut against the Seattle Mariners in April, 1989, drew enormous press coverage. The pitcher rose to the occasion, striking out four batters and giving up no runs and just two singles. He followed that up by what was considered an outstanding rookie season, with an 8-5 win-loss record, all while under heavy scrutiny. No doubt, Abbott's one-handed game contributed to the constant barrage of reporters and photographers. So in-demand was the young star that Angels manager Doug Rader told Sports Illustrated writer Bruce Anderson that Abbott "had to answer some of the dumbest, most undignified questions I've ever heard, but he's handled everything with dignity and grace. And he's one helluva pitcher."

Beyond the limelight, Abbott faced the realities of professional baseball. "It's hard work," he admitted to Rob Brofman in a 1989 Life interview. "It's hard sitting there in the dugout for nine innings every day doing nothing. It's boring but the worst part is the insecurity—never knowing exactly where you're supposed to be, what's going on." On the other hand, "the best part of being a rookie is the newness of things," Abbott added. "You look in the locker and there's something new every day—a new jacket, new spikes, a new glove."

Chronology

1967 Born September 19, in Flint, Michigan
1978 Makes Little League debut as a pitcher
1985 Drafted by Toronto Blue Jays (turned down)
1985 Enrolls at University of Michigan; pitcher for UM Wolverines
1987 Pitches for U.S. team at Pan American Games
1988 Pitches for U.S. team at Summer Olympics, Seoul, Korea
1989 Professional debut with California Angels, April 8
1993 Traded to New York Yankees
1995 Signs with Chicago White Sox as a free-agent
1995 Traded to California Angels
1998 Contract with Chicago White Sox minor league
1999 Traded to Milwaukee Brewers
1999 Ends Major League career

By 1991 Abbott was no longer seen as a novelty, but as a hardworking professional—the best pitcher in the American League in September of that year. But as with the case of all athletes, his performance waxed and waned with the advancing years. After a poor 1992 season (7-15), Abbott was traded to the New York Yankees. In 1993-94 he contributed a nearly equal won-loss record (11-14, and 9-8) while his Earned Run Average rose to 4.55. Abbott played for the Chicago White Sox before returning to the Angels in 1995. The following year the one-time sensation posted a disastrous season—2 wins, 18 losses, and a 7.48 ERA.

Jim Abbott - Chronology [next] [back] Jim Abbott - The Abbott Switch

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