Saturday, December 21, 2013

Many more Michigan Men part 8: Jim Abbott

Previously: Part 1 (Chris Sabo)Part 2 (Kelly Dransfeldt, Scott Kamieniecki, Heath Murray, and Geoff Zahn)Part 3 (Mike Matheny)Part 4 (Steve Ontiveros)Part 5 (Drew Henson)Part 6 (Hal Morris), Part 7 (Charlie Gehringer and George Sisler)

A month or two ago I embarked upon a project of scanning all of the cards in my collection of any other Michigan Baseball alumni not already included on my Player Collections page. That includes anything that arrived via trade, was already in my collection otherwise, or was part of a complete set (or set in-progress). As you can imagine it took quite a while to get everything done, but about 250+ cards later, I finally have something to show for it! These posts will show off new player collections or new cards for existing PCs. Some players will join the group that I supercollect and others will be guys I just pick up whenever I can. If you have anything I don't and feel like trading, please let me know as I'd love to build up these collections!

Today's featured player is a guy who shows up in a lot of collectors' PCs, and I think that says a lot about him given his limited career and varying degrees of success.  Jim Abbott's story is well-known to collectors and baseball fans young and old, but it's still worth recapping briefly.
Jim was born in Flint, Michigan, and due to a deformity, was born without a right hand.  Thanks to a tenacious attitude and wonderfully supportive parents, he overcame that obstacle to become an improbably successful collegiate and pro pitcher.  His success started at Michigan (1985-88) and with the US teams of the '87 Pan American Games and '88 Olympics.  His resume included the 1987 Golden Spikes award (best amateur baseball player) and a Gold Medal in 1988 (with baseball being a demonstration sport at the time).

As if that wasn't unbelievable enough, he was the 8th overall pick in the '88 draft, selected by the Angels.  He rose to the Majors quickly the following season and won 47 games over four seasons, including 18 in 1991, before being traded to the Yankees in 1992 (in a deal that brought future Angels stalwart J.T. Snow to California).  On September 4 the following season, Jim threw one of the unlikeliest no-hitters in the history of the game, cementing his legend.  It was amazing enough that his unorthodox delivery, which included holding his glove on his right arm, then quickly transferring it his pitching hand, worked at all in amateur ball, and here he'd accomplished something many better pitchers never did!  Ultimately his success was somewhat short-lived as he appeared in just 10 Major League seasons, going 87-108, but the fact he reached the highest level of the game and achieved so much success has inspired many to overcome their own limitations, be they more manageable or severe.

Whenever I think about Abbott's inspiring story I love to reference a great clip from the tragically cancelled Party Down:

Jim Abbott indeed.

So today I'll highlight 35 new cards I added to my existing Abbott collection (all hits) to give me a new total of 40.  Since that's a lot to show off, I chose 10 that seemed to be good examples:

1989 Bowman RC
1989 Topps RC
1989 Upper Deck RC
These are Jim's three "flagship" set RCs I own; the rest appear to hail from traded and rookie-type sets, but I'll chase those eventually.  '89 Bowman has never been a favorite of mine since the cards are oversized and the design doesn't do much for me.  The Topps is an improvement despite the fact it comes from such a crappy junk wax set, since Abbott is photographed with Michigan.  And out of the three, I have to imagine that the most well-liked is my favorite, the multi-exposure, horizontal offering from Upper Deck's landmark set, giving you a bit of a look at how his delivery worked.

1992 Baseball Card Magazine '70 Topps Replicas
This is about as oddball as my Abbott collection gets, at least for now, although I do have stuff from other notables such as Classic and Post.

1992 Upper Deck (#78)
While I wouldn't consider this a "Michigan Uniform" card, the mock-up--designed to look like a college dorm room--is pretty cool.  Remember CRTs?  For the sake of completeness, here's the back, courtesy of COMC:
1992 Upper Deck #78 - Jim Abbott/Stay In School - Courtesy of
Stay in school, kids!  Forever!  Don't try to get a job, those don't exist anymore anyway.

1994 Ultra
I wanted to include a card of Abbott with each of the teams he played with, so here's my Yankees nomination:  a great horizontal version from 1994 Ultra, a set that featured great photography but a surprisingly stupid design on its cards that were rotated 90 degrees.  Make the writing horizontal too, idiots!  This is another nice look at his pitching motion, though.

1995 Pinnacle
Abbott signed with the ChiSox before the '95 season and played about half of it with them before heading back to the Angels in a trade.  Here he is, still wearing black and white with pinstripes, on a card from another of my favorite sets:  1995 Pinnacle.  The full-bleed photos are great, and the baseball seam area with the player's name and team are phenomenal.  As a White Sox Wolverine, it's no wonder he fits so prominently in Jeff's collecting interests.

1996 Upper Deck V.J. Lovero Showcase
I showed off this complete set more than a year ago on the other blog as it's one that most definitely deserves to be seen repeatedly thanks to the focus being on excellent photography done by a legend.  Card #1 in that set was Abbott, who gets a very nice portrait out of the deal.  Here's the back as I scanned in in that post covering the complete set:
Yep, I'd say that sums up the guy pretty well.

1999 Upper Deck
Our penultimate card of the day features the player with his ultimate team, the Brewers.  Jim was out for the '97 season, then appeared in five games (all wins) in his second tour with the White Sox in '98.  He then signed with Milwaukee for the 1999 season, although he went 2-8 in 20 games before hanging 'em up for good.  Here he is in a rare shot batting; the '99 season would feature Jim's only career ABs, and he amassed two hits and three RBI in 24 PAs.  How many one-handed players can boast THAT?

2003 Topps All-Time Fan Favorites
Lastly we have this Fan Favorites issue from 2003 which I included because I like the set so much.  It's actually one of several issues on which he features from the Fan Favorites/Archives offerings, which I know very well since I have at least one more incoming.  Considering his early success with the team, not to mention the hype that surrounded his accomplishment of making the Majors, it's no wonder he's still considered a fan-favorite years later.

While I'm at it, here's a quick reminder that Abbott's number has been retired by the University at Michigan's Ray Fisher Stadium,

and also that he's got a great biography out that I recommend titled Imperfect:  an Improbable Life that you should go grab on Amazon today!

All right, we've had eight days worth of posts, and we're down to just one player, so stay tuned!


  1. Funny thing is, I liked him before he played for the Sox and before I knew he played for Michigan. My dad had his arm amputated after cancer so I liked him for what he did with just that.

    1. I hear ya--there are lots of reasons to admire the guy no matter what team(s) he played for. I'm just extra proud that he happened to be a Michigan Man too!