Saturday, November 16, 2013

Into the Sunset, Pt. 22: Jim Abbott

Jim Abbott is one of my heroes.

While he seems like fairly modest individual from what I've read, the former big leaguer was an inspiration to many people during his career, baseball fans or not.

In his book, Abbott mentioned that he didn't like when people thought of him as simply the major league pitcher without a right hand. He once refused to sign a ball that had previously been autographed by former one-armed St. Louis Brown outfielder Pete Gray.

While he's a lot more than just "the guy with one hand" to me, it does need to be said that Abbott achieved a great deal of success in the big leagues without a right hand. 

The guy made it to the majors without playing a single game in the minor leagues in 1989. He won 18 games in 1991. He even threw a no-hitter with the Yankees in 1994.

And, as I've said many times before on this blog, Abbott has what I believe to be the best rookie card ever printed. His multiple-image '89 UD first-year piece is the absolute king of rookies as far as I'm concerned.

His "sunset" collection isn't half bad, either.

Unfortunately, Abbott basically toiled in anonymity after his 1994 no-hitter.

After a brief stint with the White Sox in 1995, he returned to the Angels franchise.

While I don't like noting this, he probably had one of the worst seasons by any pitcher in history in 1996, going 2-18 with an awful 7.48 ERA. The Angels sent him down to the minors at one point that year, which was Abbott's first stint at anything but the big league level.

He ended up sitting out the entire 1997 season. But, to further strengthen his never-say-die attitude, he made a push to return to the bigs in '98 with the White Sox. Good numbers in the minors earned him a September call-up to the big club.

Abbott went 5-0 in five starts on the South Side, albeit with a 4.55 ERA.

To my knowledge, his '99 Fleer Tradition issue is the only one that features his brief second stint with the White Sox.

I picked it up as part of a recent impulse buy.

The '99 Fleer Tradition Abbott was the last one I needed to finish my "sunset" collection of his.

I think.

As is the case with most guys who ended their careers in the '90s or early 2000's, I can never be sure that I have the complete "sunset" catalog. Thanks to the gluttony of sets present during the era, there's a decent chance that one previously unknown piece might be floating around somewhere.

I will say, though, that I've searched far and wide for Jim Abbott's final cards, more so than perhaps any other player. All I've been able to come up with are the three you'll see in this post.

Abbott's tenure with the White Sox in '98 earned him a spot on the Brewers roster the very next year. It wouldn't be much of a success, as the hurler went 2-8 with a 6.91 ERA for Milwaukee.

He was released in July of '99 after informing the Brewers of his plans to retire.

I'm going to do something I've never done in the history of this blog. I'm actually going to give the Skybox Dominion brand a little credit. I doubt many collectors even remember these things.

Despite its relatively obscure status, Dominion did produce one of the two cards I own of Abbott as a Brewer.

The other one, though, blows Skybox out of the water.

Jim Abbott didn't just get the greatest rookie card ever.

He was also lucky enough to receive one of the greatest "sunset" issues I've ever seen, to boot.

I've never found 1999 Upper Deck to be all that exciting. I've seen it fittingly described as the "salad tongs" design in the past.

The set's one saving grace, however, is the very card you see above.

I probably pulled this card from an actual Upper Deck pack in 1999. I've had it since my early collecting days. Even before I really cared about "sunset" cards, it had always been one of my most treasured pieces.

As far as I know, this was one of the cards that inspired me to start collecting "pitchers at the plate". Having spent the previous nine years of his career in the American League, Abbott had never taken a big league at-bat before he joined the Brewers in 1999.

In case you're wondering, he went 2-for-21 (a .095 batting average) with three RBIs during his brief stint in the National League. The fact that he collected any hits is a shock to me.

Then again, I'm sure Jim Abbott surprised a lot of people during his career.

It was just his nature.



Mine too !

Jim is the one non-Indian whom I have a separate album for.

P-town Tom said...

Jim is one of two players in my albums who isn't a Cub or who has local ties to my hometown.

The other player has his number retired across MLB.