Former major league pitcher Jim Abbott has inspired many fans just by being on the field. The odds against a player with only one hand making it through all of the levels of baseball to the top are incalculable. How could he both catch and throw? Through sheer willpower, he found a way to be able to rise from Little League to pro ball. He tells his story in Imperfect: An Improbable Life.
Being a role model for physically challenged children and adults, however, was never Abbott's intent, but he decided it was his responcibility. The difficulty was that he grew weary of pity very early in his life. His plan was to refer to his missing hand as little as possible. Of course, his missing hand was what journalists noticed first and predictably asked about. He had to outlast the notariety and prove he was an effective pitcher to ever get a story that did not label him as the player with one hand. He also knew in his heart that he had to respond to every child who sent him a letter, sign as many autographs as possible, and meet families who made special trips hoping to meet him. He was a nice guy. Too nice according to his agent and sports psychologist.
Like Sandy Koufax: A Lefty's Legacy by Jane Leavy, Abbott's book alternates the story of a pitcher's best game with the story of his regrettably short career. Readers come to admire both men. Imperfect will be most liked by sports fans and people with physical challenges of their own.
Abbott, Jim and Tim Brown. Imperfect: An Improbable Life. Ballantine Books, 2012. 283p. ISBN 9780345523259.