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He wouldn't say it exactly, because precision with words wasn't his specialty, but my father was the first to ask me, "So, what are you going to do about it?"
The question itself --framed as a challenge--came years later from a sports psychologist, long after I'd become an adult and as I was nearing fatherhood. My father had warmed me to the answer.
I was born when my dad was 18, barely out of adolescence himself, not yet married to my mother, and coping with his own response to a savagely simple call to obligation. I was born without a right hand, which, in 1967, qualified me as "crippled," predecessor to "handicapped," then "disabled," then "challenged."
So, what was he going to do about it? What were we going to do about it?
Well, we fished. We rode a bike. We flew a kite. And, eventually, we played ball. In Flint, Michigan, that's what boys did, what fathers and sons did. They played ball.
When I went out into the world and felt like I'd been spit out the other side, my father would turn me around, open the front door and send me back out.
He'd lost his own father at a young age, and his childhood with him. He replaced both with a desire to see more, and experience more. When everyone went right, Dad, often enough, went left. It wasn't willfulness, but instinct. He raised me in the same manner, from a soul that told him I'd need to fall down in order to stand. If he caught me today, I'd need someone to catch me and help me up tomorrow, and that wouldn't work at all.
He let me fail, with the faith it would teach me to succeed. I learned that it was as hard on him as it was on me, but not until my own children had fallen and risen themselves. Now one of my daughters will come to me, her eyes moist and swollen, and I'll think of my dad and what he said. In a quiet moment, I'll look at my little girl and I'll ask her:
"Well, honey, what are we going to do about it?"
Advance praise for Imperfect
“Jim Abbott is the embodiment of perseverance. The obstacles that he was able to overcome to play the game at the highest level are remarkable and his story can teach all of us valuable lessons. Jim was a fierce competitor. He never viewed his disability as a disadvantage and, as a result, it wasn’t. Imperfect is a terrific story and the best part is that it’s true.” —Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, Jr.
“As I read Imperfect: An Improbable Life, Jim Abbott’s love for the game jumped off the pages. It was like Jim was right in front of me telling me his life’s journey. I felt his pain, hurt, joy, exhilaration, disappointment and accomplishments throughout his life. Jim has always been and continues to be an inspiration for all of us.”—Don Mattingly, former New York Yankee captain and current Los Angeles Dodgers manager
“The story of Jim Abbott—wonderfully crafted by Tim Brown—is everything you’d expect from a baseball life: funny, heartbreaking, and triumphant, though not necessarily in that order. Still, to label this fine book ‘an inspiration’ almost misses the larger point. Imperfect isn’t about learning to cope with a disability. It’s about becoming a man in America.”—Mark Kriegel, author of Pistol: The Life of Pete Maravich and Namath: A Biography
“Jim Abbott was 20–22 as a pitcher for the Yankees, and yet, as a man who played the game with one hand, an argument should be made that he belongs among the greatest players of all time. In Imperfect: An Improbable Life, Abbott and one of America's leading sports journalists, Tim Brown, tell the amazing story of a man’s dignity and grace in overcoming a forbidding physical hurdle to pitch 10 big-league seasons and to throw a no-hitter. Abbott won every day he took the mound. This book is required inspirational reading for all fans of the human spirit.”—Ian O’Connor, New York Times bestselling author of The Captain: The Journey of Derek Jeter and Arnie & Jack
“If you think you knew the inspirational story of Jim Abbott, think again. With Tim Brown, Abbott gives an unflinching account of his remarkable baseball life—the joys and the pains. With each chapter you know him better and root even harder for him.”—Tom Verducci, senior writer for Sports Illustrated and New York Times bestselling co-author of The Yankee Years
“Imperfect is one of the finest baseball memoirs ever written, an honest, touching, and beautifully rendered story that will remind even the most jaded fans why they loved the game. It is far more than a book about baseball; it is a deeply felt story of triumph and failure, dreams and disappointments. Jim Abbott has hurled another gem.”—Jonathan Eig, New York Times bestselling author of Luckiest Man: The Life and Death of Lou Gehrig and Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season
Jim Abbott is a nice guy. He narrates the audio version himself. How he managed to succeed against all odds is something we all wish to learn from. Read morePublished 3 days ago by appleartist
an honest life story of Jim Abbott's struggle being born without a right hand.
make the most of what you have been given.
Book was in good condition but did not come with the protective sleeve.Published 1 month ago by b1990
Great insight into the mind of an athlete. Great inspiration for parents and kids alike.Published 1 month ago by N
Enjoyed how the book was set up, with the back story and story of the no-hitter taking turns. Abbott doesn't candy coat anything. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Rebecca
We need more Jim Abbotts in this country for our youth to believe in...he is a real modern day heroPublished 4 months ago by David Barnes
A great example of how resilience and passion for something can make a huge difference in the journey of life when all odds are against you.Published 4 months ago by Kate
Enjoyable read for baseball fans, I am in general a sports nut, however my knowlege of baseball is limited being Australian. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Ray Marx
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. A must read, especially for baseball nuts like myself. I really liked how the chapters alternate between telling his incredible life story and... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Ted N.