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Imperfect: An Improbable Life Hardcover – April 3, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 152 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Amazon Exclusive: Essay by Jim Abbott

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


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; 1 edition (April 3, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345523253
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345523259
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (152 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #497,144 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Terry L on February 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I am somewhat prejudiced in writing this review because Jim Abbot once wrote a letter to my son, Sam. Sam was born with a handicapped arm and hand. When he was in grade school, the school guidance counselor contacted Jim Abbot and asked him if he would write my son a letter. Jim did. And it was not just a form letter of some kind; it was a personal letter to Sam. My son was very impressed that a major league baseball player would write to him. He could relate to what Jim told him because he and Jim had similar handicaps. Anyway, to keep a short story short, Sam was very excited and inspired that Jim wrote to him.

So what does that have to do with the book? Well, nothing, I guess, other than to point out what type of man Jim is. But anyway, back to the book. To sum it up, this is a well-written, interesting, and inspiring story of a man who didn't give up.

Like all of us Jim had his ups and downs, both before he became a major league player and during the times he was one. At one point in his career the big league basically gave up on him. But he didn't give up, and he came back to pitch again. That is what is inspiring. The guy just didn't give up. And because of my son, I know what Jim means when he talks about hiding his hand in his pocket. I know it is not easy being someone who is different than others. However, really Jim, why pick on the Cleveland Indians when pitching that no-hitter? Man, we have enough sports problems in northeast Ohio without something like that. That's right, I'm a Cleveland sports fan. That isn't easy you know.
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When I was little and I finished a book I had loved, I would hug it to me.

I haven't done that for years, decades.

I hugged this book.

I have always been intrigued by Jim Abbott and was pleased when he played briefly for my beloved White Sox. It is amazing to me, as to so many others, that he could become a one-handed Major League pitcher.

It wasn't until I read this book that I realized - and it seems so obvious now - that Jim Abbott wanted more than anything not to be known as the one-handed guy. He just wanted to play baseball.

He is so unstinting in telling his story. He grew up in Flint, Michigan, where times were tough and sports were everywhere. His family life was complicated. He knew from a very young age that he loved baseball, and he worked hard to become a baseball player. Along the way he attended the University of Michigan which had always been his dream; played for the U.S. Baseball team and won a gold medal at the Olympics in Seoul; played for several major and minor league baseball teams; and on September 3, 1993, he threw a no-hitter at Yankee Stadium. And then there were the children. He always found time for the challenged children and their families who looked up to him.

Jim Abbott is incredibly humble and repeatedly thanks the people who have supported him throughout his life, from his dad who wrote him a note that said "Proud of you, son," to his teammates and coaches, to the teacher who taught him how to tie his shoes. Jim Abbott walked away from Major League Baseball when he was just 31 years old.

So now you know the plot of this book. You need to read it yourself to find out how beautifully written it is. The writing team of Jim Abbott and Tim Brown (a Yahoo!
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When Jim Abbott made the California Angels opening day roster, it made a great feel good story on the sports networks and national news shows. However, there was so much more to the story of this pitcher. In "Imperfect", Abbott reflects on that life fom his birth to his final days in the big leagues.

To his chagrin, many know Jim Abbot as the "one-handed pitcher". Giving this label trivializes his life's work including throwing the 234th no-hitter in major league history. Focusing on the number of hands neglects his professional abilities. Even as some might see the disability as a burden, Abbott notes that it might have given him the ultimate drive for his success. In turn, the book is so much more than a book about a "one-handed pitcher".

The chapters of the book alternate between the innings of Abbott's no-hitter and his growth from birth to his major league career. The book climaxes with the final out of his best game. Abbott credits his parents for not allowing him to feel sorry for himself. But further credit goes to fellow players and many others along his path. Abbott is also refreshingly honest and humble about his career. Known as a kind person, this trait is particularly refreshing in a professional athlete.

Being an avid follower of baseball during the years of Abbott's career, I enjoyed reliving many of these baseball moments. It was certainly fun to revisit many names I had forgotten. It was even better to be inspired and entertained by this book.
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Jim Abbott may never make it to the Baseball Hall of Fame. His record as a pitcher was a paltry 87 wins and 108 losses with a 4.25 ERA. But he is one of the most memorable and inspiring athletes of my lifetime. Despite being born with one hand, Abbott played in the major leagues for a decade and pitched a no-hitter when he was with the New York Yankees.

"Imperfect" is Abbott's autobiography and, while baseball fans--especially those of us with fond memories of Abbott--will enjoy it, this is truly a book for most readers. As Abbott notes in his introduction, this book is not just about baseball; it's about overcoming the burdens and challenges of life. In a breezy style, Abbott describes growing up with one hand and there are moments that simply heart wrenching--he hides his arm in his pocket, other kids bother him about it.

Abbott also describes his years in baseball in some depth--his years at the University of Michigan and his stint in the 1988 Summer Olympics where he won the gold medal. He also offers some insight into his ten years in the majors.

It's an amazing story and Abbott tells it well. This book was more than entertaining and instructive--it was inspiring. While Abbott made the College Hall of Fame, he's probably not headed to Cooperstown anytime soon. But there are more important things to life--as Jim Abbott reminds us in "Imperfect." He may never make it Cooperstown but if humanity had a Hall of Fame, Abbott would make it on the first ballot. Highest recommendation.
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