Saturday, May 05, 2012

Imperfect: An Improbable Life, reviewed

With Imperfect: An Improbable Life, Jim Abbott (along with Tim Brown) has written an honest, revealing memoir about his life and career. Born without a right hand, Abbott used that as his drive to prove himself on the baseball diamond (and therefore in life). He didn’t want pity; if he could win at baseball, it proved that he was as good as everyone else. He just wanted to be known as a baseball player and pitcher, not a “one-handed pitcher.” Abbott writes, “Baseball—and success in it—was so important it brought upon me a distorted view of winning and losing…The games’ outcomes became personal.”

The book’s structure is well done. In between the chronological chapters of Abbott’s life from childhood to teen to college student to Olympic gold medalist and beyond are short chapters showing the innings of the no hitter he pitched in 1993, the pinnacle of his major league career. In addition to building suspense (even though you know the result), it also puts the no hitter in perspective as far as the battles Abbott fought just to be on that mound in Yankee Stadium that day, the long journey of his life and each step along the way. You get the sense of his satisfaction, which is so much more than just not allowing a hit or winning an important game.

Of course, the theme of this book is inspiration—what and who inspired Abbott along his journey. But the book also shows Abbott’s inspiration to the disabled children who would invariably show up at his games. Just the fact that Abbott made it to the majors is inspiration enough; but he went out of his way to spend time with and encourage these kids (and their parents) who sought him out. Jim Abbott is a true hero and inspiration, an athlete who understood the power of his celebrity, and how a little encouragement and acceptance can go a long way, and change someone’s life.

4 Stars

No comments: