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Book Review: Imperfect, Jim Abbott and Tim Brown

Most Brewers fans unfortunately remember Jim Abbott at the end of his career when he was with the team and doing poorly. When he came onto the major league scene in 1989 he was a sensation and perhaps sensationalized; his actual sporting talents were obscured by the fact that he was a left-handed pitcher without a right hand. 13 years after his career ended, Abbott, with Tim Brown, finally tells the story of his childhood and professional baseball career.

Abbott chose the right collaborator for his memoir; Brown's better columns for Yahoo! are the human-interest ones and that is definitely the topic of this book. However, this is also not a light, fluffy "inspirational" memoir. Abbott isn't a cheerleader type and he doesn't gloss over how hard it was to get where he got and how hard it was to stay there.

I found it refreshing that Abbott didn't go into why he was so great, but about all the people who helped him get to be the ballplayer and person that he is today; his parents, friends, teachers, coaches at all levels, teammates, and his wife and children. If anything he gives very little credit to himself; he didn't come out of nowhere with prodigious talent. Abbott makes it very clear that his inability to adjust to the loss of his fastball is to blame for his career's decline and eventual end. Abbott was one of the few players of the current era not to begin his career in the minors. He never uses the term "impostor syndrome" in the book, but the feelings were clearly there for me, and it seemed to have been self-fulfilling. He also had issues with fear--there's a section about how White Sox bullpen coach Rick Peterson (yes, that one) helped him fix his delivery so he wouldn't be afraid of comebackers.

The frame story of Abbott's 1993 no-hitter, despite it being his career highlight, wasn't really that interesting. I know why it was in there but it makes the structure of the book awkward. The team he's most associated with by casual fans is the California Angels (and, I guess, the Brewers by us) and that came in his short time as a Yankee.

There is some Brewers-related content here but not much; it's very illuminating if you missed the late 1990s seasons and didn't really have any idea of how wrong things got with Milwaukee baseball. Abbott sensed himself that he was done with baseball and puts the blame on himself, not his team, but it's clear that it was an unhappy, losing team but one with a manager the players thought was good at his job.