I went to a local Junior College game yesterday between Orange Coast College and Cypress. The left fielder for Cypress had only one hand. After fielding the ball, he’d flip the ball up, rapidly switch the glove to his left arm, catch the ball with his right hand and then throw. I think. It all happened so fast I couldn’t be sure. Suffice to say, it was every bit as effective as a two handed outfielder.
Anyway, this got me to thinking about Jim Abbott, the ex-Yankee, Angel, and Brewer superstar one-handed pitcher. Here’s my one and only Jim Abbott story. I hope this doesn’t come off as disrespectful or anything. Jim is an awesome person, was a phenomenal pitcher, and is an inspiration to all. I’m not making fun of his handicap, this is just one of those goofy baseball stories that really happened.
OK, now that the disclaimer is out of the way… It’s 1994 or so, I’m with the Royals, and we’re playing the Yankees. Abbott is pitching and I’ve got the day off. Tim Spehr is our other catcher, he’s a rookie, and is getting his first start against Jim. It’s gets to close to Tim’s first at bat, and he scoots up to me on the bench and nervously asks me if I’ve got any advice regarding what to expect from Abbott. Sensing his nervousness, I tried for a little comic relief. First I told him the obvious – that he was going to for sure get the buzz saw cut fastball.
Then I told him don’t worry about it though. It’s really not that hard of a pitch to handle (I lied). I told him the most important thing is to not get caught up in the “circus atmosphere” of him having one hand and how fast he switches the glove over to the other hand and all of that stuff. I warned him that if you pay too much attention to his handicap, he’ll hypnotize you like a cobra and then blow the cutter by you. I told him THAT was his biggest weapon and if you don’t look at him till right before the pitch comes, you’ll be fine.
Well, Tim goes up to bat and he’s in the box and he’s doing what I’ve told him – he’s looking straight down – being very cautious to not get hypnotized. Then out of the blue, as if he’d heard our discussion, Abbott calls time out, kneels down in front of the mound, and unties and ties his shoe with one hand! Have you ever tried to tie your shoe with one hand? It’s impossible. I look at Tim and he’s locked in to Jim, flabbergasted by what he’s seeing, and completely caught up in the “circus atmosphere”. Not the slightest thought thats he’s up there to hit. Completely unfocused.
I’m laughing my butt off on the bench. Abbott got him. He cobrad him. Still reeling and hypnotized from the shoe tying incident, Spehr took three heaters right down the middle and walked right back to the bench. He never knew what had hit him. Good stuff.