20 years ago today, Jim Abbott took to the mound at Yankee Stadium in front of 27,125 fans on an overcast, somewhat damp day. Abbott entered that game with a record of 9-11 with a 4.31 ERA for the Yankees in 1993 – largely unimpressive. In the December before the season, he was traded to New York by the Angels after a couple of good years in California, but couldn’t quite carry over the success, facing adversity in his first year in the Bronx.
He had overcome adversity his entire life, however. Abbott was born with a defect that left him with only one hand – his left. Resting a glove on his right forearm, Abbott would deliver the baseball to home and quickly transfer the glove to his throwing hand. He would then receive the ball, and move the glove back over by securing it between his torso and right forearm.
In the month leading up to this start, Abbott had pitched to an ERA of 5.18, giving up 49 hits in 40 IP along with 23 earned runs. He was on a downward trend, especially after his start on August 29 against the Indians. He lasted just 3.2 innings, giving up 10 hits and seven earned runs.
However, his start on September 4, 1993 would be different than all the rest.
The game would continue. Out after out, a walk here, a walk there – but Abbott would induce some big double plays that helped his cause. The Yankees scored in the bottom of the third when Dion James knocked in Wade Boggs and Randy Velarde on a single to center field. James scored on the same play thanks to some bad defense by the Indians, and the Yankees were up 3-0.
Randy Verlarde tacked on a solo home run in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-0. That was all Abbott needed. He took the no-hitter into the ninth inning, and had to retire the same three batters he faced to start the game. Groundball to second baseman Mike Gallego. One out. Flyball to Bernie Williams in center field. Two out.
On an 0-1 count, Baerga topped a ground ball to Verlarde at shortstop who fired a strike over to Don Mattingly at first base. The no-hitter was preserved. His final line read: 9 IP, no hits, no runs, 5BB, just 3 K’s. It was the eighth no-hitter in Yankee history, and at the time the first since Dave Righetti no-hit the Red Sox 10 years earlier.
The game was as much iconic as it was historic. Here was a guy with a physical disability, who defied the odds of making it to professional baseball, standing on the mound at Yankee Stadium after firing a no-hitter.
Abbott would spend one more year in the Bronx, going 9-8 with a 4.55 ERA. He signed as a free agent with the White Sox before the ’95 season, but was traded back to the Angels in July of that year. Abbott was out of baseball in 1997, but came back with the White Sox the following year. He retired after going 2-8 for Milwaukee in 1999.
Abbott finished with a career record of 87-108 with a 4.25 ERA. His best year came in 1991 when he went 18-11 with a 2.89 ERA, finishing third in the AL Cy Young Award voting. Although his career was somewhat average, what he did on this date 20 years ago was extraordinary. Abbott is now a motivational speaker, and rightfully so.
To see the full boxscore/play-by-play account from this historic moment, click here.