I REMEMBER ... Jim Abbott
Yankees’ no-hit wonder
hen Yankees lefthander Jim Abbott took the mound on September 4, 1993, he simply hoped to avoid another dud. His previous start had been against the same team, the Indians, and had been a mess (10 hits and seven earned runs in 3 ²⁄³ innings). So, of course, he threw a no-hitter. “I went into the game with lowered expectations—it sounds funny looking at the results,” says Abbott, who
now works as a motivational speaker, sharing his story of becoming a big leaguer despite being born without a right hand. “Almost every out from the beginning of the game was a bonus. I walked Kenny Lofton to start the game, and I’m sure everyone was thinking, Oh, no, here we go again.” In 10 major league seasons, Abbott had an ERA of 4.25, and he finished third in the A.L. Cy Young award voting in 1991. Today, he tells his story—and the story of the no-hitter—as a motivational speaker.
My strongest memories are of Matt Nokes, the catcher—his overall enthusiasm and excitement, from beginning to end, how caught up in it he was. I love sharing that game with him. Seeing him here and there these days is great. I remember joking around with Jimmy Key and Scott Kamieniecki, feeling lighthearted early in the game. I was usually pretty serious during games. As the game went on, the old superstition started, people started getting serious, talking to me less. Wade Boggs made a diving play in the hole against Albert Belle in the seventh inning. That was not only the big play that no-hitters usually need, but it was late in the game, so there was acknowledgement by the fans. I recently watched a tape of the game, and it was interesting to see how big of a play that was. The thing about that game, and any game that’s important, is you get this out-by-out countdown going. With every out, you’re closer to this unimaginable dream. As unlikely as that play was, he made it, and it was a check-off—you’re one out closer to the goal. OK, seven more outs to go. But you can’t keep thinking like that. You have to bring it back to thinking about every pitch. That’s the nature of a no-hitter—managing your thought process to what you can control. Going out for the ninth, I remember really being excited, running up the steps on to that Yankee Stadium field. You really feel the energy of the stadium surrounding you. Kenny Lofton attempted to bunt, and the ball went foul. Yankee Stadium rained down on him. He got a sheepish little smile and grounded out to second base. Felix Fermin hit a long fly ball that looked like it might get in the gap. Bernie Williams ran it down and fired it back in. Then it’s like this excitement envelopes you. It’s almost otherworldly. You just try to throw the best pitch you can. Carlos Baerga hit a ground ball to Randy Velarde. He caught it on a short hop and threw it to Donnie Mattingly. It’s just elation. You can’t believe it’s you in this moment. — As told to Matt Crossman
ABBOTT (1993): KEVIN LARKIN / AP; ABBOTT: CAROLYN KASTER / AP