Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

On this day, 18 years ago, Jim Abbott defied the odds and got his first Major League hit

Jim Abbott has spent his life inspiring people like one-armed catcher Luke Terry. Abbott didn't have a right hand, but the southpaw became a Major League pitcher anyway, going straight from the Draft to the Angels' 1989 Opening Day roster without spending a day in the Minors. He played 10 years in the Majors, and in 1993, he even became one of just 10 pitchers in MLB history to throw a no-hitter for the Yankees.
At the start of the 1999 season, though, Abbott was presented with a new challenge, thanks to his new team the Brewers. He had spent his entire career until then in the American League, where he never had to hit. Now in the National League, Abbott had to channel his inner Pete Gray and bat with one hand.
It's hard enough for regular pitchers to hit Major League pitching -- the Marlins' Wei-Yin Chen went 0-for-44 on the season just last year. It was far from guaranteed that Abbott would ever get a hit. Sure enough, he was hitless in 15 plate appearances in 1999 entering the Brewers' game against the Cubs at County Stadium on June 15.
Abbott faced Jon Lieber that day, a fine right-hander who spent 14 years in the Majors himself. He was no slouch, but with runners on in the fourth inning, Abbott connected.

With just one swing of the bat, Abbott registered not only his first career hit, but his first RBI, too, as first baseman Sean Berry came around the score.
Abbott was excited about the hit after the game, too. "It's very nice," he said to the Los Angeles Times. "We play the game for moments like that, and I'll always remember that."
Abbott's career ended in 1999 and he only recorded one other hit on his ledger, but there was a funny coincidence behind that one. It came just about two weeks later on June 30.
The Brewers' opponent that day? The Cubs.
Taking the mound at Wrigley Field? Jon Lieber.

Yes, both of Jim Abbott's two career hits came against a pitcher who, just two years later, finished fourth in Cy Young Award voting. The man was simply gifted.