Jim Abbott: A fan recalls the most unlikely no-hitter in baseball history

Jim Abbott Against All Odds

When Jim Abbott started for the Yanks on September 4, 1993, he recalls, “It was a cloudy day. A day game, the kind of game I like to throw.” And boy, he did.

To put Jim Abbott in context, he’s the J.A. Happ of the 1993 Yankees. Obtained by the Yankees via a trade that took place in December 1992 with the California Angels for Jerry NielsenJ.T. Snow, and Russ Springer, he was brought in to provide innings on a shaky starting staff.

Placed behind Jimmy Key and followed by Melido Perez and Scott Kamieniecki, with Steve Farr as their closer, the Yankees were (ssh – don’t tell anyone) in the midst of a rebuild.

Jim Abbott? – An Almost Nothing Game

Gene Michael, Architect of the Yankees 90s run (Photo: AP)
Gene Michael, Architect of the Yankees the 90s run (Photo: AP)

But, the Yankees were also a team still in the toolbox of General Manager Gene Michael and soon to be transformed into a powerhouse team on their way to four championships in five years.

The Core Four of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, and Jorge Posada were in various stages of development and set to join forces with Bernie Williams for “The Run.”

The intrigue on that September day, however, was the one-armed left-handed pitcher taking his warmups as I settled into my seat in the lower deck about fifteen rows behind home plate.

Get In the Car – Let’s Go

Understand, back then; it was a luxury to hop in the car on a Saturday morning to make the 90-minute drive South to the 161st exit on the Major Deegan Expressway – knowing in advance your weekly paycheck would mostly be intact when you returned home.

Stan's Sports Bar - the Yankee Game Pre-Game Mecca
Stan’s Sports Bar – the Yankee Game Pre-Game Mecca

Always get there early was my motto back then because if you don’t make the pilgrimage to Stans Sports Bar, you haven’t been to a game at Yankee Stadium.

I was there. It was one of 162 games on the Yankees schedule on a day they stood one game behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the standings.

It was only a mirage, though, as the Jays had the better team, and the Yankees would finish a full seven games behind the team who would win the World Series in 1993.

Jim Abbott Tells Me – Don’t Move

My usual routine was to begin thinking about an early exit after the seventh-inning stretch to beat the traffic heading home. But like most of the 27,000+ fans who attended the game that day, those big zeros loomed on the scoreboard.

Jim Abbott On His Way To a No-Hitter
Jim Abbott On His Way To a No-Hitter

Nine times out of ten, the no-no was likely to be busted up by a blooper to right field.

Or a smash into the seats on a wayward pitch. Jim Abbott? A no-hitter?

But Abbott was not to be denied on this day as his ninth-inning remarkably proved to be as routine as all the others.

First Kenny Lofton, then Felix Fermin, then Abbott forced Carlos Baerga, the Indians’ best hitter, to ground softly to short.

The ball in shortstop Randy Velarde‘s hand is what I remember most.

All in his hands, an errant throw, a pebble the grounds crew missed and a sudden hop over his head – but the throw to first was accurate. And there it was – a no-hitter.

No Baseball Today But We Still Have The Memories

That was the first and only no-hitter I’ve ever seen in person. At 72, I don’t suspect another one will come along.

I missed the aftermath, though I could see the crowd of teammates surrounding Jim Abbott as he made his way to the dugout.

Later, I would seek out what I missed when Jim Abbott spoke about his brush with baseball history amid a crowd of reporters. I found the footage, but I needn’t have.

Heading North up the Deegan and beyond the tie-up leading to the George Washington Bridge, I felt all of the excitement behind the words that Jim Abbott could muster at the pinnacle of his career…when

Only six days before throwing this no-hitter, Jim Abbott gave up ten hits and seven runs in only three and a third innings versus the Cleveland Indians.

Admittedly, Jim Abbott might surely be said to be the most unlikely pitcher to throw a no-hitter. But I was there. Believe me; it did happen.

My lying (wonderful) eyes told me so…

Want the box score? You got it.

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Author: stevecontursi

I am an amateur writer with a passion for baseball and all things Yankees and Mets.