Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Class Adversity Can't Make a Jerk out of Angels Pitcher

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Class Adversity Can't Make a Jerk out of Angels Pitcher

Article excerpt

Sometimes I wish Jim Abbott had a little Albert Belle in him. Some Barry Bonds in a bad mood. You know, acted like a big jerk. Cursed writers and threw balls at photographers and snarled at fans.

That way you could root against Abbott and take a measure of pleasure in his mounting losses. But Abbott doesn't let us off the hook that way. He doesn't give us a reason not to pull for his every pitch to be a strike.

"How ya' doing?" Jim Abbott, nodding with a smile, asked a lowly life form (i.e. a sportswriter) in the California Angels' clubhouse before a recent home game. The lowly life form wasn't even seeking an interview, just walking by. It was just a friendly greeting, a long version of "Hi," not a question meant to elicit a response longer than, "Fine, and yourself?" Understand, most professional ballplayers don't usually nod to a writer or smile, much less waste their breath before a game - unless it's to sneer, "Scram, scribe scum!" Jim Abbott, of course, is not like most ballplayers. Jim Abbott is special. Very. Indeed, for good reason he was honored with the 1995 Hutch Award, given annually to the major-league player who best exemplifies character, competitive desire and fighting spirit. The 6-foot-3, 210-pounder needs all those attributes more than ever this year. Currently Abbott is last in the majors with a 2-16 record - 2-18 if you count his two losses during a brief recent minor-league stint. While Abbott has lost a few mph off his fastball, lost some control, he has not lost his character. Even in the midst of his funk, he smiles and asks, "How ya' doing?" In an era of media boycotts by thin-skinned athletes who speak to the press when they are on a streak of success but often hide out in the trainer's room when the going gets tough, Abbott has remained a model of class and fortitude under pressure and disappointment. Friday night, after giving up eight runs on 10 hits with four walks in five innings of an 8-2 loss in Kansas City to end his own one-game winning streak, Abbott met with reporters afterward. As he always does. Hi, how ya' doing? Somehow he handles adversity like it's an easy comebacker to the mound. Understand, when you have to switch the glove onto your pitching hand after you throw the ball, no comebacker is easy. But Abbott makes it seem so. He doesn't take the frustration of his 7.83 earned-run average out on teammates, coaches or fans. Even in 1992 when Abbott had a career-low 2.77 ERA but a 7-15 record he didn't blame his Angel teammates for their lack of run support. So this season even when some voices suggested Abbott was being kept in the Angels' rotation because of what he has overcome to get here, because of what he has done in seasons past instead of what he can still do, he didn't bristle. …

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