Let's get one thing straight here at the top: This isn't just a baseball book.
A lot of biographies about athletes aren't revealing. They describe the athlete's life for his or her fans but rarely delve deeper than the surface to explore what makes a person tick. But "Imperfect - An Improbable Life," the story of former Angels, Yankees, White Sox and Brewers pitcher Jim Abbott, co-written by Yahoo's Tim Brown, does more than that.
In one scene, Abbott tells how he was punched in high school because others were hoping to fit in. He didn't retaliate. When others would make up nicknames for him, such as the "One Point Five," that he never understood, he wouldn't question it. He would be one of the guys and laugh along with the jokes.
From this inconspicuous start comes a singular life.
Abbott turned a poor delivery throughout high school into an excellent college career at Michigan, a gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games and a no-hitter at age 26. He did it all despite a birth defect that left him with just one hand.
There is a lot to love about this book, such as the background Abbott provides about his life, but the crux of the book is a discussion of how others view the handicapped. He wanted so much to just fit it, to be considered another pitcher.
However, those around him would always preface their comments by saying he was pretty decent for a one-handed kid. There was more to his life than trying to overcome the challenges of his handicap. He wanted to not be seen as someone who was handicapped. He wanted to be a pretty decent pitcher, regardless of the number of hands he had.
The story alternates between an at-bat-by-at-bat account of his no-hitter and nine stages of his life growing up. The construction takes away from the power of the greatest game he pitched. The story would've been better if the no-hitter weren't just two or three pages every 20 or so pages.
Because the social commentary is so smart, give this book 2 Balls on AtHomePlate.com's Four-Ball Scale. It is a light read, a quick 280 pages, and an inspiring and honest tale of someone overcoming hardship to do what so few people have done.
AtHomePlate.com writes its book reviews with the following rating scale in mind:
Four Balls: An exceptional book that truly earns a walk straight to the local book store to get a copy.
Three Balls: This book stands out from its peers and is highly recommended.
Two Balls: A book worth reading/owning and is usually above average.
One Ball: This book has something to say but is nothing special.
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