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Monday, August 18, 2014

Interview Part 2: Glenn Abbott, Not Work

Binghamton Mets pitching coach Glenn Abbott before an August 2014 game at NYSEG Stadium in Binghamton. (G21D Photo)
Part 1: Head On |  Part 2: Not Work

As spring training 1974 wound down, it seemed Glenn Abbott had a good shot at making the major league club in Oakland.

In fact, he recalled even being told he was headed out with the big team, before being informed another pitcher was being taken instead.

Abbott, with five major league appearances under his belt, was starting the year at AAA.

"You're disappointed, but there's nothing you can do," Abbott recalled recently to The Greatest 21 Days. "It's a business. You just got to go out and do the best you can because, if you don't, you're going to get off to a bad start and things are going to snowball on you."

Abbott's best soon got him back to Oakland and the majors, getting time in his second major league season. That stretch at AAA ended up being his last extended run in the minors. By the time he was done, Abbott saw time in 11 big league seasons, making appearances in 248 major league games.
Binghamton Mets pitching coach Glenn Abbott in his NYSEG Stadium office in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Abbott spoke to The Greatest 21 Days recently at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium, where he is serving for 2014 as pitching coach of the AA Mets.

Abbott covered his start in the game in his native Arkansas, then his turn pro and steady climb to the majors.

Once in the majors, Abbott became a steady presence for the Athletics, both as a starter and a reliever. He then became one of the original Mariners and came back from illness to return to the majors before starting his continuing career as a coach.

Abbott made it back to Oakland for one appearance in mid-May 1974, then for good in mid-June. In all, he went 5-7, with a 3.00 ERA in 19 outings, 17 starts.

He stayed with the Athletics through 1976, getting into one playoff game. He threw a perfect inning in a Game 1 ALCS loss in 1975.

Gearing up for that game, though, Abbott also threw a perfect inning. On the final day of the 1975 season, Abbott teamed up with three other Athletics hurlers for a combined no-hitter.
Binghamton pitching coach Glenn Abbott, right, in the NYSEG Stadium dugout in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Abbott recalled that day as like a spring training game. The Athletics were getting ready for the playoffs and everything was pre-determined. Vida Blue would throw five innings, Abbott would throw the sixth, Paul Lindblad the seventh and Rollie Fingers the eighth and ninth.

But, after five innings, Blue had a no-hitter going. Abbott recalled.

"I remember he just walked through them like they were nothing," Abbott said. "He would have thrown one that day."

With that, Athletics manager Al Dark asked if Blue wanted to continue. Blue declined. They couldn't risk it. They had playoffs to prepare for.

"I remember going out there and people were booing," Abbott said, "because Vida didn't come out.

"I said, 'oh, please don't let me give up a hit."

Abbott didn't. And neither did Lindblad or Fingers. It was the first combined major league no-hitter with more than two pitchers involved. "Nobody ever dreamed it was the first time it had ever been done," Abbott said.
Binghamton pitching coach Glenn Abbott throwing batting practice in August 2014. (G21D Photo)
Abbott ended up staying with the Athletics for four seasons. He got 30 outings, 15 starts, in that 1975 season, then 19 outings 10 starts in 1976.

Along the way, he picked up two championship rings for his regular season work in 1973 and 1974. Then, the Athletics left him unprotected in the 1976 expansion draft. The Mariners took him with the 24th pick.

Abbott went from a team that was expected to win and had won to a team where the expectations were much lower.

"You appreciate things, after playing a year or two, how hard it is to get to a World Series," Abbott said.

But Abbott also had success. That first year, he picked up 12 wins, though he also had 13 losses. He had a 4.45 ERA. He got a second double-digit win total in 1980, going 12-12 over 31 starts for Seattle.

Abbott's health problems came during the 1981 season. First it was the bone chips, then it was the meningitis. But he worked through it and he made it back. His first game back, he threw that complete game.

"That was a really good game whether I'd been out or been playing every day," Abbott said of the complete game win. "It was just a special feeling. It makes you feel good when you overcome something and be successful with it."

After moving to the Tigers later in 1983, Abbott played in just one more season. He was released in August 1984 and he knew he was done. His arm wasn't feeling that great. He also didn't want to come back and be an insurance policy.
Binghamton Mets pitching coach Glenn Abbott throws some batting practice in August 2014 at Binghamton's NYSEG Stadium. (G21D Photo)

"I didn't want to do that because I didn't want to go back and do the minor league stuff again," Abbott said. "So I just hung it up and started coaching."

He's been coaching ever since. He recalled the transition as not being difficult. The guys who have trouble with it, Abbott said, still have too much player in them. Abbott didn't have that problem.

"If you've still got that fire about wanting to play, it's very hard to coach," he said.

"It was an easy transition for me going back and coaching," Abbott said, "because it was something I really enjoyed just like I did playing."

Abbott coached 1990 back in the Athletics system at AA Huntsville. He made AAA Tacoma in 1991. He's served as a pitching coach somewhere in the minors about every year since.

Abbott's approach is just trying to find a way to relate to his pitchers and help them deal with the mental aspects of the game.

The important thing, though, is coaching is something he really enjoys, he said. He enjoys working with the players. He enjoys coming out to the ballpark. He enjoys everything about it.

"I think that's the thing," Abbott said. "Any time you can do something that you really enjoy, it's not work. I don't feel like I've ever worked."

Part 1: Head On |  Part 2: Not Work

Read Part 1: Glenn Abbott, Head On

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