Glenn Abbott

Photo courtesy of Danny Tripodi

METSellaneous: Joey Wahler On The Mets — Triple-A Coach Abbott Overcomes Health Scare

Joey Wahler
August 30, 2019 - 11:35 am

Glenn Abbott says he doesn’t smoke or drink, and he felt fine other than swollen ankles and left arm tingling for a few weeks, when in June he learned he’d have the kind of triple unwanted by anyone in baseball or otherwise: triple bypass surgery.

Medical tests revealed that three of Abbott’s four arteries were 80 to 90 percent blocked, and on June 17 the Triple-A pitching coach for the Syracuse Mets had an emergency triple bypass procedure to avoid a likely heart attack.

Was it scary for the 68 year old?

“Well it is, when you find out that you’ve got blockage like that,” said Abbott, who pitched 12 years in the major leagues for the A’s, Mariners and Tigers. “You’re lucky that you hadn’t had a heart attack already.”

After leaving the team for about a month, since returning Abbott’s doctors have advised him to stop throwing batting practice. Otherwise, the Little Rock, Ark. native says, he’s recovering well. Ex-Mets reliever Royce Ring was promoted from within the organization to fill in for Abbott, and 82-year-old Phil Regan was a brief replacement before becoming the parent club’s pitching coach.

Experiencing no pain since the operation, Abbott says he suffered depression that has since been alleviated, traced to a blood pressure medication he was prescribed. Former long-time Mets minor league pitching coach Frank Viola had open heart surgery in 2014 and provided a support system for Abbott.

“He would call and check on me every week and see what was going on, give encouragement,” Abbott said.

Glenn Abbott
Photo courtesy of Danny Tripodi

For the last 30 years, Abbott has been a minor league coach for several major league organizations. Working in the Mets system since 2012, he spent six seasons at Double-A Binghamton and was at Las Vegas last year.

Syracuse’s rotation has pitched well despite bouncing back and forth between the International League and the majors. Namely, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Drew Gagnon, Walter Lockett and Chris Mazza. Abbott say he can relate to their interrupted routine, once going 20 days between appearances when first called up to the big leagues.

“The big thing is getting them to understand you can’t worry about things you’ve got no control over,” Abbott said. “Just worry about what you have to do, what your job is at the time. It’s just a process, and I think they’ve done a good job with it of understanding how that works.”

Drafted by Oakland in 1969, Abbott had a big Triple-A season in 1973, and the next year he wanted to earn the minimum major league salary, then $15,000. He conveyed that to the A’s and immediately got a phone call from their famed owner, who was irate.

“Charlie Finley came on the phone and he wore me out,” Abbott remembered. “He went up one side of me and down another. I never had a chance to say one word. He called me everything in the book.” Finley told Abbott, “I might as well get a lunch pail and dig ditches. And then he hung up.

“I got my contract, I signed it and sent it back. He scared me.”

Against the Angels in the 1975 regular season finale, Abbott worked the sixth inning, teaming with Vida Blue, Paul Lindblad and Rollie Fingers, combining for the big leagues’ first ever, four pitcher no-hitter. Using that quartet was determined pregame, then when Blue dominated for five innings, manager Alvin Dark asked the lefty if he wanted to keep pitching, which he declined.

“He said, ‘We stick to the plan. This is what we’re doing,’” Abbott recalled. “I said, please don’t let me give up a hit.”

After five wins for Oakland’s third straight world championship team in 1974, Abbott remained there until 1977 when the Mariners chose him in the expansion draft. He won 12 games for Seattle’s inaugural club that had just 64 victories, then had 12 of their 59 wins in 1980.

“To be on a team that’s losing a hundred games, that’s a lot of wins,” Abbott said. “But I enjoyed my time in Seattle, I really did.”

Despite playing for the storied A’s dynasty, Abbott says today’s players rarely ask him about his ex-teammates, Blue, Sal Bando or Bert Campaneris, much less Hall of Famers like Fingers or Reggie Jackson, all household names in the 1970s.

“It’s just so different,” Abbott said. “They’ve grown up in a different era. They’ve grown up with the video games and stuff like that. They probably don’t know who a lot of players are if you quizzed them.”

For their Triple-A affiliate this year, the Mets swapped the Pacific Coast League’s hitter friendly weather and stadiums for the International League’s cooler temperatures and bigger ballparks. Still, Abbott says minor league homeruns totals are way up, just as in the majors.

“With the new balls, we’re using the big league balls, everything is like the coast league,” Abbott said. “The balls carry, they fly everywhere. Just like the major leagues, they’re setting records for homeruns every month.

“This league here, we were looking at some numbers. Last year in April and May, there was five hundred and something homers hit. This year there was nine hundred and something hit. In the cold weather balls were flying out. That’s something we noticed right away.”

Slowly regaining his stamina, next year Abbott can resume tossing BP. After giving so much to baseball as a player and coach, the game has reciprocated since Abbott’s health scare. He now has a greater appreciation for being on the field.

“That’s good therapy for me,” Abbott said. “As soon as I was able to get up and get around I would come to games. This is almost like a security blanket, the ballpark for me. That’s what I’ve done my whole life. For 50 years I’ve been in this game, and that’s what I do. I like to go to the ballpark.

“Being around these guys makes me feel good, you know?”