Fear Strikes Out

Fear Strikes Out is a 1957 American biographical sports drama film depicting the life and career of American baseball player Jimmy Piersall. It is based on Piersall's 1955 memoir Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story, co-written with Al Hirshberg. The film stars Anthony Perkins as Piersall and Karl Malden as his father, and it was the first directed by Robert Mulligan.

This film is a Paramount Picture and was preceded by a 1955 TV version starring Tab Hunter.[1]

Fear Strikes Out
Directed byRobert Mulligan
Produced byAlan J. Pakula
Screenplay byTed Berkman
Raphael Blau
Based onFear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story
by Jimmy Piersall and Al Hirshberg
StarringAnthony Perkins
Karl Malden
Music byElmer Bernstein
CinematographyHaskell B. Boggs
Edited byAaron Stell
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • March 20, 1957
Running time
100 min.
CountryUnited States


Based on Piersall's shattering tell-all biography, the film traces Piersall's rise from the sandlots of Waterbury, Connecticut, to the Boston Red Sox professional baseball team. Karl Malden plays his domineering father who pushes him further and further.

Unable to withstand the pressure, Piersall suffers a nervous breakdown and goes to a mental institution. After a long period of therapy, Jimmy realizes that he has excelled in baseball to please his father — not for his own gratification.[1]


1955 TV Version

"Fear Strikes Out"
Climax! episode
Directed byHerbert B. Swope Jr.
Teleplay byMel Goldberg
Produced byMartin Manulis
Original air date1955
Guest appearance(s)

Tab Hunter as Jimmy Piersall

The film was based on the book by Piersall which had been adapted for TV in 1955 for the show Climax!.

Rights to the book were bought in July 1955.[2]

The New York Times called it "absorbing" and praised Tab Hunter's portrayal of Jimmy Piersall as "perceptive and believable."[3]

Hunter had a romantic relationship with Anthony Perkins. He says this relationship ended after Perkins took the role of Piersall in the film version.[4]

Awards and honors

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:


Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote:

Oddly enough, the scenes of baseball, while interesting in this account, are secondary to the scenes of drama between the father and his son. The issues are not whether Piersall will snag those long flies or clout home runs but whether he will have the approval of his old man, sitting there in the stands. The weight of the paternal ambition is the critical factor in this film. And it is felt by the nerve-racked observer to the point where it is recognizable that the young man must go mad. ...

Fortunately, Mr. Perkins plays the young fellow excellently, not only conveying the gathering torment but also actually looking like a ballplayer on the field. And Karl Malden is compelling as the father, combining the ignorant dominance of a bitter man with the occasional tenderness of a parent who genuinely loves his only son. ...Robert Mulligan's direction is vigorous..."[6]


  1. ^ a b Erickson, Hal. Rovi "Fear Strikes Out" Synopsis
  2. ^ Adams, Val (23 July 1955). "TV Scenic Artists Win Pay Increase: Three Major Networks and Union Agree on 3-Year Pact Retroactive to April 1". New York Times. p. 33. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  3. ^ Shanley, J.P. (19 August 1955). "TV: 'Fear Strikes Out' – Outfielder's True Story Told on 'Climax!'". New York Times. p. 39. Retrieved August 28, 2018..
  4. ^ Schulman, Michael (15 October 2015). "Tab Hunter's Secrets". New Yorker.
  5. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2016-08-19.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  6. ^ Crowther, Bosley (March 21, 1957). "True-Life Story of Jim Piersall; 'Fear Strikes Out' Has Debut at the State Ballplayer Overcame a Mental Illness". p. 37. Retrieved August 28, 2018.

External links

10th Directors Guild of America Awards

The 10th Directors Guild of America Awards, honoring the outstanding directorial achievements in film and television in 1957, were presented in 1958.

Adam Williams (actor)

Adam Williams (born Adam Berg; November 26, 1922 – December 4, 2006) was an American film and television actor.

Al Hirshberg

Albert Simon Hirshberg, (1909 - 1973), frequently credited as Al Hirshberg, was a Boston-based author and sportswriter who was primarily active in the 1930s - 1960s. He is best known as the co-author of Jimmy Piersall's 1955 autobiography titled Fear Strikes Out: The Jimmy Piersall Story, that was later made into the 1957 film Fear Strikes Out, starring Anthony Perkins. He also wrote several books on the history of the Boston Red Sox baseball team, and co-wrote dozens of other people's memoirs, often, but not exclusively, about baseball players and/or Boston area sports figures and teams. He worked for The Boston Post from 1930-1952 and the Boston Herald from 1964-1968.

Anthony Perkins

Anthony Perkins (April 4, 1932 – September 12, 1992) was an American actor and singer. He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his second film, Friendly Persuasion (1956), but is best remembered for playing Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho (1960) and its three sequels. His other films include Fear Strikes Out (1957), The Matchmaker (1958), On the Beach (1959), Tall Story (1960), The Trial (1962), Phaedra (1962), Five Miles to Midnight (1962), Pretty Poison (1968), Murder on the Orient Express (1974), Mahogany (1975), North Sea Hijack (1979), The Black Hole (1979), and Crimes of Passion (1984).

Bill Bergen

William Aloysius Bergen (June 13, 1878 – December 19, 1943) was an American professional baseball catcher. He played eleven seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) from 1901 to 1911 for the Cincinnati Reds and Brooklyn Superbas/Dodgers.

Brian G. Hutton

Brian Geoffrey Hutton (January 1, 1935 – August 19, 2014) was an American actor and film director whose notable credits are for the action films Where Eagles Dare (1968) and Kelly's Heroes (1970).

Don Brodie

Don L. Brodie (May 29, 1904, Cincinnati, Ohio – January 8, 2001, Los Angeles, California) was an American actor and director.

Edd Byrnes

Edd Byrnes (born July 30, 1933) is an American actor best known for his starring role in the television series 77 Sunset Strip. He also was featured in the 1978 film Grease as television teen-dance show host Vince Fontaine, and was a charting recording artist with "Kookie, Kookie (Lend Me Your Comb)" (with Connie Stevens).

Jimmy Piersall

James Anthony Piersall (November 14, 1929 – June 3, 2017) was an American baseball center fielder who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB) for five teams, from 1950 through 1967. Piersall was best known for his well-publicized battle with bipolar disorder that became the subject of a book and a film, Fear Strikes Out.

Karl Malden

Karl Malden (born Mladen George Sekulovich; March 22, 1912 – July 1, 2009) was an American actor. He was primarily a character actor who "for more than 60 years brought an intelligent intensity and a homespun authenticity to roles in theater, film and television", especially in such classic films as A Streetcar Named Desire (1951) — for which he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor — On the Waterfront (1954), Pollyanna (1960), and One-Eyed Jacks (1961). Malden also played in high-profile Hollywood films such as Baby Doll (1956), The Hanging Tree (1959), How the West Was Won (1962), and Patton (1970).

From 1972 to 1977, he portrayed Lt. Mike Stone in the television crime drama The Streets of San Francisco. He was later the spokesman for American Express. Film and culture critic Charles Champlin described Malden as "an Everyman, but one whose range moved easily up and down the levels of society and the IQ scale, from heroes to heavies and ordinary, decent guys just trying to get along", and at the time of his death, Malden was described as "one of the great character actors of his time" who created a number of "powerhouse performances on screen". Malden was also President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences from 1989 to 1992.

Logos and uniforms of the Boston Red Sox

The primary home uniform for the Boston Red Sox is white with red piping around the neck and down either side of the front placket and "RED SOX" in red letters outlined in blue arched across the chest. This has been in use since 1979, and was previously used from 1933 to 1972, although the piping occasionally disappeared and reappeared; in between the Red Sox wore pullovers with the same "RED SOX" template. There are red numbers, but no player name, on the back of the home uniform.

Perry Wilson

Perry Wilson Anthony (1916 – December 30, 2009) was an American actress most active during the 1950s and 1960s. She was best known for her role in the 1957 film Fear Strikes Out.

Raphael Blau

Raphael David Blau (August 11, 1912 – March 31, 1996) was an American screenwriter who co-wrote the story for Bedtime for Bonzo (1951), among other film productions.Blau was raised in New York City and London. His first film credit was for Mother Is a Freshman (1949). Based on seeing research speculation that a chimpanzee might be able to be raised like a human child, he conceived of the Bedtime for Bonzo story. He shared a script with his brother-in-law, Ted Berkman, and becoming partners on this and other projects, both received a story credit for the film. Fear Strikes Out (1957) brought Blau and Berkman their greatest acclaim.In 1962, Blau and his wife Helen moved to Nova Scotia. Their son Joel Blau is a professor at Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare in New York. Their daughter Deborah Blau is a graphic artist and tour guide who lives in New York.

Richard Bull (actor)

Richard William Bull (June 26, 1924 – February 3, 2014) was an American film, stage and television actor. He was best known for his performance as "Doc" on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Nels Oleson on Little House on the Prairie.

Robert Mulligan

Robert Patrick Mulligan (August 23, 1925 – December 20, 2008) was an American film and television director best known as the director of humanistic American dramas, including To Kill a Mockingbird (1962), Summer of '42 (1971), The Other (1972), Same Time, Next Year (1978) and The Man in the Moon (1991). He was also known in the 1960s for his extensive collaborations with producer Alan J. Pakula. He was the elder brother of actor Richard Mulligan.

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Seven minutes in heaven is a kissing party game played at teenage parties comprising boys and girls.

Ted Berkman

Ted Berkman (January 9, 1914 – May 12, 2006) was an American author, screenwriter and journalist best known for writing the screenplay for Bedtime for Bonzo.

Ted Lepcio

Thaddeus Stanley "Ted" Lepcio (born July 28, 1929), is an American former professional baseball utility infielder, who played in Major League Baseball (MLB) for the Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers, Philadelphia Phillies, Chicago White Sox, and Minnesota Twins.Lepcio attended Seton Hall University. A one-time semi-professional baseball player in Oneida, New York, he was signed by the Boston Red Sox, as an amateur free agent, in 1951. Lepcio played his first MLB game, in 1952, and would play most of his professional career with the Red Sox. He was generally a utility infielder who could play second base, third base, or shortstop. Lepcio's best year was 1956, when he hit 15 home runs, nine of which came in an eighteen-day stretch. He is mentioned in Jimmy Piersall's book, Fear Strikes Out, as his roommate during the 1952 season, when Piersall had to be hospitalized with mental issues. Lepcio often saved Piersall from being beaten up by his own teammates.On July 13, 1961, Lepcio hit a grand slam in the first inning against the Cleveland Indians, which would turn out to be the deciding factor in the Twins' 9 to 6 victory. After Lepcio retired, following the 1961 season, he became a vice president of sales with St Johnsbury Trucking Co Inc, a New England trucking company. He also remained active in baseball and often chaired Red Sox events.

Thank You (Royal Trux album)

Thank You is the fifth studio album by Royal Trux. It was released in 1995.

Films directed by Robert Mulligan


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