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.

Jimmy Piersall
Jimmy Piersall 1953
Piersall in 1953.
Center fielder
Born: November 14, 1929
Waterbury, Connecticut
Died: June 3, 2017 (aged 87)
Wheaton, Illinois
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
September 7, 1950, for the Boston Red Sox
Last MLB appearance
May 1, 1967, for the California Angels
MLB statistics
Batting average.272
Home runs104
Runs batted in591
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Early life

Piersall led the Leavenworth High School (Waterbury, Connecticut) basketball team to the 1947 New England championship, scoring 29 points in the final game.

Athletic career

Piersall became a professional baseball player at age 18, having signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox in 1948. He reached Major League Baseball in 1950, playing in six games as one of its youngest players.

In 1952, he earned a more substantial role with the Red Sox, frequently referring to himself as "the Waterbury Wizard," a nickname not well received by teammates.

On June 10, 1953, he set the Red Sox club record for hits in a 9-inning game, with 6.

Personal problems

On May 24, 1952, just before a game against the New York Yankees, Piersall engaged in a fistfight with Yankee infielder Billy Martin.[1] Following the brawl, Piersall briefly scuffled with teammate Mickey McDermott in the Red Sox clubhouse. After several such incidents, including Piersall spanking the four-year-old son of teammate Vern Stephens in the Red Sox clubhouse during a game, he was demoted to the minor league Birmingham Barons on June 28.

In less than three weeks with the Barons, Piersall was ejected on four occasions, the last coming after striking out in the second inning on July 16. Prior to his at-bat, he had acknowledged teammate Milt Bolling's home run by spraying a water pistol on home plate.

Receiving a three-day suspension, Piersall entered treatment three days later at the Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts. Diagnosed with "nervous exhaustion", he spent the next seven weeks in the facility and missed the remainder of the season.[2]

Piersall returned to the Red Sox in the 1953 season, finishing ninth in voting for the MVP Award, and remained a fixture in the starting lineup through 1958.

He once stepped up to bat wearing a Beatles wig and playing "air guitar" on his bat, led cheers for himself in the outfield during breaks in play, and "talked" to Babe Ruth behind the center field monuments at Yankee Stadium. In his autobiography, Piersall commented, "Probably the best thing that ever happened to me was going nuts. Who ever heard of Jimmy Piersall until that happened?"

Later athletic career

Piersall was selected to the American League All-Star team in 1954 and 1956. By the end of the 1956 season, in which he played all 156 games, he posted a league-leading 40 doubles, scored 91 runs, drove in 87, and had a .293 batting average. The following year, he hit 19 home runs and scored 103 runs. He won a Gold Glove Award in 1958.

On December 2, 1958, Piersall was traded to the Cleveland Indians for first baseman Vic Wertz and outfielder Gary Geiger. Piersall was reunited with his former combatant Billy Martin, who also had been acquired by the team.

In a Memorial Day doubleheader at Chicago in 1960, he was ejected in the first game for heckling umpire Larry Napp, then after catching the final out of the second game, whirled around and threw the ball at the White Sox' scoreboard. He later wore a little league helmet during an at-bat against the Detroit Tigers, and after a series of incidents against the Yankees, Indians team physician Donald Kelly ordered psychiatric treatment on June 26.

After a brief absence, Piersall returned only to earn his sixth ejection of the season on July 23, when he was banished after running back and forth in the outfield while the Red Sox' Ted Williams was at bat. His subsequent meeting with American League president Joe Cronin and the departure of manager Joe Gordon seemed to settle Piersall down for the remainder of the season.

Piersall came back during the 1961 season, earning a second Gold Glove while also finishing third in the batting race with a .322 average. However, he remained a volatile player, charging the mound after being hit by a Jim Bunning pitch on June 25, then violently hurling his helmet a month later, earning him a $100 fine in each case.

Despite the minor eruptions, Piersall earned a $2,500 bonus for improved behavior, but was dealt to the Washington Senators on October 5. The outfielder was then sent to the New York Mets on May 23, 1963, for cash and a player to be named later.

In a reserve role with the second-year team, Piersall played briefly under manager Casey Stengel. In the fifth inning of the June 23 game against the Philadelphia Phillies, Piersall hit the 100th home run of his career, off Phillies pitcher Dallas Green. He ran around the bases in the correct order but facing backwards as he made the circuit.[3]

One month after reaching the milestone, Piersall was released by the Mets, but he found employment with the Los Angeles Angels on July 28. He would finish his playing career with them, playing nearly four more years before moving into a front office position on May 8, 1967. In a 17-season career, Piersall was a .272 hitter with 104 home runs and 591 RBIs in 1,734 games.

Career after retirement from baseball

In 1955, his book Fear Strikes Out, co-authored by Al Hirshberg, was published. It became the subject of a 1957 movie version, Fear Strikes Out, in which Piersall was portrayed by Anthony Perkins and his father by Karl Malden, directed by Robert Mulligan. Piersall eventually disowned the film because of what he saw as its distortion of the facts, including over-blaming his father for his problems. Many years later, Piersall authored The Truth Hurts, in which he details his ouster from the Chicago White Sox organization.

Piersall had broadcasting jobs with the Texas Rangers beginning in 1974 (doing color and play-by-play for televised games) and with the Chicago White Sox from 1977 to 1981, when he was teamed with Harry Caray. He ultimately was fired after excessive on-air criticism of team management.

Piersall, who wintered in Arizona, was invited to a White House event honoring the 2004 World Series champion Boston Red Sox on March 2, 2005. According to a Red Sox official, the White House prepared a guest list of about 1,000 for the event, scheduled to be staged on the South Lawn. "This is a real thrill for a poor kid from Waterbury, Connecticut," Piersall said. "I'm a 75-year-old man. There aren't many things left." He also said he visited the White House once before as guest of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.

On September 17, 2010, Piersall was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.[4]

Television

Piersall appeared as a mystery guest on the television show What's My Line? that aired on April 28, 1957. Guest panelist U.S. Senator George Smathers of Florida correctly guessed Piersall's identity.[5]

Piersall briefly appeared as himself on The Lucy Show with Lucille Ball and Gale Gordon. The first episode of the show's fourth season, it originally was broadcast on September 13, 1965. The plot has Lucy, Mr. Mooney and Lucy's son, Jerry meeting Jimmy who is making a public appearance at Marineland on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.

Personal life

Piersall was married three times. He had nine children with his first wife, Mary. They divorced in 1968. He resided in the Chicago area until his death[6], with his third wife Jan, whom he married in 1982.

Death

Piersall died in Wheaton, Illinois on June 3, 2017 at the age of 87.

See also

References

  1. ^ https://www.bostonglobe.com/sports/1952/05/25/billy-martin-jim-piersall-fight-red-sox-yankees-game/l16laSjvmGq5bztv3cw7QK/story.html
  2. ^ http://www.espn.com/classic/biography/s/Piersall_Jim.html
  3. ^ Game statistics for June 23, 1963: New York Mets 5, Philadelphia Phillies 0 at retrosheet.org
  4. ^ http://nesn.com/2010/04/john-valentin-jimmy-piersall-headline-red-sox-2010-hall-of-fame-class/
  5. ^ "What's My Line? - Jim Piersall; Paul Douglas; Sen. George A. Smathers (panel) (Apr 28, 1957)"
  6. ^ http://chicago.suntimes.com/sports/former-sox-broadcaster-jimmy-piersall-dies-at-87/

Publications

  • Piersall, Jim and Al Hirshberg. Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story. Boston: Little, Brown & Company (1955); University of Nebraska Press (1999). ISBN 978-0803287617.
  • Piersall, Jimmy and Dick Whittingham. The Truth Hurts. Contemporary Books (1985). ISBN 978-0809253777.

External links

1952 Boston Red Sox season

The 1952 Boston Red Sox season was the 52nd season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished sixth in the American League (AL) with a record of 76 wins and 78 losses.

1953 Boston Red Sox season

The 1953 Boston Red Sox season was the 53rd season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League (AL) with a record of 84 wins and 69 losses.

1954 Boston Red Sox season

The 1954 Boston Red Sox season was the 54th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League (AL) with a record of 69 wins and 85 losses.

1955 Boston Red Sox season

The 1955 Boston Red Sox season was the 55th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League (AL) with a record of 84 wins and 70 losses.

1956 Boston Red Sox season

The 1956 Boston Red Sox season was the 56th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished fourth in the American League (AL) with a record of 84 wins and 70 losses.

1957 Boston Red Sox season

The 1957 Boston Red Sox season was the 57th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League (AL) with a record of 82 wins and 72 losses.

1958 Boston Red Sox season

The 1958 Boston Red Sox season was the 58th season in the franchise's Major League Baseball history. The Red Sox finished third in the American League (AL) with a record of 79 wins and 75 losses, thirteen games behind the AL and World Series champion New York Yankees. It would be the last time the Red Sox finished a season above .500, until their "Impossible Dream" season of 1967.

1959 Cleveland Indians season

The 1959 Cleveland Indians season was the 59th in franchise history. The Indians finished in second place in the American League with a record of 89 wins and 65 losses, five games behind the AL Champion Chicago White Sox.

1961 Cleveland Indians season

The 1961 Cleveland Indians season was a season in American baseball. The team finished fifth in the newly expanded 10-team American League with a record of 78–83, 30½ games behind the New York Yankees. Although the 1961 season ended up being a disappointment, the Indians had a brief flurry of pennant fever early in the 1961 season. After starting 12-13, the Indians started to streak, going 22-4 over their next 26 games to reach a record of 34-17 (were 38-20 after 58 games). However the Indians cooled off afterwards and were quickly knocked out of first place, as they went 44-66 the rest of the year. For the 2nd year in a row, the Indians had held first place in June, only to slump to a losing record. This would happen again in 1962 as well (47-34 start in early July).

1962 Washington Senators season

The 1962 Washington Senators season involved the Senators finishing 10th in the American League with a record of 60 wins and 101 losses, 35½ games behind the World Champion New York Yankees. 1962 was the first season in which the Senators played their home games at D.C. Stadium.

1963 Los Angeles Angels season

The 1963 Los Angeles Angels season involved the Angels finishing 9th in the American League with a record of 70 wins and 91 losses.

1963 New York Mets season

The 1963 New York Mets season was the second regular season for the Mets. They went 51–111 and finished 10th in the NL, 48 games behind the World Series Champion Los Angeles Dodgers. They were managed by Casey Stengel. They played their home games at the Polo Grounds, the second and final season there for the Mets before moving to Shea Stadium the following season.

1964 Los Angeles Angels season

The 1964 Los Angeles Angels season involved the Angels finishing fifth in the American League with a record of 82 wins and 80 losses, 17 games behind the AL Champion New York Yankees.

1967 California Angels season

The 1967 California Angels season involved the Angels finishing 5th in the American League with a record of 84 wins and 77 losses, 7½ games behind the AL Champion Boston Red Sox.

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.

Dave Hill (baseball)

David Burnham Hill (November 11, 1937 – October 16, 2018) was an American professional baseball player, a pitcher who appeared in two games in the Major Leagues for the 1957 Kansas City Athletics. Hill attended Northwestern University; he threw left-handed, batted right-handed, and was listed as 6 feet 2 inches (1.88 m) tall and 170 pounds (77 kg).

Hill signed with the Athletics in 1957 as a Bonus Baby, under the Bonus Rule. He debuted for the A's without playing in the minor leagues on August 22 in relief against the defending world champion New York Yankees and surrendered a two-run home run to eventual Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra during an 11–4 Kansas City loss. Four days later he was treated roughly by the Boston Red Sox, also in relief, surrendering five runs (including homers to Frank Malzone and Jimmy Piersall) in only one-third of an inning. Boston routed the A's, 16–0.In 2⅓ big-league innings pitched, Hill allowed six hits, three bases on balls, and seven earned runs. He fanned one.

He played in the Kansas City farm system from 1958–61, rising to the middle level of the minors, before retiring.

Hill died on October 16, 2018.

Don Lock

Don Wilson Lock (July 27, 1936 – October 8, 2017) was an American professional baseball player and outfielder in the Major Leagues from 1962 to 1969 for the Washington Senators (1962–66), Philadelphia Phillies (1967–69), and Boston Red Sox (1969). A native of Wichita, Kansas, Lock attended what is now Wichita State University. He stood 6 ft 2 in (1.88 m) (1.88 m) tall and weighed 202 pounds (92 kg), and threw and batted right-handed.

Lock signed with the New York Yankees in 1958 but never appeared in an MLB game for the Yanks. Instead, he was recalled from the Triple-A Richmond Virginians on July 11, 1962, and immediately traded to Washington for veteran first baseman and pinch hitter Dale Long. Lock played left field for Washington that season, but by early 1963 he became the Senators' regular center fielder, supplanting the colorful Jimmy Piersall, who was traded to the New York Mets.

His two most productive seasons were 1963 and 1964, when he hit 27 and 28 home runs and drove home 82 and 80 runs batted in respectively. Lock led American League center fielders in put-outs, assists and double plays turned in 1963, and all AL outfielders in assists the following year. As a batter, he finished second in the league in strikeouts in both 1963 and 1964.

Overall, Lock appeared in 921 games over eight seasons, batting .238 with 122 home runs and 373 RBI. He managed in the Red Sox farm system for two seasons (1971–72, with the Winston-Salem Red Sox and Pawtucket Red Sox), and in part of 1973 for the Wilson Pennants, a co-op team in the Carolina League, after his playing career ended.

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.

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