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James Anthony Piersall (November 14, 1929 – June 3, 2017) was an American baseball center fielder who played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball
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.

Contents

1 Early life 2 Athletic career 3 Personal problems 4 Later athletic career 5 Career after retirement from baseball 6 Television 7 Personal life 8 Death 9 See also 10 References 11 Publications 12 External links

Early life[edit] Piersall led the Leavenworth High School (Waterbury, Connecticut) basketball team to the 1947 New England
New England
championship, scoring 29 points in the final game. Athletic career[edit] Piersall became a professional baseball player at age 18, having signed a contract with the Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
in 1948. He reached Major League Baseball
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[edit] 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
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
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
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
Jimmy Piersall
until that happened?" Later athletic career[edit] Piersall was selected to the American League
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
Gold Glove Award
in 1958. On December 2, 1958, Piersall was traded to the Cleveland Indians
Cleveland Indians
for first baseman Vic Wertz
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
Memorial Day
doubleheader at Chicago
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
Ted Williams
was at bat. His subsequent meeting with American League
American League
president Joe Cronin and the departure of manager Joe Gordon
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
Jim Bunning
pitch on June 25, then violently hurling his helmet a month later, earning him a $100 fine in each case. On September 5, Piersall's 74-year-old father died of a heart attack. Two days after attending the funeral, Piersall returned to play in New York only to be the target of fan abuse. During the September 10 doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, Piersall was accosted on the field by two fans, one of whom he punched before attempting to kick the other.[3] 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
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.[4] One month after reaching the milestone, Piersall was released by the Mets, but he found employment with the Los Angeles Angels
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[edit] 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
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
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
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
White House
event honoring the 2004 World Series
2004 World Series
champion Boston Red Sox
Boston Red Sox
on March 2, 2005. According to a Red Sox official, the White House
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
White House
once before as guest of U.S. President
U.S. President
John F. Kennedy. On September 17, 2010, Piersall was inducted into the Boston Red Sox Hall of Fame.[5] Television[edit] 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
Florida
correctly guessed Piersall's identity.[6] Piersall appeared on The Lucy Show
The Lucy Show
with Lucille Ball
Lucille Ball
and Gale Gordon. The episode originally was broadcast on September 13, 1965. Lucy, Mr. Mooney and Lucy's son meet Jimmy at Marineland on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Personal life[edit] Piersall was married three times. He had nine children with his first wife, Mary. They divorced in 1968. He resided in the Chicago
Chicago
area until his death[7], with his third wife Jan, whom he married in 1982. Death[edit] Piersall died in Wheaton, Illinois
Wheaton, Illinois
on June 3, 2017 at the age of 87.

Biography portal Connecticut
Connecticut
portal Chicago
Chicago
portal Ohio portal Baseball
Baseball
portal Television portal

See also[edit]

List of Major League Baseball
Baseball
annual doubles leaders List of Major League Baseball
Baseball
single-game hits leaders

References[edit]

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

Publications[edit]

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[edit]

Career statistics and player information from MLB, or Baseball-Reference Puma, Mike (19 November 2003). "More Info on Jimmy Piersall". ESPN Classic.  profile and career chronology Baseball
Baseball
Library "Jimmy Rounding First" Panorama – Extreme Photo Constructions

v t e

American League
American League
Outfielder Gold Glove
Gold Glove
Award

1957: Kaline, Mays, Miñoso 1958: Kaline, Piersall, Siebern 1959: Jensen, Kaline, Miñoso 1960: Landis, Maris, Miñoso 1961: Kaline, Landis, Piersall 1962: Kaline, Landis, Mantle 1963: Kaline, Landis, Yastrzemski 1964: Davalillo, Kaline, Landis 1965: Kaline, Tresh, Yastrzemski 1966: Agee, Kaline, Oliva 1967: Blair, Kaline, Yastrzemski 1968: Smith, Stanley, Yastrzemski 1969: Blair, Stanley, Yastrzemski 1970: Berry, Blair, Stanley 1971: Blair, Otis, Yastrzemski 1972: Berry, Blair, Murcer 1973: Blair, Otis, Stanley 1974: Blair, Otis, Rudi 1975: Blair, Lynn, Rudi 1976: Evans, Manning, Rudi 1977: Beníquez, Cowens, Yastrzemski 1978: Evans, Lynn, Miller 1979: Evans, Lezcano, Lynn 1980: Lynn, Murphy, Wilson 1981: Evans, Henderson, Murphy 1982: Evans, Murphy, Winfield 1983: Evans, Murphy, Winfield 1984: Evans, Murphy, Winfield 1985: Evans, Murphy, Pettis, Winfield 1986: Barfield, Pettis, Puckett 1987: Barfield, Puckett, Winfield 1988: Pettis, Puckett, White 1989: Pettis, Puckett, White 1990: Burks, Griffey Jr., Pettis 1991: Griffey Jr., Puckett, White 1992: Griffey Jr., Puckett, White 1993: Griffey Jr., Lofton, White 1994: Griffey Jr., Lofton, White 1995: Griffey Jr., Lofton, White 1996: Buhner, Griffey Jr., Lofton 1997: Edmonds, Griffey Jr., Williams 1998: Edmonds, Griffey Jr., Williams 1999: Green, Griffey Jr., Williams 2000: Dye, Erstad, Williams 2001: Cameron, Hunter, Suzuki 2002: Erstad, Hunter, Suzuki 2003: Cameron, Hunter, Suzuki 2004: Hunter, Suzuki, Wells 2005: Hunter, Suzuki, Wells 2006: Hunter, Suzuki, Wells 2007: Hunter, Suzuki, Sizemore 2008: Hunter, Suzuki, Sizemore 2009: Hunter, Suzuki, Jones 2010: Crawford, Gutiérrez, Suzuki 2011: Ellsbury, Gordon, Markakis 2012: Gordon, Jones, Reddick 2013: Gordon, Jones, Victorino 2014: Gordon, Jones, Markakis 2015: Calhoun, Céspedes, Kiermaier 2016: Betts, Gardner, Kiermaier 2017: Betts, Buxton, Gordon

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 23551900 LCC

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