Fear Strikes Out
Jimmy Piersall 1952
Centerfielder Jimmy Piersall was a gold glove outfielder for the Boston Red Sox. Jimmy Piersall also encountered serious mental problems. He was certainly not the first player to suffer a nervous breakdown, but his played out in full public view. In his second year in the major leagues, Piersall was ejected numerous times for fighting including taking on the Yankee’s Billy Martin and his own teammate Mickey McDermott. He was also seen spanking a 4 year old child of a teammate in the dugout. These incidents plus many funny antics in the field sent him back to the minors on June 28. Four ejections in three weeks with the Birmingham Barons resulted in 7-week hospitalization in a mental asylum where he was originally diagnosed as nervous exhaustion but later confirmed as bipolar. Electric shock treatments and the application of a new drug, Lithium, settled him down. He was sent home and missed the remainder of the season. He returned to the Red Sox in1953 and although he continued with many colorful antics, his career took off. Fans loved him and enjoyed his antics that included wearing a Beatles wig, talking to Babe Ruth outfield statue at Yankee stadium, and running the bases backward following his 100th home run.. He admitted that some of the antics were staged to entertain the crowd. After retiring he became a successful announcer and minor league coach. His story was told in the book, and later the movie, Fear Strikes Out, which he co-authored.
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Saw the movie and watched his play and antics. Very memorable. Certifiably nuts, but still a pretty good player.