One of my childhood heroes passed away the other day. Jimmy Piersall played with the Red Sox from 1952 thru 1958. Along with Ted Williams and Jackie Jensen, he helped form one of the best MLB outfields during the 1950s. He was a great defensive outfielder and could be a pretty good hitter at times.
He’s most remembered for his nervous breakdown in 1952 which eventually became the subject of a book and movie, both titled Fear Strikes Out.
An intense competitor but emotionally delicate, he gave me many thrills during his time with the Sox. After the ’58 season he was traded to Cleveland. In 1960, during a game at Yankee Stadium, some fans ran onto the field to torment him. Jimmy ran after them and gave one of them a boot in the rear. It got quite a bit of attention at the time, so much so that the next time Cleveland was back in New York, some other fans tried the same thing. It as a bad mistake. Second baseman Johnny Temple, quite a battler himself, ran after one of them, made the tackle, and proceeded to beat the living datylights out of him. All brought to you on WPIX, Channel 11.
In 1963 he was traded to the Mets and for a couple of months he was the sparkplug on a rather dismal team. I can still see him in the Mets’ dugout, running this way and that, urging his team on, in the 1963 Mayor’s Trophy game against the Yankees. That game was the last time I saw Jimmy Piersall play. He was released by the Mets soon after.
An intense player, he gave baseball everything he had. And baseball was the richer for it.