Jimmy Piersall, CF, #37 (1950, 1952-1958)
931 G, 919 H, 66 HR, 366 RBI, 502 RS, 58 SB, .273 Avg, .339 OBP, .397 SLG
November 14, 1929 was the date and Waterbury, CT was the place where James Anthony Piersall, a boy who was going to grow up to be a centerfielder in the MLB, was born.
He started out as a high school basketball player at Leavenworth High School. During his time there the team went to the 1947 New England Championship. He landed 29 points in the final game.
He signed a minor league contract with the Sox in 1948 at the age of 18. He would play his first major league games 2 years later in 1950, he only played six games but during that time he was one of the youngest baseball players. He managed to earn the nickname “The Waterbury Wizard”, much to his teammate’s chagrin.
During his first years in MLB his bipolar disorder began to show itself and become prevalent, which is would do a few more times after that. Prior to a May 24th game against the Yankees he got into a brawl with Billy Martin. He also managed to get into a fight with Mickey McDermott, at that time his teammate. After all this odd behavior they sent him down to the Birmingham Barons. Not after he disciplined Vern Stephens’ 4 year old son in the Red Sox clubhouse.
During 3 week time period on the Barons he got kicked out of 4 games. His last one after firing a water gun at home plate to celebrate a teammates homerun and, after being ejected, heckling umpire Neil Strocchia from the grandstand roof. From all of this he received a 3 day suspension and 3 days later checked himself into Westboro State Hospital in Mass. He spent the rest of the baseball season in the hospital. He blamed his condition on his father for pressuring him too much about baseball.
He made his return in 1953 and got voted 9th in MVP voting for that year. The year following that he took Dom DiMaggio’s place in the outfield and stayed in the starting line-up until 1958. During this time, in 1954 and 1956 he got voted into the AL All-Star team. He also managed to clinch a Gold Glove for his outfielding in 1958. In 1956 he managed to pull a league high 40 doubles in 156 games played. He also managed to rake in 93 runs, 87 RBIs, and a .293 batting average.
He got traded to the Cleveland Indians for Vic Wertz and Gary Geiger on December 2, 1958. He, oddly enough, got stuck on the same team as Billy Martin. In 1959 the Indians battled a back and forth battle with the White Sox and in the end only ended up placing 2nd. After coming off this good season, things began to change.
Following up to his being ordered to get a psychiatric check on June 26, he heckled an umpire, threw a ball at the White Sox scoreboard, wore a little league helmet at a Tigers game, and started a few rows with the Yankees. He came back on July 23rd but got his last ejection of the season for causing problems in the outfield while Ted Williams was batting. After a meeting and a few front office changes he finally got back down to earth.
The 1961 season turned into a good one for him, he managed to earn another Gold Glove. He also managed to hold a .322 batting average, placing himself 3rd. Unfortunately, this season was also marred by his antics. He tried to go after Jim Bunning after he hit him with a pitch (more than likely on accident). He also ended up throwing a helmet, altogether costing him $200 in fines. On September 5th of that season he father passed away from a heart attack. 2 days after the funeral for his father he headed out to New York only to heckled, himself, by fans. On Sept. 10, after continued annoyance from fans, he finally punched one and attempted to kick another. After all this he still earned $2500 for good behavior.
On October 5th Piersall was sent to the Washington Senators. He didn’t spend much time there because of playing decline. He was sent to the Mets on May 23, 1963. He got sent back to a reserve role while playing for the Mets. During his Mets career he also hit his 100th homerun, which he celebrated by running around the bases backwards (in order of course).
A month after reaching 100 homeruns he got released by the Mets and then signed by the Los Angeles Angels. He retired an Angel and moved to the Angels front office on May 8th, 1967.
After his career he did a little TV commentating for the White Sox but was fired was criticizing the team just a little too much. He also wrote a book about bipolar disorder and how he handled it, Fear Strikes Out. It was also made into a movie. In the end, Piersall decided not to endorse the movie because it didn’t display the facts right. He also wrote The Truth Hurts which is about the White Sox and his leaving. He now does a radio show in Chicago and got invited to the White House for the honoring of the 2004 Red Sox Championship.
And odd little tidbit I noticed and I’d figure I’d share is that he’s the godfather of former Congressman Mark Foley.
Player biography written by Mander
Saturday, February 24, 2007
Jimmy Piersall, CF, #37 (1950, 1952-1958)