Sunday, January 18, 2015

Baseball Book Review - Fear Strikes Out by Jimmy Piersall

Very recently a fellow blogger (who I can't remember) had a post mentioning a desire to learn more about the Jimmy Piersall story and an interest in picking up his Fear Strikes Out book.  I too had heard a little of the legend but hadn't read the book or seen the movie and the post peaked my interest as well.  That night was wife was placing an Amazon order for some gifts for a baby shower and I asked her to tack on Fear Strikes Out by Jimmy Piersall, the paperback version was only $6.

It arrived 2 days later, gotta love Amazon Prime, and I jumped right into it.  It was a pleasant read, very simple language typical of the books I have read from the 50s and 60s by ball players.  If you aren't familiar with the story, during his rookie baseball season with the Boston Red Sox, Piersall had a mental breakdown.  He ended up getting committed but made a full recovery from his illness and went on to have a productive 15 year career.

The book was written in 1955, just a couple seasons after his comeback and is mostly a first person account of his early years, his time leading up to his mental breakdown and then the two seasons after he returned.  There is also an afterword that was written in 1999 that shares some of his post book activities as a player and after retirement.  The section of the book that describes what went on during his breakdown (he had a complete blackout of what happened from the time he reported to spring training until he woke up after the treatment he received) was created with the help of his loving and supportive wife Mary who went through a scrapbook put together by Piersall's dad and filled in the gaps.

The book is a quick read at only 224 pages and I really enjoyed it.  In addition to some baseball stories, it is an inspiring book for a few reasons.  One, his ability to come back and be basically cured from a complete mental breakdown is remarkable.  Second, despite treating his teammate, coaches and the umpires horribly during his breakdown, they welcomed him back with open arms and were extremely supportive.  Finally, his wife, Mary, stood by him throughout everything he went through. A quick check of Wikipedia shows that Jimmy and Mary divorced in 1968 and had 9 kids and Jimmy is now on his third marriage.  I have to wonder what went wrong that was worse that his mental breakdown that led to the divorce.

I would recommend this. As mentioned it is a cheap and quick read and provides Piersall's personal insights into his early life, illness and recovery.  I don't have many cards of Piersall but did run across this Swell card from 1990:

Like many players whose biographies I read, I will probably try and pick up a couple of his cards.   A quick look at eBay shows he has a few certified autos and I wouldn't mind adding one to my collection.


  1. Nice! I think it may have been me?

    I haven't picked up the book yet but have it in my cart for my next Amazon order, whenever that happens...

    1. You are correct, thanks for the post and leading me to the book!

  2. Sounds like an interesting read. I hear he signs through the mail too.