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Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story Kindle Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews

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Length: 224 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled

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Editorial Reviews Review

Once again, the Bison Books imprint of the University of Nebraska Press has reached into baseball's past and returned with a Hall of Fame read. Fear Strikes Out is one of the game's most dramatic autobiographies. It is also one of the most important. When first published in 1955, it ventured into territory traditionally considered out of play for a sports story. "I must have been quite a card when I first broke into baseball's big league as a Boston Red Sox rookie in 1952," Piersall opens rather cheerily. He was a baseball clown, and the fans loved his offbeat shenanigans. One paragraph later, he tosses a huge, hanging curve. "Almost everybody...thought I was a riot. My wife knew I was sick, yet she was helpless to stop my mad rush toward a mental collapse."

In time, Piersall would become one of the silkiest centerfielders of the '50s--no mean feat given his contemporaries Mantle and Mays. A new afterword by Piersall catches us up to his later years (and stunts) in baseball and his post-career as a broadcaster. Fear is actually a prologue to that. It's a courageous story. Piersall's demons had him by the throat and nearly choked him. The breakdown he suffered early in his rookie years was so complete and so terrifying that his mind blanked out the next seven months before his own healing allowed for a painful reconstruction. Given that Fear was written in an era before biographic confessional and the public washing of an athlete's unclean flannels, Piersall's honesty and detail about mental illness, hospitalization, psychiatric therapy, and the struggle back to sanity are extraordinary. This is a truly marvelous book--better than the movie starring Anthony Perkins that was made from it--and, like the lead-off hitter Piersall was, it's earned its spot at the top of the order of any serious collection of baseball biographies. --Jeff Silverman


“Jim Piersall, twenty-two-year-old outfielder for the Boston Red Sox, had a mental breakdown in 1952—one so complete that seven months virtually have vanished from his memory. . . . This account of his experiences is a frank and fascinating one.” —Chicago Sunday Tribune
“A dramatic, heart-warming story. It is most refreshing to read how the Boston Red Sox, from manager down, backed up Jim in his fight for rehabilitation, and helped him regain the confidence that brought him back.” —Library Journal

Product Details

  • File Size: 493 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (July 26, 2011)
  • Publication Date: July 26, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005E834YC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #498,792 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
After my parents both were committed to a state hospital on two different occasions, I lived with the secret -- in shame. While in grade school, I was looking for a sports book to read and ran across Piersall's book. By publicly telling his story and frankly admitting he was mentally ill, Piersall helped me change my attitude and lose my shame. I realized mental illness is quite common and can be treated successfully.

The book was a godsend to a child living with psychological trauma.
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Format: Paperback
This short biography of talented centerfielder Jim Piersall of the Red Sox has long been well-received for it's frank portrayal of mental illness and the difficult road to recovery. Unfortunately, the book is ultimately disappointing because it goes only to the brink of discovery; we never fully understand the real cause of the illness or have explained to us what the treatment was like.
The book begins with Piersall's fascinating life story including his difficult family life and we see the strains of his illness develop from his earliest memories. Piersall proves to be a very real person and his humanity is quite believable as he accomplishes many things under the heavy burden of his illness. However, about the time Piersall suffers his blackout, the book blacks out as well and we only learn about his descent into madness as he thumbs through photo albums with his longsuffering wife. He only mentions in passing that he received shock therapy, but we never learn why or for how long or whether there were other treatments involved. The book has a gloriously happy ending with Piersall fully recovered and on his way to Spring Training for next season. I think the reason for this is that the book may have been written as a sort of apology or explanation to the general public about Piersall and his antics on and off the field; it also may have been considered poor taste in the 1950s to have been more descriptive than that.
Overall, this book is great for biographical information on Piersall and as an inspirational story of triumph over adversity, but may leave you hungry for more detail.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jimmy Piersall was a troubled man who didn't understand what was happening in his world of confusion. But, after undergoing a mental breakdown,and receiving loving support from his wife, he returned to baseball and continued on to a very distinguished career as one of the premier centerfielders in the major leagues. He was a man of courage, enormous talent, who survived his travails and after baseball he worked as a broadcaster and promoter of wrestling. The book should be read by every baseball fan who remembers him. He wasn't just the goofy guy who after hitting a homerun, ran the bases backward. A splendid story.
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Format: Paperback
Our heroes wear uniforms, not only of the home team, but seemingly a vest for the body blows life can deliver.

And their demons are from the delights of stardom, not mental illness. Right?

In this chronicle of the 1952 season with the Boston Red Sox, then a 22-year-old emerging star, Jim Piersall, and co-author Al Hirshberg tackle what remains a taboo issue in clubhouses and sports talk; mental illness - bipolar disorder - and the athlete.

Originally published in 1955, it is a hard-hitting account of Piersall and his struggle while under the bright lights of Major League Baseball to confront his personal demons, many which had been building since childhood.

But Piersall - once he fully understood that he needed help - did not face the struggle alone. Those close to him in his personal and professional endeavors demonstrated that the timeless tools of patience and understanding are crucial to a person's recovery.

There is no stepping out of the batter's box in life, though it seems as if every pitch is coming in wild, high and tight. For Piersall to hit the demons out of that ballpark is an inspiring tale of victory in the biggest box score of all.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Fear Strikes Out" tells the tale of Jimmy Piersall, who played for the Boston Red Sox in the early to late 1950s. He and Willy Mays of the Giants were the best defensive center fielders in pro baseball then and perhaps ever. "FSO" is more concerned with Jimmy's nervous breakdown in 1952 and his subsequent recovery. The real story should be his patient wife, without whom Piersall would have been at sea. The Catholic Church has canonized people for less! "FSO" skims along the edges of Jimmy's problems but to its' credit does not sweep them under a rug. The problems may be sanitized but not trivialized. In my opinion, the true meat of the book is its' 1950s American League backdrop, which I'm just barely old enough to remember. Red Sox fans should enjoy reading about Ted Lepcio, Lou Boudreau, Ellis Kinder, Joe Cronin and Billy Goodman. "FSO" has a limited scope and appeal. The 1950s sportsworld was lilly white and not given to tell all, dirt digging locker room scoops and the book reflects that era. Jimmy gets a free pass on some (not all) of his antics. Readers who accept those constraints should find "FSO" enjoyable and worthwhile. Anyone with a dad or uncle, etc who is a hardcore Red Sox fan has a great Christmas present to click unto.
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