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Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story [Kindle Edition]

Jim Piersall , Al Hirshberg
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A star of the 1950s Red Sox recounts his career and his battle with mental illness
When Jim Piersall first donned a Boston Red Sox uniform, he quickly distinguished himself as one of baseball’s most colorful figures. Prone to wild rages, he argued with umpires, managers, and his fellow teammates, showing off an unpredictable personality that fans and sportswriters ate up, but which infuriated his club. His behavior became more erratic until he suffered a violent breakdown that saw him institutionalized and diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Cowritten with Boston sportswriter Al Hirshberg, this is the story of Piersall’s collapse and his subsequent attempt to return to the major leagues. A shattering confessional of mental hardship, Fear Strikes Out is an unforgettable look at the difficulties of playing sports at the highest level.

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: 335 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Open Road Media (July 26, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005E834YC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #368,366 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Helped me deal with my parents' mental illness February 1, 2005
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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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Inspirational, not informative June 8, 2000
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A man of talent, courage and misunderstood November 23, 2008
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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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Box Score Of Life June 12, 2008
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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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine-If Sanitized- Story. Good '50s Backdrop. November 8, 2000
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I recall seeing the movie
When I was a boy ,I recall seeing the movie about Jimmy. I loved baseball and was upset when seeing such a sad story even a such a young age. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Wayne maushart
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Published 4 months ago by T. Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Interesting, but short on after he made it in the majors
Published 5 months ago by Davis A. Downing
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Inspirational!
Really enjoyed reading about one of baseball 's more flamboyant personalities! In spite of tremendous ability, Jim Piersall fought mental illness which eventually halted his career... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Frank V.
5.0 out of 5 stars Piersall's story is very encouraging
Really insightful. I am so glad I read this courageous auto-biography. As I was enjoying (to my surprise! Read more
Published 7 months ago by Donna C. Downum
4.0 out of 5 stars Inside story
Authoritative, honest, interesting.
Published 9 months ago by Jim Frisbie
3.0 out of 5 stars Nice quick read about a boyhood idol
My beloved Red Sox~ Reading this brought back memories of listening to games with my "transistor" radio. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Robert
4.0 out of 5 stars very inspiring
Lots of baseball details but very thorough about his childhood, family,etc. I would highly recommend this book to anyone whether a baseball fan or not.
Published 10 months ago by T&T
1.0 out of 5 stars This Book Also Strike Out
This thing reads like it was written in one weekend -- like the author couldn't wait to finish and get on to something else. Save your money and your time.
Published 11 months ago by Amazon Customer
2.0 out of 5 stars ok.I liked the movie better
I'm having a hard time taking this psycological account seriously.It doesnt seem believable that he would be in the hospital for six weeks only to be released on a good bill of... Read more
Published 13 months ago by john stien
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