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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
on June 8, 2000
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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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2005
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 23, 2008
Format: PaperbackVerified 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
on June 12, 2008
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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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on November 9, 2000
Format: PaperbackVerified 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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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on April 4, 1997
Format: Hardcover
This is an inspiring story of a young father, husband and star major league baseball player who is suffering a mental collapse. Through love and faith and his own indomitable will he fought his way back to a sane and purposeful life. Was co-written by Al Hirshberg. Great book for baseball fans and lessons to be learned for parents who maybe "push" their kids to be "superstars" in sports. This book is hard to find. If you can't order the book here-- check it out at the library. CaroleM438@AOL.co
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format: Kindle Edition
I read this book at a young age, and many more times over the years. Mr. Piersall was gracious enough to sign my battered copy for me, and it remains in my personal library today. An honest look at how mental illness affects entire families.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: PaperbackVerified Purchase
I don't really read sports books, whether they are fiction or non-fiction. Just not usually my thing. But I had to eventually read Jim Piersall's memoir, for a very personal reason. For as long as I can remember, my father said that Fear Strikes Out was the last book he ever read -- once he was out of high school he never picked up another book. In the years since my father has passed, I've tried to understand him a bit better, and thought that reading the book he wrote his last high school book report on might be interesting.

My father did love movies, and he loved a hard-luck story better than any other kind of story. Anything in which an underdog fights back against overwhelming odds, anything in which a broken man redeems himself. Fear Strikes Out fits that category. Jim Piersall was only 22, and in his rookie season with the Boston Red Sox in 1952 when he suffered a mental breakdown that had been building since he was a teenager; the breakdown was so complete he ended up in a violent ward and lost all memory of seven months of his life -- the seven months during which he built a reputation as one of the most interesting major league players in an era that usually prized performance over personality.

Told in first person, the book chronicles first Piersall's childhood and lays the foundation for his illness. Then, rather than recreate the events of those seven months as though he remembers them, Piersall wisely jumps to waking up in the violent ward without his memories of that time, and fills us in on what happened the way he was filled in by his wife and friends -- through the use of scrapbooks and newspaper clippings and other people's stories. Piersall also goes on to tell about his recovery, and his return to baseball.

It's a fast read, and a moving one, from a man who made baseball his life despite the fact that internal pressures almost derailed that career before it started.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 11, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
I remember reading this book in high school and always wanted to read it again. I am a baseball fan, so love reading biographies of baseball players.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on January 4, 2013
Format: Kindle EditionVerified Purchase
As a life-long Red Sox fan and someone remembering when Piersall played, I enjoyed the book very much. a great look at mental illness.
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