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Fear Strikes Out: The Jim Piersall Story by [Piersall, Jim, Hirshberg, Al]
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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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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: #189,534 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Harlan Simantel 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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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: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Written at a very young age, after he'd only been an established major-league baseball player for three full seasons, "Fear Strikes Out" chronicles Jim Piersall's struggles with mental illness, and the ultimate breakdown that led to his being hospitalized in a mental institution during the 1952 season. The book came out in 1955, and must have been fairly ground-breaking in its day. While such a book written today would include a lot more specific detail about diagnosis and treatment (at the time, Piersall was only said to have had "nervous exhaustion"), Piersall leads the reader step-by-step through his condition. Several passages in the book are written in first-person narrative, as the author illustrates Piersall's uncontrolled racing thoughts. Piersall then blacks out, losing several months of his life in 1952, and awakening in the "violent ward" of a State mental hospital after having undergone electro-shock therapy (this book pre-dates "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest"). It's only after that that Piersall describes, in slow-motion and painful detail, the symptoms and behavior that prematurely ended his 1952 baseball season and which led to his waking up in the violent ward.

Piersall holds back few of his thought processes in the months and years leading up to his breakdown. He describes his mother's history of mental illness, and father's demanding personality (which, according to Piersall, was then over-played as a plot point for the 1957 movie adaptation).

The book is dated, in a few senses. Piersall is told that that he can simply wish, or think away, his mental illness; from a modern perspective, I assume this would now be regarded as incorrect or at least incomplete advice.
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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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This book was published in 1955. For the time it was published it was remarkable how candid Piersall was about his illness. Back then this type of illness was usually only talked about in hushed tones. For just writing this book candidly Piersall should be highly commended. I'm sure this went a long way for people to understand mental illness better. In this book Piersall goes though his young life to his days of treatment with mental illness. He had a somewhat harsh upbringing. His mother had mental illness and was treated successfully for it. His father could be very harsh at times but was supportive of Piersall's athletic pursuits. Piersall was a fine athlete in high school. Excelling in basketball as well as baseball. He probably could have excelled in football too but his dad forbade him to play it. Piersall quickly went through the Red Sox farm system and made the team in 1952. But his mental illness overtook him during that season and was eventually taken to a mental facility for treatment. He was treated successfully there and went on to a good MLB career. No mention though as to what kind of treatments he had. That would have been interesting to read about and compare to todays treatments. He also has written a small portion at the end in 1999. But not much was written about how he has progressed since his time as a player. Although you can read in other places as to some things that went on his life after his playing days. This is a good book but there is so much more that could have been written and followed up on. He is still alive (Though I do not know his overall health condition) so maybe he can relate more details sometime soon to fill in some of the blanks left in this book.
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