It’s impossible to grow up in New England and not know the cautionary tale that is Jimmy Piersall’s life. He was a baseball player of enormous talent who suffered from great expectations and mental illness.
Piersall was 87 when he died on Saturday at a care facility in Illinois.
For a time in the ’50s , he played center field for the Red Sox next to Ted Williams.
“Almost everybody except the Red Sox and the umpires thought I was a riot,” he said in his book, “Fear Strikes Out,” which later became a movie. “My wife knew I was sick, yet she was helpless to stop my mad rush toward a mental collapse.”
He spent time in an institution, returned to the team, but forever was treated as a clown.
When he hit his 100th home run — playing for the Mets in 1963 — he circled the bases running backward.
After his playing days, he teamed up with Harry Caray to announce games for the Chicago White Sox.
“You’re crazy Jimmy,” Caray would say to Piersall, who would respond, “And I have the papers to prove it.”
He attacked a sportswriter in 1980, then, when White Sox executive Mike Veeck (now owner of the St. Paul Saints) confronted him, he and Veeck fought, resulting in a hospitalization for “exhaustion.”
“He didn’t get cheated,” Daily Herald columnist Barry Rozner writes today.
Today’s New York Times obituary is steeped in sadness, contained this notation: Information on survivors was not immediately available.
He and his first wife had nine children.