Jim Piersall, a 17-year major league veteran who bared his soul about his struggles with mental illness in his book “Fear Strikes Out,” has died at 87.
He died Saturday at a care facility in Wheaton, Ill., according to the Boston Red Sox. He was surrounded by family, including his wife of 35 years.
Piersall’s on-field antics when he first broke in with the Red Sox full-time in 1952 cracked up fans and provided fodder for columnists. In one game vs. the St. Louis Browns, he made pig noises and mocked the odd pitching motion of the aging Satchel Paige.
But Piersall also had furious arguments with umpires, broke down sobbing one day when told he wouldn’t play and got into a fistfight with the Yankees’ Billy Martin, followed minutes later by a scuffle with a teammate.
“My wife knew I was sick, yet she was helpless to stop my mad rush towards a mental collapse,” Piersall said in his 1955 autobiography.
He played 56 games with Boston before being admitted to a hospital with what was diagnosed as bipolar disorder. He went public to shatter society’s stereotypes of the mentally ill.
“I want the world to know that people like me who have returned from the half-world of mental oblivion are not forever contaminated,” he wrote.