Jimmy Piersall, the former baseball star and broadcaster whose colorful personality matched his performance on the field, has died. He was 87.
He passed away at a care facility in Wheaton, Illinois, according to the Chicago Tribune. He battled mental illness for much of his life and ultimately being diagnosed as bipolar disorder.
During his 17 years in the league from 1950 to 1967, Piersall played with the Red Sox, Indians, Senators, Mets and Angels. A two-time All-Star and two-time Gold Glove winner in center field, he owned a career .272 batting average with 256 doubles, 52 triples, 104 homers and 591 RBIs.
After retiring from MLB, he went on to have a broadcasting career with the Texas Rangers and the Chicago White Sox.
Those accomplishments didn’t come easily, however, as Piersall checked into a mental hospital in the middle of his playing career. He later wrote a book about his experiences titled “Fear Strikes Out,” which was made into a 1957 movie starring Anthony Perkins.
He was also known for his strange antics while playing, such as dressing in Beatles’ wigs, making pig noises and once firing a water pistol into an umpire’s face.
Piersall had his first nervous breakdown in 1952, but he described himself as being nervous and high-strung as early as the age of 7. His mother was also sent to mental institutions when he was a child.
In the first chapter of “Fear Strikes Out,” he explained why he wanted to be open and honest about his struggles.
“I want the world to know that people like me who have returned from the half-world of mental oblivion are not forever contaminated,” Piersall wrote. “We have been sick. The best way to help us get well and stay well is to treat us like human beings — as I’ve been treated.
“We don’t have to talk about our sickness in whispers or prowl about on the edge of society with our hands to our ears to block out the whispers of others. We have nothing to be ashamed of. All we want is to be understood by those who have never been where we have. There is no better therapy than understanding.”
Piersall was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2014.