by Vern Morrison, Digital Production / Electronic Course Reserve Coordinator, Michael Schwartz Library
Former major league baseball player Jim "Jimmy" Piersall, who played for the Cleveland Indians from 1959 to 1961, died on Saturday, June 3 after a lengthy illness.
Although he was a decent player—he played in the major leagues as an outfielder for 17 years, compiled a batting average of .272, and played in two All-Star games—Piersall was best known for his unpredictable and often outlandish behavior. Prone to mocking his fellow athletes on the field, Piersall frequently started fights with players from other teams, with umpires, and with his own teammates. In 1952, while a member of the Boston Red Sox, Piersall was admitted to a mental hospital with a case of what would later be known as bipolar disorder. He returned to the Red Sox in 1953, claiming that he was "sound and healthy." But while his behavior improved somewhat, Piersall never fully stopped the antics which made him a fan favorite—for instance, when he hit his 100th career home run, as a member of the New York Mets, Piersall ran backwards around the bases in celebration
Tony Perkins portrayed Piersall in the 1957 film "Fear Strikes Out," which told the story of Piersall's early career and his struggle with mental illness. Piersall's best season with the Indians was in 1961, when he led the team with a batting average of .322. The Indians traded Piersall to the Washington Senators that October for Dick Donovan, Gene Green, and Jim Mahoney.
When his playing days ended in 1967, Piersall found work as a hotel manager, a minor league baseball manager, a major league front office promotions assistant, and as a broadcaster for the Chicago White Sox.
In the photo shown here, taken at Cleveland Municipal Stadium on May 17, 1960, Piersall, holding two bats, is being restrained by Indians pitching coach Red Kress after Piersall had traded sharp words with New York Yankees catcher Elston Howard.