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In this book Jim relates the story of his life including his breakdown in 1952 and recovery. The back of the book says that the breakdown was ‘so complete that seven months virtually have vanished from his memory’. The actual cause of his memory loss was the electroshock treatments he received in the hospital.
Piersall was born in Waterbury, CT. You could say he was born a Red Sox fan, he grew up loving the team and wanting to play for them. He got his wish and then it all seemingly washed down the drain. However, not only did he come back to play for the Red Sox the year after his breakdown, he played 17 seasons of pro ball and has been healthy since.
The covers his childhood, his relationship with his parents, his father primarily, his mother’s history of mental illness, although he doesn’t share her diagnosis he relates she was in and out of Norwich State Hospital. Most importantly, he reveals the twisted way he was thinking, I don’t mean twisted in a depraved way, I mean in the way his mental illness progressed. For example, he read an article in The Sporting News that quoted Lou Boudreau, manager of the Red Sox saying they were planning on converting him to shortstop. He had never played shortstop, he was an outfielder. Instead of being relieved that the Red Sox wanted him, he convinced himself that they didn’t and were trying to make him quit.
His recovery is also covered, including reading about his behaviour in the field and off the field. Which cause his wife distress, his manager didn’t know how to handle him and most of his teammates hated him.
The book ends with the end of the 1953 season, he was well on his way to a long and productive baseball career. The book I read was published in 1999 and contains an afterward by Jim Piersall where he summarizes his life since then, what he is doing now and how he feels about the movie “Fear Strikes Out”.
A very interesting account, easy to read, detailed but not dragging.