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By Harvey Frommer


 Jimmy Piersall

The recent passing of the totally talented Jimmy Piersall made me go to the Frommer archives and prepare the following excerpts from my book Remembering Fenway Park.:

I spent a good deal of time interviewing him; Jimmy was honest, unassuming and a terrific story teller. The passages bring his time and him back to our consciousness. He was one of a kind.



JIMMY PIERSALL:  My first day in the big leagues was September 7, 1950. I was 20 years old. And we were playing Washington and I was sitting on the bench. We’re down by four runs and Steve O’Neil who had replaced Joe McCarthy as manager said it’s time for me to pinch-hit. He called me “pierseraroll”— he didn’t know what the hell my name was.

JOHNNY PESKY:  A big left handed pitcher was going against us. Piersall was going up for his first at bat.  “Goddamn this guy’s awful wild, God damn it, I’m afraid,” Jimmy said.

“If you’re afraid,” I told him, “you better get a lunch pail and go home.” 

JIMMY PIERSALL: I walked up. My hands were sweating. I swung at the first pitch and the bat lands beyond the third base dugout. And I’m standing there without a bat. The on deck circle guy gives me another bat. The count goes to 3-2, and I hit a ball between second and third for a hit.


Fighting at Fenway during the 1952 season seemed contagious. Hyperactive Jimmy Piersall and Billy Martin got into a shouting match before the Red Sox-Yankee game on the 24th of May in the tunnel beneath the stands. After the game they were at it again. As the story goes, Boston pitcher Ellis Kinder accompanied Piersall and Bill Dickey accompanied Martin as seconds.  Martin sucker-punched,threw the first blow. They got into a clinch. That ended the “fight.” Piersall supposedly changed his bloody shirt in the clubhouse and was verbally on Martin from the bench during the rest of the game.              

JIMMY PIERSALL:  It wasn’t a real fight, just pushing and shoving. The only guy that got hurt was Bill Dickey. Heck, the way the media played it up it was like a real brawl. You know, writers would hang their mothers for the Pulitzer Prize.

Less than a month later on June 11th in a game against the Browns, Piersall led off the ninth inning against Satchel Paige announcing that was going to bunt. He laid down one safely. Then the Sox outfielder  began imitating the ageless hurler’s moves yelling “Oink‚ oink‚ oink." An infield hit moved Piersall  to second base.  Mimimcry and “oinks” continued. 

Exasperated and unnerved, Paige walked the bases full.  Another walk to Billy Goodman scored a Red Sox run. Ted Lepcio singled, re-loading the bases. Sammy White slammed a grand slammer. Then seemingly influenced by Piersall’s behavior, the Red Sox catcher rounded third base, crawled home and kissed the plate.  It was a bizarre day at Fenway.


JIMMY PIERSALL: I was traded away but by 1953, I was back with the Red Sox. At first, players on other teams would call me “Gooney bird” and go “coo coo, coo coo.”  

I finally said to myself, “I’m a pretty good player.”  So if I hit a home run or make a good play I’ll  give them the finger. 

  On May 8th, 1953 – Boston snapped a 13-game losing streak to the Yankees . A Billy Goodman homer off Johnny Sain was the game winner in the bottom of the 11th inning. The next day the first-place Yankees nipped  Boston,  6–4. Mickey Mantle homered off Bill Werle. But the Mick’s bid for a second home run was denied as Jimmy Piersall made a great catch in front of the Sox bullpen in right-center field. There is no report of his giving the finger.

DAVE HUTCHINSON: It was incredible how many times Jimmy Piersall was able to  do that. Defensively, for so many years, he was something else.

Jimmy Piersall was truly something else.

About the Author:   One of the most prolific and respected sports journalists and oral historians in the United States, author of the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman, Dr. Harvey Frommer is a A professor in the MALS program at Dartmouth College, Frommer was dubbed “Dartmouth’s Mr. Baseball” by their alumni magazine.


His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017. Pre-order from Amazon:


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