December 6, 2013
Get It Now!Hardball Times Annual is now available. It's got 300 pages of articles, commentary and even a crossword puzzle. You can buy the Annual at Amazon, for your Kindle or on our own page (which helps us the most financially). However you buy it, enjoy!
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Sunday, June 23, 2013
Fifty years ago today, something rather unique happened in baseball history. It was literally unique—something that had never happened before or since.
On June 23, 1963, veteran outfielder Jimmy Piersall stepped to the plate for the New York Mets facing Phillies pitcher Dallas Green to lead off the top of the fifth. Piersall swung on Green’s offering and made solid contact—home run.
This wasn’t just any homer for Piersall but a milestone homer. It was career homer No. 100. Already 33 years old and without too much power, Piersall knew he wasn’t going to get to 200 home runs, so he’d celebrate this milestone in a memorable fashion.
He decided to run around the bases backwards. Oh, he touched the bases in order: first, second, third, and home. That’s not the part he did backwards. He just faced backwards. He backpedaled all the way around the infield.
Uh ... Oh-kaayy ...
Clearly, it was a distinctive move. Piersall always had a different reputation. He’s most famous for having a nervous breakdown as a young Red Sox player, an event that inspired the Anthony Perkins movie about Piersall, “Fear Strikes Out.”
Piersall was always a high-strung player, and his nerves always caused some issues. He came up with the Red Sox in the early 1950s and quickly made a splash for his play—and for his conduct. He’d sometimes imitate other players on the field, which earned some laughs from the fans when he first tried it but became increasingly irksome to other professionals.
In the summer of 1952, Piersall had a meltdown. He continued to act out, got in a few fights (including one with a teammate), and even spanked the four-year-old child of teammate Vern Stephens. Sent to the minors, Piersall continued to devolve, earning four ejections in three weeks. Suspended, he went into a mental hospital for nervous exhaustion.
Piersall recovered, but he continued to engage in eccentric behavior. On at least one occasion, he ran around center field trying to distract a batter at the plate. He received numerous ejections—over two dozen, including seven in 1960. I once saw a photo of Piersall using bug spray in the middle of an inning while stationed in the outfield. So Piersall’s stunt for his 100th home run fit into a broader pattern of eccentric behavior.
No one has ever celebrated home run No. 100 like that before, and Piersall did it 50 years ago today.
Aside from that, many other baseball events today celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something that happened X-thousand days ago). Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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