Piersall’s antics became famous (or infamous) in baseball, but they were symptoms of a greater problem: bipolar disorder, then called manic depression. There was more strange behavior after the pig noise incident, which led to his demotion in the middle of his rookie season. His odd behavior was part of an ongoing nervous breakdown, and several weeks after his demotion he checked himself into Westborough State Hospital. He stayed for six weeks and underwent counseling and shock treatment.
In 1955, 12 years before his playing career would end and three years after his breakdown, Piersall wrote and published the book “Fear Strikes Out” with Al Hirshberg, which described his recent (and continuing) battle with mental illness. It was an important book because mental illness wasn’t publicly discussed at the time, and it was unheard of for a baseball player to readily admit he was suffering from mental problems. Piersall was a true pioneer who helped reduce the stigma for others suffering just like he was.
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