Jimmy Piersall1
Becoming Jimmy Piersall
by Jimmy Pappas

“Probably the best thing that happened to me was going nuts. Nobody knew who I was until that happened.” — Jimmy Piersall

I wanted to be “Jimmy” just like him, not “Jim.”
When my favorite center fielder hit his 100th
home run, he ran backwards around the bases.
I tried that with some friends but stumbled
to the ground going into second base.

Once at a Red Sox game, while all my Little League
buddies screamed at each play, I focused my attention
on Piersall. During a pitching change, Jimmy sat
on the ground tossing dirt against the left field wall
known as the Green Monster. Another player tapped
him on the shoulder to get him over to his position.
The mystery of that moment never left me.

At the time I knew nothing about his electric shock
therapy and never thought of him as mentally ill,
just different, not fitting in with the world around him.
When I watched the movie of his life story,
Fear Strikes Out, with his role played by Anthony Perkins,
who also starred as Norman Bates in Alfred Hitchcock’s
Psycho, it only added to Piersall’s appeal for me.

Now, standing at the edge of a still pond,
I gather up some pebbles and toss them in,
watching where the ripples end up.

PHOTO: Jimmy Piersall (born 1929). Photo courtesy of BaseballHistorian.com. Caption Under Photo: Back with the Red Sox after suffering a nervous breakdown last summer (1952), Piersall could become one of the league’s top fielders.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Whenever I am introduced as Jimmy, people continue to insist on calling me Jim. This poem is the true story of what originally inspired my preference for being called Jimmy. Here’s my one-that-got-away story about playing center field in the Little League: I reached over the fence to rob someone of a home run, à la Jimmy Piersall, when a boy on a bike knocked the ball away. My one chance for glory ruined.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jimmy Pappas received an MA in English Literature from Rivier University. His poems have been published in such journals as Atticus Review, Misfit Magazine, Kentucky Review, Cha: An Asian Literary Journal, Off the Coast, Boston Literary Magazine, and War, Literature and the Arts. He is a recent first-prize winner of the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s National Contest.

PHOTO: Jimmy Pappas reminiscing about baseball.