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Fear Strikes Out (1957)

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Reviews: 29 user | 13 critic

True story of the life of Jimmy Piersall, who battled mental illness to achieve stardom in major league baseball.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 2 more credits »
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Complete credited cast:
John Piersall
Norma Moore ...
Doctor Brown
Perry Wilson ...
Mrs. John Piersall
Peter J. Votrian ...


Jim Piersall is groomed by his loving but hard-driving father (living vicariously through his son) to play major league baseball. His desire to succeed to please his father leads to mental illness and a nervous breakdown. Can he overcome those difficulties and return to the major leagues? Written by Jerry Milani <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Biography | Drama | Sport


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

15 August 1957 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

The Jim Piersall Story  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| (Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Anthony Perkins had to bat and throw with his opposite hand to portray the right handed Jimmy Piersall. See more »


At the beginning of the film, when Jim's father (played by Karl Malden) goes into the kitchen to wash up after work, the shadow of the camera can be seen on the far wall. Then a shadow of the boom mic is seen on the wall shortly after that as the camera pans left. See more »


Referenced in 3rd Rock from the Sun: Dick Strikes Out (2000) See more »

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User Reviews

Your father had his dreams he wanted you to make them come true
9 April 2006 | by (brooklyn NY) – See all my reviews

True story of Boston Red Sox outfielder Jimmy Piersall, Anthony Perkins, struggle with mental illness by desperately wanting to please his domineering father John, Karl Malden, to be a big league baseball player. At the same time Jimmy confronted his insecurities of not having what it takes to be one. Growing up as a boy in Waterbuary Ct. Jimmy always dreamed of playing for the Red Sox not just to play professional baseball but to be able to get out of the poverty that he and his parents were stuck in all their lives.

Jimmy's father John played semi-pro ball as a young man but never had the talent to play in the big leagues and put all his effort and drive to see that Jimmy would get the chance, playing professional baseball, that he never got. Helpful at first but as John's obsession in getting Jimmy to make the grade started to take it's toll on the sensitive young man, As he finally reached his goal of making the team, fear set in on Jimmy fear that he'll fail his dad and himself. That fear lead Jimmy to have a mental breakdown during a night-game in Fenway Park after hitting an inside-the-park home run.

"Fear Strikes Out" covers Jimmy Piersall's life from a 12 year old boy in Waterbuary Ct. through his being committed into a institution for treatment of his mental illness due to the his fear that he'll never be the person that his father wanted him to be. As well as the fear that he wouldn't be able to care and provide for his parents and newlywed wife Mary, Norma Moore, and their new born daughter Eileen.

Being looked after by Dr. Brown, Adam Williams, at the institution it's painful to see Jimmy completely lose it and end up looking and acting like a person who's been lobotomized. Dr. Brown get's Jimmy to respond to his treatment by showing him the kindness and understanding that his father lacked for Jimmy during his formative years. That caused him to not just enjoy playing baseball but to become obsessed by it in wanting to fulfill the dreams that his dad had for him.

This pressure built up over the years as Jimmy worked hard to make the majors and play along the likes of baseball greats like Ted Williams Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. There was a terrible price to all that and that price was that no matter how hard Jimmy tried he was never good enough, or as good as he could be, in the eyes of his dad John Piersall.

It turned out that it was not just Jimmy who needed mental therapy but his father as well in understanding that his son was a human being not a machine who's feeling had to be taken into account. John Piersall was relentlessly driving Jimmy to make the grade as a big league baseball player not caring, or noticing, that he was driving Jimmy straight into a nervous breakdown. Even Boston Red Sox manager Joe Cronin, Bart Burns, was more receptive to Jimmy's impending mental collapse then his father. Cronin did everything he could, through the Red Sox organization, to help Jimmy with desperately needed professional help that Jimmy's father had no idea that his son needed.

The best part of the movie "Fear Strikes Out" was when John Piersall finally understood what he did to his son Jimmy in pushing him like he did. Later at the institution John was accepted by Jimmy who for a time wanted to have nothing to do with him. For once just being his father, not a hard as nails lion trainer, the two had an friendly but emotional game of catch.

Jimmy did in the end recover form his personal demons and went on to be an All-Star outfielder for Boston Cleveland and the New York Mets, among outer teams he played for. Despite his fine record as a professional baseball player Jimmys overcoming the fear that almost destroyed him was by far Piersall's greatest achievement.

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