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Jimmy Piersall of Wheaton, Illinois - 1929 - 2017

Memorial Service:
Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Wheaton Bible Church
27w500 North Ave
West Chicago, IL 60185

Jimmy PiersallJimmy Piersall, a mainstay in the Boston Red Sox outfield for most of the 1950s and one of the finest defensive outfielders of all time, died Saturday at a care facility in Wheaton, Illinois after a months-long illness. He was 87. At his bedside were family members including his wife of 35 years, Jan Piersall, family spokesman Tom Shaer said.

Piersall played 17 seasons in Major League Baseball and was recognized for brilliant outfield play, making countless spectacular catches and displaying great range and a strong, accurate arm. He was twice an American League All-Star (1954, 1956) and won two Gold Glove Awards. But he was perhaps best known for overcoming mental health problems after his rookie season.

Piersall’s superior play is made clear in one truly remarkable statistic. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, in 1,614 games as an outfielder, mostly in center field, his fielding percentage was .99022 - better than Willie Mays, Joe Dimaggio and other Hall of Famers. In fact, as of 2013, Elias listed just 20 men in MLB history who played at least 1,000 games in the outfield and fielded .990 or higher. Jimmy Piersall is the only one to debut prior to 1963, before fielding percentages generally increased due to oversized and more flexible gloves.

None of this seemed likely in 1952 when Piersall suffered a nervous breakdown. It happened amid the pressure of his first full season with the Red Sox, at age 22, when manager Lou Boudreau surprisingly shifted him to the tough new position of shortstop.

With unceasing commitment to his medical treatment and an amazing ability to adapt, Piersall defied the odds and returned for Opening Day 1953. He made a major impact as a right fielder while batting a solid .272, highlighted by going 6-for-6 in a nine-inning game, still a Red Sox record.

“Playing in Boston after growing up a Red Sox fan in Connecticut was the pride of Jimmy’s professional life. It meant so much when the Red Sox, who have been wonderful to us, inducted him into their hall of fame in 2010,” said Jan Piersall.

She added, “This is a sad time but it also presents a happy opportunity for everyone to remember what Jimmy meant to the Red Sox, New England and the game of baseball – and what the region, the team and the sport meant to him.”

According to Baseball-reference.com, Piersall that year led the American League in putouts by a right fielder (349) and topped all MLB outfielders in double plays (seven). He threw out a total of 15 runners from the outfield, tied for second in MLB. In 1954, Piersall was moved to center field, where he continued his excellence.

Piersall robbed many home runs from opposing batters. After Yankees outfielder Joe Collins’ would-be homer was hauled from over a Fenway Park bullpen fence by Piersall in July 1953, Hall of Fame manager Casey Stengel told the Boston Post, “Piersall is the best I’ve ever seen, including [Hall of Famer] Ross Youngs.” The same week, Red Sox coach Bill McKechnie, also a Hall of Famer, said to the Boston Globe, “I’ve seen the great ones like [Hall of Famers] Tris Speaker and Harry Hooper, and this kid is the best.”

Piersall averaged .281 at the plate over the next four years and teamed with Ted Williams and Jackie Jensen to form Boston’s “Golden Outfield” through 1957. In 1956, he earned the Thomas A. Yawkey Award as the Red Sox’ Most Valuable Player after leading the majors in doubles (40) and playing in each of Boston’s 155 games. Piersall was inducted into the Red Sox Hall of Fame in 2010.

In 1961, he hit .322 for Cleveland (third in the American League) and finished with a lifetime average of .272. Perhaps more important, Piersall’s honesty in interviews about his earlier ordeal and in his 1955 book, Fear Strikes Out, which was made into a movie, advanced awareness of mental health issues.

Though not an entirely accurate film, Fear Strikes Out was one of the first to show that mental illness could strike anyone, even a young professional athlete. Millions became Piersall fans. He said, “The best thing to happen to me was going nuts. Whoever heard of Jim Piersall before?” His best stunt was not nuts, it was planned: running the bases backward when he hit his 100th career home run with the New York Mets in 1963.

After retiring in 1967, Piersall worked in three MLB front offices and was general manager of a semi-pro football team. But great off-field success lay ahead, in Chicago. In 1977, he joined Harry Caray for seven seasons as a highly popular White Sox broadcaster and studio host. Piersall’s second book, The Truth Hurts, was published during one of his 17 years as a Chicago radio talk show host and analyst on numerous stations.

“Jimmy was thrilled with the success of his second career as a broadcaster and he was grateful for how fans embraced him. He loved connecting with people through his time on the air with the White Sox and with talk radio,” said Jan Piersall. “He felt a relationship had developed with the fans, and that connection never really ended.”

Under President and General Manager Dallas Green, the Cubs hired Piersall as an outfield coach in 1985. Over 14 years, he was instrumental in the development of Rafael Palmiero (20 years, MLB), Dave Martinez (16 years) Darrin Jackson (12 years), Jerome Walton (1989 Rookie of the Year), Dwight Smith (1989 Rookie runner-up), Doug Glanville (nine years) and many others. He was inducted into the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

James Anthony Piersall was born in 1929 in Waterbury, Connecticut, where he grew up a Red Sox fan. “I hated the Yankees starting when I was in my mother’s womb,” he often liked to say.

Piersall led Leavenworth High School to the New England Basketball Championship in 1947, scoring 29 points in the title game at Boston Garden. He signed with the Red Sox at age 18.

A father of nine, Piersall is survived by his wife, his children, many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In a rich and colorful life, Jimmy Piersall saw much and accomplished even more.

A memorial service is to be held Friday, June 23, 2017 at 10:00 a.m. at Wheaton Bible Church, 27W500 North Avenue, West Chicago, IL 60185. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to Rush University Medical Center. Rush Medical donations in Jimmy's name should please be designated for "Movement Disorders Research and Programs and the Marshall Goldin, MD - Abt Family Endowed Scholarship." Please send memorial gifts to Rush University Medical Center, 1700 West Van Buren, Suite 250, Chicago, Illinois 60612 or visit http://rush.convio.net/jpiersall.

Memorial gifts may also be directed in Jimmy’s name to the DuPage Care Center Foundation, 400 N. County Farm Road, Wheaton, IL 60187

 

Pitch and Hit Club Activities for 2017:

June 26th: Sox Outing vs. Yankees at 7:10 pm
This will include the game ticket in the lower level right field side of the park plus 2 hours of unlimited food in the picnic area. Costs here are $62 if you are a senior (60 and over) or your kids the cost will be $41.00.

Thank you for the interest in the Sox Outing. It is now SOLD OUT!

August 9th: Slammers Outing vs. Windy City Thunderbolts

Still to be scheduled:
Windy City Thunderbolts Outing
Kane County Cougars Outing
Baseball Clinic for coaches (one or two - TBD).


A festive group from the Pitch and Hit Club attends Cubs and Giants on chilly blustery evening on Wednesday May 24th.

The Pitch and Hit Club Congratulates Tim Anderson of the White Sox on his new contract, whom was our recent award winner (2017 Banquet) for our Chicago Pitch and Hit Club Rookie of the Year Award.White Sox shortstop, Tim Anderson

White Sox sign shortstop Tim Anderson to record six-year, $25 million contract

Anderson made his major league debut in 2016, playing 99 games for the White Sox. He hit .283/.306/.432 with 22 doubles, six triples, and nine home runs. There’s definitely room for growth and improvement, as there is with every young player, but that’s extremely good for his first time in the majors.

It might seem strange for the White Sox to give out a contract extension to a player who’s spent just four months in the majors, but it’s right in line with their philosophy.


2017 Pitch & Hit Club 71st Annual Awards Banquet Pictures

This years 2017 Pitch and Hit Club awards banquets was held at the Tinley Park Convention Center on Sunday Jan 29, 2017. We experienced a full capacity crowd highlighted by the award winner presentations, the autograph tables, and a nice assortment of memorabilia for our guests. We want to thank all that came out to share the great night at the 71st annual banquet.


Congratulations to all the Pitch & Hit Club Award Winners.
Click on pictures to enlarge.


Bill Haller
Lou Boudreau Hall of Fame
Retired MLB Umpire

Bernie Gerl, Bo Jackson Courage Award
Bernie Gerl
Bo Jackson Courage Award

Lou Collier, Dizzy Trout Ambassador Award
Lou Collier
(Retired MLB Player)
Dizzy Trout Ambassador Award

     

Armi Bambino, Len Diforte Amateur Baseball Service Award
Armi Bambino
Len Diforte Amateur Baseball Service Award

Rich and Marty Del Boccio, Charlie Humm Service Award
Rich and Marty Del Boccio
Charlie Humm Service Award

Susan Hemond Dent, Mary Francis Veeck Woman of the Year Award
Susan Hemond Dent
Mary Francis Veeck Woman of the Year Award

     

Zack Burdi, Chicagoland Minor League Player of the Year Award
Zack Burdi
Chicago White Sox

Chicagoland Minor League Player of the Year Award

Kevin Coe, Pitch and Hit President's Award
Kevin Coe
Pitch and Hit President's Award

Jason Benetti, Harry Caray Sportscaster of the Year Award
Jason Benetti
White Sox Broadcaster

Harry Caray Sportscaster of the Year Award

     

Tim Anderson, Chicago Rookie of the Year Award
Tim Anderson,
Chicago White Sox
Chicago Rookie of the Year Award

Paul Stevens, Lifetime Achievement Award
Paul Stevens
Northwestern University

Lifetime Achievement Award

Mark Smith, Ron Santo Inspiration Award
Mark Smith,
Head Baseball Coach Providence High School

Ron Santo Inspiration Award

     

Brian Storako, Amateur Coach of the Year
Brian Storako,
Head Baseball Coach Lemont High School
Amateur Coach of the Year Award


Jeff Stewart
Nick Kamzic Professional Scout of the Year Award

Roland Hemond
Presentation to Roland Hemond
Honorary Chairman of the Board for the Chicago Pitch and Hit Club


Pitch and Hit Club Member Renewal

Fellow Members and prospective members, it is time to renew or join the club for 2017. DUES HAVE BEEN REDUCED TO $25 for the year.
Please click here for online Membership Application.


A BLAST FROM THE PAST - ROLAND HEMOND & HARRY CARAY


(FYI there are 2 minutes of commercials preceding the interview)


Len Diforte, Long time Pitch and Hit Club Member
Long time Pitch and Hit Member, Len Diforte (middle).
Also, pictured is Past-President of Pitch and Hit Club, Pete Caliendo (left) and Beverly Caliendo (right).

Lou Collier's Stars Practice at Curtis Granderson Stadium at UIC
Lou Collier's Stars Practice at Curtis Granderson Stadium at UIC
Lou Collier, Angela Christino (Beyond the Diamond), Derrick May (St. Louis Cardinals Hitting Coach) and Herb Forkenbrock

Pitch and Hit Club Donation to White Sox Charities
Pitch and Hit Club Presentation to White Sox Charities

Members Outing at Joliet Slammers
Pitch and Hit Club Members Outing at the Joliet Slammers in August 2016

 

Pitch and Hit Club presented check for Cubs Charities

Pitch and Hit Club presented check for Cubs Charities

At today's (7/20/16) Cubs game the Pitch and Hit Club presented to the Cubs a sizable check for Cubs Charities....pictured from Left to right are members Bill Motluck (treasurer), Kellon McFarlin (board member), Connie Falcone (Cubs Charities) Herb Forkenbrock (president), Russ Gangler (member).


Presentation to
the Joe Maddon
Respect 90 Foundation

Presentation to the Curtis Granderson "Grandkids" foundation form the Chicago Pitch and Hit Club


Corey RayPitch and Hit Club 2016 Honoree (Chicago Area Collegiate Player of the Year; COREY RAY - A Simeon Grad, Louisville OF, is chosen 5th in the 2016 MLB Draft

Congratulations from the Chicago Pitch and Hit Club!!


Pitch and Hit Club's Ken Miller receives Illinois "Coaches" Hall of
Fame Call

Ken Miller admits to being like a lot of young people when he left high school.

"I was one of those people that probably went to college for all of the wrong reasons. I went to be an athlete," the long-time Coal City coach said. "But once I was there, I started to realize all of the people that impacted me at a coaching level. It was really all I wanted to be."

After a four year stint at now consolidated Cornell High School (students in that community now attend Flanagan High School), Miller landed at Coal City, where he became something of a coaching utility knife. He coached the baseball team and the basketball team and, when the school instituted football in the fall of 1978, he jumped in there too as an assistant.

Over the course of the next 37 years, Miller became a fixture in the coaching staffs of many successful Coal City football teams. Last year, Miller elected to step down from the coaching ranks, and it marked the first time in nearly 50 years where Miller wasn't coaching some sport, somewhere.

That overwhelming commitment to student athletes didn't go unnoticed by the Illinois High School Football Coaches Association, as they have selected Miller to enter the organization's Hall of Fame. The 2016 class will be inducted on Saturday, April 2 in Champaign.

"I'm just very humbled by it all," Miller said. "It's probably one of the greatest honors I've ever had. I've always felt that one of the highest compliments someone can call you is to call you coach. I've been very blessed."

Miller never treated the coaching facet of his job as anything like a job.

"I was always something I very much looked forward to doing," Miller said. "At the end of a day of a classwork, it was a pleasure to go outside and help young kids in a way that you just can't in the classroom."

It would be easy for Miller to point to the 1993 season, the year that the Coalers captured the Class 2A state title as the highlight of his coaching career. But Miller really doesn't; he counts pretty much all of it among the highlights.

"I've coached for a very long time, and when you do that, you might take some of it for granted," Miller said. "I've tried not to. I've always felt very fortunate to do what I love to do for as long as I've done."

Although Miller willingly hung up his coaching whistle last season, he remains connected to Coal City and serves as the School Board President and remains connected to sports through his work as director of community relations for the Joliet Slammers, a Frontier League Independent Baseball team.

"I wasn't looking for the job; it just kind of came to me," Miller said. "And it's been a great thing. It allows me to stay connected to sports. And I'm happy to have it. Sports has given me everything I have. I'm happy to try to give some back."


 

 

 


 
 

Meeting Schedule

Please note meetings are held on the 2nd Wednesday of the month. Please check the meetings tab for updates and more information.

Meetings start at 6:30 with a light meal followed by club business and a guest speaker.

  • Sept 13th - General Meeting - TBD
  • Oct 11th - General Meeting at White Sox Ballpark
  • Nov 8th - General Meeting at White Sox Ballpark
  • Dec 13 - General Meeting at White Sox Ballpark
  • Jan 10th, 2018 - General Meeting at White Sox Ballpark

 

 
 

The mission of the Pitch & Hit Club of Chicago is to expand, develop and promote the great game of baseball at all levels. We are particularly interested in reaching out to the youth of our communities to increase involvement in baseball here in the Chicagoland area. We continue our 7 decade tradition of honoring the people who have given so much to the game from the youth and amateur levels all the way to the major leagues! Our upcoming annual awards dinner in January 2017 will be our 71st event honoring true baseball heroes!

Thanks to the hard work of our Board and Club Members along with the support of the community, we are able to continue our time honored commitments, donating a portion of our dinner proceeds to numerous great baseball-related causes such as The Professional Baseball Scouts Foundation, Cubs Charities, White Sox Charities, Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation, and the Grand-kids Foundation (Curtis Granderson). As club president, I pledge to continue the good work done by previous presidents and club members dating back to our club's inception in 1942.

Herb Forkenbrock, President

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