By Perry Lefko
If you’re looking for a book at any one of the Mississauga Library branches and you can’t find it, the staff members will find a way to get it for you if at all possible, even if means scouring the country.
I found that out when I to the Frank McKechnie Library in October in search of Fear Strikes Out, The Jim Piersall Story, which was published in 1955.
Jimmy Piersall, who passed away in June at the age of 87, was a onetime Major League Baseball player. Piersall played from 1950-1967, and following the 1953 season, in which starred for the Boston Red Sox playing right field, he placed ninth in the voting for Most Valuable Player Award and was named the outstanding sophomore player in the American League.
The significance of it was that the year before, he became mentally and emotionally unhinged, becoming somewhat of a fan favourite for various kinds of outrageous things he did on the playing field. No one knew, including himself, he was suffering a mental breakdown.
He was subsequently admitted to Westborough State Hospital in Massachusetts, diagnosed with nervous exhaustion. He stayed there for seven weeks, during which time he became aware of a portion of his life starting from early in the year that had been erased from his memory, a product of the sickness. Essentially, he was going through motions, but later had no recollection of it.
A combination of shock treatments, faith, his wife, doctor and friends helped pull him out of imbalance and cope going forward in his return to day-to-day life and the pressure of professional baseball.
He wrote about his illness and recovery in his book, which was later turned into a film starring Anthony Perkins, albeit with an exaggeration of what Piersall had done. But that’s Hollywood.
My brother, Elliott, had read the book probably about 50 or so years ago and I found myself drawn towards the story because of my interest in mental illness. Maybe, somewhere in my memory bank I had read that Piersall had died this year.
Well, the McKechnie Library scoured other branches and eventually found a copy – from the Moose Jaw Public Library.
I was given the book, much to my surprise because I never thought the library could find it, with a band around it with specific instructions that it was borrowed on YOUR BEHALF from another library and that I was to return it in the same condition to the Circulation Desk Only.
What I learned is that the library, in this case Mississauga’s, really does care about going out of its way to track down a book.
Thanks again, McKechnie Library.